Research has long suggested that enrollment in high-quality daycare can have a lasting and significant impact on children's social and emotional development. Studies have linked consistent socialization and play in early childhood with higher levels of empathy, resilience, and prosocial behavior later in life. However, there is also evidence that very early and extensive care in poor quality facilities can be disadvantageous. In addition to this, research has shown that extensive child care can interfere with the development of harmonious mother-child interaction.
For example, the NICHD Early Child Care Research Network found that infants and toddlers with longer hours of care experienced a less positive mother-child interaction. On the other hand, some studies have reported positive effects of child care on the mother-baby interaction. Center-based teachers, who are more likely to have received specialized training in early development and more education overall than providers in other child care settings, are often associated with these positive effects. Data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care reveals that child care enrollment occurs very early in the first year.
Whether a child with special needs goes to daycare or not, interactions that occur at home have a big impact on the child's development. Surprisingly, there is very little information about child care arrangements for children with disabilities. This false dichotomy has resulted in fragmented policies, such as part-time pre-kindergarten policies, which require working parents to organize comprehensive child care and child care subsidies with reimbursement rates so low that they cannot support high-quality educational programs. In general, initial entry into group settings, whether ECE or kindergarten, if children are older, is associated with an increase in the short-term incidence of common communicable diseases or days missing school due to illness.
Corresponding to the rapid growth in labor force participation of mothers with children 1 year old or younger, most fathers now enroll their children in child care during the first year of life. The mission of organizations like the NICHD is to provide parents, caregivers, early childhood educators and speech-language pathologists with the knowledge and training they need to help young children develop the best possible language, social and literacy skills.