New research published today by the ESRI and Pobal investigates the effects of childcare in early life on children’s socio-emotional development at age five using a large representative sample of children (circa 9,000) from the Growing Up in Ireland study. At age three, prior to the Free Preschool Year, around half the children in the study were in non-parental childcare. There were three categories of non-parental childcare:
Children’s socio-emotional outcomes were assessed based on their pro-social skills (e.g. sharing, kindness to younger children) and socio-emotional difficulties (e.g. conduct problems, emotional difficulties, hyperactivity/inattention and peer problems) as reported by their mothers and teachers.
How does childcare at age 3 influence socio-emotional outcomes at age five?
After taking account of a range of child, parent, family and neighbourhood level characteristics the study found that:
Children cared for by relatives at age 3 have somewhat fewer socio-emotional difficulties and better social skills at age 5 than those looked after by their parents full-time.
Children cared for by a non-relative (e.g. a childminder) at age three were rated by both parents and teachers as having fewer socio-emotional difficulties, in particular, fewer emotional and peer problems than children in full-time parental care.
Other key points:
Other important factors associated with socio-emotional outcomes:
Welcoming the report, David Burke, Early Years Operations, Pobal, commented “We are delighted to see the launch of the first joint publication between Pobal and the ESRI. Pobal’s purpose is to highlight the significant issue of economic and social disadvantage, and the negative effect that this can have on the social and emotional development for Ireland’s youngest citizens, as well as highlighting the positive effect that early intervention and centre based childcare can have for children from disadvantaged households. Pobal looks forward to future collaborations with the ESRI on childcare and other related fields.”
Helen Russell,one of the authors of the report, added “The research findings provide critical insights into what factors promote children’s socio-emotional development, which is essential not only for their current wellbeing but also for their ability to settle into school and for their longer term educational attainment. We find some evidence to suggest that access to centre-based care provides more beneficial effects for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but the effects are small and are not sufficient to level the playing field. The quality of care received is likely to be crucial.”
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