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February 10, 2006 permalink
Professional child protectors will be astonished that pre-schoolers fare better when cared for by mothers than by daycare centres.
Quebec daycare bad for children
study: Rise in aggressiveness, hyperactivity; 'An increased use of child care is associated with a decrease in their well-being'
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Quebec's much-heralded universal child-care program might be good for the economy, but not for the kids enrolled in it, a study by a Toronto-based think tank says.
The study, carried out for the C.D. Howe Institute, found that while $5-a-day child care had positive economic impacts by increasing the proportion of working mothers in Quebec by 21 per cent - more than twice the rate in the rest of Canada - it had negative effects on the well-being of children and parents.
Comparing children age 4 or under in Quebec with those in the rest of Canada from 1994 to 2003, the researchers noted the increase in everything from
aggressive behaviour to throat infections was much greater
in Quebec - suggesting that children were worse off after the
$1-billion-a-year program was introduced in 1997.
The study was done by economists Michael Baker of the University of Toronto, Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Kevin Milligan of the University of British Columbia.
They analyzed data on 33,000 children of two-parent families, collected by Statistics Canada for its bi-annual National Longitudinal Study of Children and Youth. In that study, parents answer questions on their children's behaviour, such as how often they fight with other kids, are fearful or nervous, or are hyperactive.
The researchers found that in the post-universal daycare period, aggression among 2- to 4-year-olds increased by 24 per cent in Quebec, compared with one per cent in the rest of Canada.
The relative increase in hyperactivity and anxiety was also substantial, while certain social and motor skills declined.
The proportion of parents reporting nose or throat infections in newborns to 2-year-olds rose by about 20 per cent in Quebec, but stayed constant in the rest of Canada.
"For almost every measure, we find an increased use of child care was associated with a decrease in their well-being relative to other children," the authors write.
The well-being of parents also declined, with more mothers reporting depression. There was also a greater incidence of hostile parenting and dissatisfaction with spouses.
The authors acknowledge some of the effects might simply be a result of parents of children in daycare reporting incidents more often. But the researchers point to a 2003 study by the U.S.-based National Institute of Child Health and Development Early Childcare Research Network that also linked disobedience and aggression to time spent away from maternal care.
The findings could also simply reflect an earlier manifestation of problems children will face anyway once they enter school, Baker said. That's why more study is needed on whether the effects are short- or long-term.
The study should give pause to those advocating extension of the Quebec program federally, the authors argue. The report comes as the incoming Conservative government in Ottawa has shifted attention away from a national child-care program, advocated by the Liberals, to direct subsidies to parents.
"The more people that study (the Quebec program) from a variety of perspectives, the better off we're going to be," Baker said.
The Association quebecoise des centres de la petite enfance, which represents public daycares in the province, said yesterday it would not comment on the report until later this week.
The study is available online at www.cdhowe.org/english/whats_new/whats_new.html
Source: Montreal Gazette
Note: The text of the study (pdf) is at www.cdhowe.org/pdf/ebrief_25_english.pdf.