Day care does not appear to lead to aggressive behavior in children, according to a new study based on Norwegian children.
Parents worried about day care’s effect on their kids should feel reassured by the findings, the researchers said.
They interviewed the parents of nearly 1,000 children in Norway enrolled in day care when the youngsters were 6 months and 1, 2, 3 and 4 years old. Each year, the children’s day care teachers reported on any aggressive behaviors such as hitting, pushing and biting.
At age 2, those who began day care at an earlier age showed slightly higher levels of aggression than those who began at a later age. However, these differences eventually disappeared, the study revealed.
By age 4, there was no evidence that being in day care increased children’s risk of aggression, according to the study published recently in the journal Psychological Science.
“If early, extensive and continuous nonparental care does, in fact, cause high levels of aggression in children, this study suggests that one year of parental leave, and entry into high-quality center care thereafter, may help prevent such an outcome,” the researchers wrote. In Norway, most parents have up to a year of parent leave, they added.
“From a public perspective, our findings are important because they should help ease parents’ fears about the potential harms of early nonparental child care,” study lead author Eric Dearing, a psychological scientist at the Boston College School of Education, said in a journal news release.
He and his colleagues plan to examine potential benefits day care may offer children in terms of language development and learning.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers advice about choosing a child care facility.