Are Daycare Kids Better Behaved? This Study Says Yes

Childcare centers could help kids succeed socially and emotionally
Social skills developed in daycare might have long-lasting effects. Photo by Peter Knight via Flickr

Torn between a nanny, daycare, or staying home with your kids? Choosing childcare can be a difficult—and deeply personal—decision for any family, and of course involves a number of factors, from costs to the length of your commute. A new study out of France suggests that daycare might offer some significant advantages in terms of our kids' development.

Researchers at Sorbonne Université in Paris followed nearly 1,500 kids from the womb to age 8 as they either attended a center-based daycare or were cared for by a nanny or family member. The daycare kids, particularly those who attended at least a year before the age of three, were less likely to have problems with peers and other emotional and behavioral issues, according to the researchers.

The recent report, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, doesn't mean you should ditch Grandma or the nanny, but it might just alleviate some of that working mom guilt for those who have chosen the daycare route.

Finding a quality daycare, however, is key, said Ramchandar Gomajee, a research assistant on the study. Gomajee cited a few top factors that create a strong childcare center: well-trained staff educated in early childhood development, a high teacher-to-student ratio, and strong socialization activities, which can be anything from learning to share to interactions with their caregivers.

Though the study was conducted in France, where childcare is subsidized, Gomajee said it would also apply here in the US.

Lynette Galante, vice president of the New Jersey Child Care Association, agrees, noting that turn-taking and skills like maintaining eye contact are all positive lessons learned from daycare, where kids are cared for in a group setting with many other children and often by a roster of many or several caregivers, rather than just one.

“Social skills are the foundation of early childhood, and these skills are the basis for the concepts that allow children to grow into successful members of society," she told me. 

If you’re already looking into daycare for your baby or toddler, Galante suggests looking for certain traits, too, including a research-based curriculum and low staff turnover, but mostly, "the feeling of warmth and extended family.”

So the next time your tot complains about going to "school" and begs to stay home, or you're feeling that twinge of guilt at morning drop-off, just remember: you're really investing in a set of solid social skills for your little one!