Nancy L. Marshall wrote an article entitled “The Quality of Early Child Care and Children’s Development” in 2004. Her study looks at the types of research that have been done recently, and the factors that influence a child’s development. These factors are far greater than simply the child care setting, but everything plays back into everything else.
First, the number of young children whose parents are in the workforce has risen dramatically in the last forty years. In 1970, the figure was only 24%. Today, it stands at nearly 60%. This means that many more young children are being cared for by someone other than their parents for a large portion of the day.
Basic types of child care include center-based care, home-based care (someone else’s home), and an in-home sitter or nanny. Recent studies include all of these different types of care separately. They also look at other factors within these types of care, including child-staff ratio, group size, and education and training of teachers.
Additionally, researchers are now looking at harder to measure variables, referred to as a group as “process quality.” This includes factors like the warmth, sensitivity, and responsiveness of caregivers; emotional tone of the setting; activities available to children; development appropriateness of activities; and learning opportunities available.
The study found that children in a lower-quality facility were less socially and cognitively developed than those in a higher-quality facility. This is attributed to a parents’ choice of facility, what is available to parents, and a variety of other factors.
For example, lower income families may not have access to high-quality care. Government subsidies help, but not much. Parents who work odd hours may not have access to high quality care simply because no facilities are open night and weekends. The idea that a parent’s job, socio-economic status, and location all have influences on the care received is a key idea in the article. The center itself is referred to as the “micro-system.” The direct interaction between family and center is referred to as “meso-system.” The additional, indirect influences are referred to as the “exosystem.” That is, a variety of factors influence care at different levels.
Marshall’s recommendations are that child care should be better funded so that all children have access to high quality care. This is so all children can benefit from better language development, cognitive competence, and greater social development. Further research and social programs will aid these goals, she explains.
Marshall, Nancy L (2004). “The Quality of Early Child Care and Children’s Development.” Current Directions in Psychological Science. 13, 4, 165 – 168.