The Negative Effects of Day Care on Children

Little girl crying
Child crying over a pile of spilled blocks. (Image: SergiyN/iStock/Getty Images)

Nearly 11 million children under the age of 5 in America are in some kind of child care every week, according to Child Care Aware of America. Day care is a necessity for many working families who cannot afford to have one parent stay home with the children. However, studies have shown that placing children in day care can lead to a number of negative effects, such as aggressive behavior and poor social skills.

Aggressive and Disruptive Behavior

Children who are in day care for a year or more have been shown to be more disruptive in class as long as into the sixth grade, according to a New York Times report on the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Even children in high-quality centers were shown to exhibit disruptive behavior. However, children in high-quality centers were also shown to score better on standardized tests. A study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, reported by CBS, also found that children who spend long hours in day care are at increased risk of becoming aggressive, in addition to developing other behavior problems.

Weak Social Skills

One of the biggest benefits cited by parents for day care is that it helps to socialize children. However, some research has suggested that the opposite is true, and that children who spend a lot of time in day care centers have weaker social skills. FamilyFacts.org, provided by The Heritage Foundation, says that children who spend long hours in day care are more likely to show problematic social adjustments. These children may have less social competence, be less inclined to cooperate in a group, have negative moods and be more prone to conflict.

Weaker Parental Attachment

Some children who spend time in day care experience a weaker parental attachment because of it. FamilyFacts.org says that when children spend more time in the care of someone other than their mothers, those mothers tend to show lower levels of sensitivity and there are fewer positive interactions between mother and child. As a result, these children are more likely to experience attachment insecurity, which can lead to negative behaviors. FamilyFacts.org reports that children who spend more than 10 hours a week in child care or who are in a lower-quality center are more likely to experience this effect.

Greater Risk of Depression and Anxiety

Children who do not have a secure parental attachment are at greater risk of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. FamilyFacts.org says that children with attachment insecurity are more likely to experience social withdrawal, depression, and anxiety and that boys who do not have a secure attachment to their mothers are more likely to exhibit confrontational and aggressive behavior. Attachment Parenting International says that parents who must use day care can promote a secure attachment in their children by providing consistent and loving care when they are at home, finding ways to connect with children after work and choosing a day care provider that models their parenting style.

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