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Psychological Effects of Sending Children to Day Care

author image Christa Miller
Christa Miller is a writing professional with expertise in massage therapy and health. Miller attended San Francisco State University to earn a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing with a minor in journalism and went on to earn an Arizona massage therapy license.
Psychological Effects of Sending Children to Day Care
Children at day care. Photo Credit diego cervo/iStock/Getty Images


As much as you would like to stay home with your child in his first few years of life, financial needs may prevent you from leaving your job. You’re not alone. According to ChildStats.gov, many parents rely on child care since they have to work. Their statistics show that in 2011, 49 percent of children 4 and younger were cared for by someone other than their mother and 24 percent attend daycare, preschool or received other types of center-based care. Sending your child to day care may be tough for you, but a high-quality facility may offer your child psychological benefits. Alternately, sending your child to a low-quality day care could have a negative psychological impact.


The “Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development,” supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), said that children who spend time in day care may be more aggressive than children who spend no time in day care. According to the study, the number of hours a child spends in day care also affects his aggression levels; the more hours he is there, the more aggressively he behaves. However, some reject the statistical correlation as too small to be presumed a fact.

Social Awareness

Children who spend time in day care could be more socially aware than children who spend no time in day care. According to Reuters, a 2010 study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health showed that children who attended a high-quality daycare were less likely to act out, in part because of the support, interaction and cognitive stimulation received there.


In a study conducted by the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, children under age 3 who spend time in day care may experience more stress than children of the same age who are not in day care. Children in the study exhibited higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, when they were in the middle of full days at day care; the cortisol levels went down when they went back home. Those children were described as being more shy, a trait which could cause stress in a social environment. However, day care might not be the only cause of the stress; children inevitably must participate in some social environments once they reach elementary school-age.

Improved Vocabulary

An NICHD study of Early Child Care and Youth Development found that children who attended high-quality day care prior to kindergarten performed better on vocabulary tasks in the fifth grade than children who attended lower-quality day care. Improved competence in such areas as vocabulary can raise a child’s educational self-esteem and increase his chances of being successful in the future.

Diminished Bonding

Young children who spend time in day care may bond less with their mothers than children who stay home with their mothers, according to the NICHD study. However, the results were preliminary, and the link may not be significant enough to necessitate parents being concerned about their children’s welfare. Researchers suggest that parents who send their children to day care should focus on finding a high-quality day care rather than fretting about diminished bonding.

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