What does psychological research tell us about daycare? (12 marks) Daycare is where a child is cared for by someone other than its parents for some part of the day and it could be considered a form of short term deprivation. The NICHD study in the USA aimed to study the effect of daycare on children by conducting a longitudinal study. This involved gathering data by various methods such as observations, interviews and surveys. 1,200 children were studied from birth until they started school.
The results of this study showed that the children who spent early continuous and ntensive time in daycare were likely to have more behavioural problems, such as aggression and disobedience, later than children who did not. The problems were rated by teachers and parents which suggests that the length of time in daycare has an effect. A significant strength of the study as the sample was very large and it was a longitudinal study, both which reduces the effects of individual differences.
The researchers would have gathered a lot in-depth detail from the participants and furthermore be able to study development over time which makes the results more eliable. However a weakness of the NICHD study is that the findings took place in one culture, the USA, and may not be able to be generalised to other cultures. Cross cultural research has found differences in attachment across different cultures, which suggests these findings may only be applicable to children in the USA. A further issue that was investigated by this study is the type of daycare.
It was found that nursery-type daycare, as oppose to home day-care, led to improvements in cognitive and language development but also increased behavioural problems such s disobedience. The study showed a third finding which was that the quality of daycare was important. Low quality daycare was particularly bad for children with mothers who lacked sensitivity. Good quality daycare tended to mean higher cognitive and language functioning in children. Overall, they concluded that daycare can have some negative effects such as aggression and disobedience.
However, this complex area involves many variables and therefore it is difficult to draw a meaningful conclusion which is a weakness of the study. Researchers may not have considered issues such as good social background, temperament of the child, quality of their attachments and cultural differences which all could have affected the results of the study. On the other hand, the researchers used various different methods to collate data which means data can be compared to check for reliability and validity which is a strength of the study.
This is like repeating the study to check for reliability, so if the same results are found using different research methods then reliability can be claimed. The EPPE project in the I-JK found different results to the NICHD study in the USA. They aimed to look at the impact of preschool provision on a child’s intellectual, behavioural and social development. They also wanted to see if social inequalities could be reduced by attendance in preschool settings and whether some types of settings were better than others. They studied 3,000 children and used observations and interviews with parents and practitioners.
The participants were from a range of social backgrounds to provide a variety in the ample, to look at issues such as social background. There were two groups; a control centres took part in the study. This is a strength of the study because the sample was large and carefully planned to include a range of children from different social backgrounds which means more secure conclusions can be drawn. They also used a control group in which they compare the daycare children which enables researchers to draw comparisons. The researchers found that high quality care improved social, behavioural and intellectual development.
Furthermore, the study found that the earlier a child started daycare, the better the intellectual improvement. Children also had better independence and concentration the longer they had been in daycare. Another important finding was that disadvantaged children were better off in good quality daycare. However, a previously mentioned weakness regarding the NICHD study is the issue of generalisability as the study was conducted in one country, the I-JK. However, they accounted for this by choosing participants from a range of social backgrounds.
Further psychological research into daycare came from Belsky and Rovine (1988) who considered the findings of the NICHD and EPPE projects. They used various methods such as the strange situation procedure. They concluded that good quality daycare, including childcare in daycare centres, can lead to better cognitive and language abilities. However, the more time spent in daycare, especially more time in centre-based care, tended to leave lead to more behavioural problems. He found that the important features of daycare are quality, quantity and type of daycare.
A strength of this study is that data is relatively valid, as it is a quantitative measure of hours spent in daycare. However, the strange situation test could not be a valid measure as it only captures one particular issue; stranger fear. To conclude, daycare is a multifaceted, complex issue. Research shows us that it is not a simple issue of whether daycare is beneficial or not, but rather there are many different factors that can affect it such as; the type of daycare, the length of time spent in daycare and the age in which the child starts daycare.