Tag Archives: Day Care

New study: Tennessee pre-K program provides no educational benefit over control group

This is the most thorough study that I have ever seen evaluating the effectiveness of pre-K programs. The study was done by researchers at Vanderbilt University. (H/T Brad Wilcox tweet)

The study was reported on by the well-respected but leftist Brookings Institute.

They write:

State investments in center-based school readiness programs for preschoolers (pre-K), whether targeted for poor children or universally implemented, have expanded more rapidly than evaluations of their effects. Given the current interest and continuing expansion of state funded pre-K, it is especially important to be clear about the nature of the available evidence for the effectiveness of such programs. Despite widespread claims about proven benefits from pre-K, there is actually strikingly little credible research about the effectiveness of public pre-K programs scaled for statewide implementation.

Like many states that became interested in scaling up a state funded pre-K program in the early 2000’s, voluntary pre-K (TNVPK) was introduced in Tennessee in 1996 as a way to provide academic enhancement to economically disadvantaged children. It expanded in 2005 to an $85 million-plus statewide investment serving 18,000 Tennessee income-eligible children in 935 classrooms across all 95 counties.

Launched in 2009, the TNVPK Effectiveness Study, a coordinated effort between Vanderbilt’s Peabody Research Institute and the Tennessee Department of Education, is a five-year evaluation study funded by the US Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences. It includes the first randomized control trial of a scaled up state funded pre-K program and the first well-controlled comparison group study of the effects of program participation as children progress through elementary school..

Policymakers and proponents often cite some of the famous early studies of pre-K programs that have shown long term benefits extending into adulthood for the participating children. But those were studies of especially complex programs that are unlike scaled-up public pre-K in many ways. The Vanderbilt study is the first rigorous controlled longitudinal study to be conducted on a large-scale state-funded pre-K program.

And here is a summary of the results:

Standard score results from pre-K through 3rd grade on a composite measure that averaged the six achievement subtests are presented from baseline forward in the graph below.

As is evident, pre-K and control children started the pre-K year at virtually identical levels. The TNVPK children were substantially ahead of the control group children at the end of the pre-K year (age 5 in the graph). By the end of kindergarten (age 6 in the graph), the control children had caught up to the TNVPK children, and there were no longer significant differences between them on any achievement measures. The same result was obtained at the end of first grade using two composite achievement measures (the second created with the addition of two more WJIII subtests appropriate for the later grades). In second grade, however, the groups began to diverge with the TNVPK children scoring lower than the control children on most of the measures. The differences were significant on both achievement composite measures and on the math subtests. Differences favoring the control persisted through the end of third grade.

In terms of behavioral effects, in the spring the first grade teachers reversed the fall kindergarten teacher ratings. First grade teachers rated the TNVPK children as less well prepared for school, having poorer work skills in the classrooms, and feeling more negative about school. It is notable that these ratings preceded the downward achievement trend we found for VPK children in second and third grades. The second and third grade teachers rated the behaviors and feelings of children in the two groups as the same; there was a small positive finding for peer relations favoring the TNVPK children by third grade teachers, which did not meet traditional levels of statistical significance.

Results graph:

TNVPK data: pre-K program is in red, baseline is in blue
TNVPK data: pre-K program is in red, baseline is in blue

We are already seeing that cheap daycare in high-tax, big government provinces like Quebec cost a lot, and produce negative results. And of course Hillary Clinton is a longstanding advocate of universal pre-K. As a Senator of New York, she introduced a universal pre-K plan that would cost $10 billion over 5 years. President Barack Obama’s own Preschool for All plan would cost $75 billion over 10 years. This Vanderbilt study should cause us to question whether the policies of the secular left, pushed largely because of emotions and ideology, are worth the tens of billions of dollars they want to take from us. And if you take tens of billions of dollars out of families, then families on the margin will have to give their children to the state to raise. And that includes Christian families, who would no longer be able to afford a stay-at-home mother.

Now, taking children away from parents so that their mothers can work is seen as a worthy goal by those on the secular left. First, communally raising the children is “good” because it removes inequalities between single mothers and traditional working-husband homes. Second, making it easier for women to “go fatherless” is “good” because fathers are not to be trusted to teach their children about morality and religion. That is best left to secular government workers. Third, mothers who choose to marry good providers pay less in taxes if they choose to stay home with their kids and not work. That is “bad” because the government wants more taxes, so they can spend it on vote-buying social programs. Fourth, children who form stable bonds with their parents are less likely to become dependent on the government, meaning their allegiance cannot be bought with government handouts. That is also “bad”. Fifth, it is also “bad” that children who grow up with stay-at-home mothers are more likely to develop empathy and morality, which gives them an independent standard by which to judge the government’s actions.

Related posts

New study: negative effects of day care on children not caused by quality of day care

Does government provide incentives for people to get married?
Mom is staying home because Dad can afford to let her: do kids benefit?

New study using National Institute of Child Health and Human Development data is discussed on the Family Studies web site.

First, let’s get the two views:

Parents, policymakers, and academics interested in how day care and preschool affect child development often embrace one of two competing—and exaggerated—claims about the childrearing circumstances that are now normative in America: that of non-family care being initiated early in a child’s first year of life on a full-time or near-full-time basis and continuing, in one form or another (e.g., family day care, center care, preschool), until the start of formal schooling.

Critics of such arrangements highlight the fact that developmental risks, like increased rates of insecure attachment and elevated levels of aggressive behavior, have been found to be associated with the extensive use of non-family care in America. Advocates, in contrast, stipulate, usually without qualification, that if the quality of care is good, then children benefit; and, indeed, that it is the limited quality of care available to too many parents in the USA that is responsible for any negative effects on children that emerge in the research literature.

All right, so the big-government, anti-family people say that day care as such isn’t bad for kids, the negative effects that are observed are not caused by too much day care, but by the low quality of the day care. The conservative, pro-family, limited-government crowd thinks that quality doesn’t matter as much as quantity – too much day care is bad for kids, regardless of quality.

The study details:

[…][T]he National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) funded, to the tune of at least $150 million, the NICHD Study of Child Care and Youth Development. It recruited more than 1,000 children (along with their mothers) in 1991 from 10 different research sites, and followed them from the first month of life to age 15. Among other purposes, the NICHD Study was designed to investigate the claim that long hours of day care initiated very early in life posed risks to children’s social and emotional development; and, should this prove so, to evaluate the proposition that such negative effects would be due to the poor quality of care that children received, not the quantity of care they experienced across the first five years of life.

And the conclusion:

NICHD Study’s findings on the effects of day care proved more consistent than inconsistent with my “developmental risk” claim. And they provided virtually no support for the idea that it was poor quality care that accounted for the negative effects of “early, extensive, and continuous” care (initiated very early in life, for long hours, and continuing for many years).2 Specifically, our many research reports revealed that the more time children spent in any kind of non-familial child care, and sometimes specifically in centers, the more aggressive and disobedient they proved to be at two (but not three) and 4.5 years of age, as well as across their elementary school years; and the more impulsive they proved to be at age 15, at which age they also engaged in more “risky” behavior than children who experienced far less non-familial care across their first five years of life. Critically, despite spending millions to carefully measure the quality of care, using methods and measures developed by the proponents of the “it’s quality, stupid” view, the study never found that the quality of care accounted for these quantity-of-care effects. In other words, the problem behavior associated with early, extensive, and continuous care emerged irrespective of whether quality of care was good or bad.

Read the whole thing, and don’t feel guilty if you can’t do the best for your kids. I am sure that everyone reading this post is going to do the best they can for their kids. But for those who have not yet had kids, let this be a lesson to you about what you should be studying in school, where you should be working, how much you should borrow, how much you should spend. A stay-at-home mom is expensive. It cannot be finessed with feelings and following your heart to fun and thrills.

When it comes to children, money is important

I know there are lots of Christians around the world who read the Bible and understand that there are certain goals laid out in the Bible for Christian parents who are raising their kids. As far as I can tell, young Christians seem to think that these goals will sort themselves out all by themselves through God’s mysterious predestination, or some other such fideistic wishing. What it really boils down to is that young people want to do what they want to do, and they can sound pious about it by saying God will somehow make their crazy plan work out. Well, that’s not effective, and young Christians would never act so ineffectively in any other area of their lives – ignoring how things really work.

Look the Bible has information about the specification that God expects you to implement. Part of that spec involves requirements for your kids. If you decide that the Bible is not trying to give you a spec, you’ll fail to deliver. If you decide that you don’t need to read studies to know how the world works, you’ll fail to deliver. If you decide that following your heart is something that God rewards more than intelligent thought, you’ll fail to deliver. You cannot feelings your way out of this assignment, you’ve got to solve the problem, and that means reading the studies and making a plan that delivers results.

So, young people. If you want to do the best for your kids, you better stop doing what feels good, and start engaging in some serious self-denial and self-sacrifice. Fumbling around chasing happy philosophy bubbles to Europe through your teens, 20s and 30s is not the right way to prepare professionally and financially for kids. Your love for your future kids begins with your decision to grow up and do hard, boring things that need to be done. You won’t be able to fix the child care costs problem at the 11th hour if you follow your heart for the first 10 hours. Keep in mind what child care looks like in places like Ontario, and what your children would be learning, and who they would be learning it from. Make a plan now.

New study: government run child-care increases negative outcomes for kids

Canada Political Map
Canada Political Map

I’ve complained before about Quebec, the most liberal and secular province in Canada. Well, one of the things that makes them so crappy is their policy of encouraging women to abandon their young children to strangers in government-run daycare. The government takes a whole lot of taxpayer money, often from traditional single-earner homes, and uses it to subsidize government-run child care. Well, now we have a brand new fresh study to show how wrong this policy has been.

Canada’s radically leftist CTV News reports on the study.


In a paper released Monday, a group of university researchers say that children exposed to the province’s child-care system were more likely to have higher crime rates, worse health and lower levels of life satisfaction as they have aged than their counterparts in other provinces who didn’t have access to the same type of system.

[…]In their paper made public Monday through the National Bureau of Economic Research, Kevin Milligan from the University of British Columbia, Michael Baker from the University of Toronto, and Jonathan Gruber from MIT in Cambridge, Mass., update work from 2008 to see if children in the Quebec care system kicked their troubling behaviours over time.

To do that, they analyzed four different data sets from Statistics Canada that touched on child outcomes, health and crime rates and scores from standardized tests that are connected to the national Council of Ministers of Education.

What the trio found instead was “striking evidence” that exposure to the program was associated with higher crime rates, with the effects most acutely seen in boys. Boys were more likely to have higher levels of hyperactivity and aggression, the researchers wrote, while girls showed declines in prosocial behaviour, which captures many altruistic activities like donating and volunteering. All of those behaviours fall under the heading of “non-cognitive” abilities, such as impulsiveness and emotional stability.

Exposure to the program was also associated with “worsened health and life satisfaction,” the study says.

There was no such lasting effects on math, science and reading abilities, the researchers write.

By the way, in case you are wondering – yes, that is the same Jonathan Gruber of MIT who was the architect of Obamacare. Surprising that he would be co-author on a study that dings big government.

Are these results unique to Canada? Let’s take a look at a recent study from the UK.

From the UK Telegraph.


Academics at Oxford University discovered that exposure to some forms of early education contributed to bad behaviour and could be linked to emotional problems.

[…]In the Oxford study, researchers recruited 991 families with children aged three months. Mothers had an average age of 30.

Researchers assessed children at the age of four through questionnaires about their behaviour and emotions completed by teachers and parents. They also observed care provided by mothers and observed non-parental care for at least 90 minutes for those children placed in formal childcare settings.

The report, published in the journal Child: Care, Health and Development, said that “children who spent more time in group care, mainly nursery care, were more likely to have behavioural problems, particularly hyperactivity”.

The study, led by Prof Alan Stein, of Oxford’s Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that “spending more time in day care centres, over the total period was a predictor of total problem scores”.

“Children who spent more time in day care centres were more likely to be hyperactive,” it said. “Children receiving more care by childminders were more likely to have peer problems.”

The authors added: “The findings in relation to childminding suggest that it might be out of home care rather than group care that raises the risk of behavioural difficulties.”

Well, that’s only Canada and the UK. Maybe things are better in Sweden?

Here’s a second article from the National Post (one of Canada’s national newspapers) about Sweden’s government-run universal day care system.


True, parental leave in Sweden is a generous 16 months. There are no babies in daycare. But when parental leave ends, practically the reverse is true: A full 92% of all children aged 18 months to five years are in daycare. Parents pay only a symbolic amount for this; tax subsidies for daycare are $20,000 per child, annually. Swedish taxes are among the highest in the world, and the tax system was designed to make both parents seek employment in the work force.

[…]Then there are the questions about the social toll Sweden’s childcare system is taking. Sweden has offered a comprehensive daycare system since 1975; since the early ‘90s, negative outcomes for children and adolescents are on the rise in areas of health and behaviour. While direct causation has been difficult to prove, many Swedish health-care professionals point to the lack of parent involvement beyond the first 16 months as a primary contributing factor. Psychosomatic disorders and mild psychological problems are escalating among Swedish youth at a faster rate than in any of 11 comparable European countries. Such disorders have tripled among girls over the last 25 years. Education outcomes in Swedish schools have fallen from the top position 30 years ago, to merely average amongst OECD nations today. Behaviour problems in Swedish classrooms are among the worst in Europe.

Now this idea of government taking children away from families is very popular on the left, because they want children to be “equal”, and that means getting them away from their parents so that the government can raise them “equally”. You can even see Hillary Clinton pushing for it when she talks about “universal pre-K”. Well, maybe it’s time that someone showed her the studies. Not that she strikes me as someone who cares a lot about children, given her support for born-alive abortions and organ harvesting.

Study: fathers are important for the development of children’s brains

Fathers and children
Fathers and children

The study was reported in the Wall Street Journal.


Dr. Braun’s group found that at 21 days, the fatherless animals had less dense dendritic spines compared to animals raised by both parents, though they “caught up” by day 90. However, the length of some types of dendrites was significantly shorter in some parts of the brain, even in adulthood, in fatherless animals.

“It just shows that parents are leaving footprints on the brain of their kids,” says Dr. Braun, 54 years old.

The neuronal differences were observed in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is related to emotional responses and fear, and the orbitofrontal cortex, or OFC, the brain’s decision-making center.

[…]The balance between these two brain parts is critical to normal emotional and cognitive functioning, according to Dr. Braun. If the OFC isn’t active, the amygdala “goes crazy, like a horse without a rider,” she says. In the case of the fatherless pups, there were fewer dendritic spines in the OFC, while the dendrite trees in the amygdala grew more and longer branches.

A preliminary analysis of the degus’ behavior showed that fatherless animals seemed to have a lack of impulse control, Dr. Braun says. And, when they played with siblings, they engaged in more play-fighting or aggressive behavior.

In a separate study in Dr. Braun’s lab conducted by post-doctoral researcher Joerg Bock, degu pups were removed from their caregivers for one hour a day. Just this small amount of stress leads the pups to exhibit more hyperactive behaviors and less focused attention, compared to those who aren’t separated, Dr. Braun says. They also exhibit changes in their brain.

The basic wiring between the brain regions in the degus is the same as in humans, and the nerve cells are identical in their function. “So on that level we can assume that what happens in the animal’s brain when it’s raised in an impoverished environment … should be very similar to what happens in our children’s brain,” Dr. Braun says.

Read the whole thing.

I think this is important because we hear so much today that marriage can be redefined, that having one of each parent doesn’t matter, that live-in boyfriends and stepfathers have the same motivation to care for a woman’s children as the biological father does. We don’t want to make judgments, even if setting boundaries is better for children. A child’s well-being is enormously affected by the woman’s choice of biological father.  You can’t have it both ways – either we are going to judge women who choose men who don’t have the desire to commit to marriage, and do the father role, OR we are going to take things away from children by encouraging women to choose men based on “feelings” instead of abilities. Lowering moral standards and removing moral obligations hurts children. It sounds so nice when we tell women, “you can do whatever you feel like, and just forget about responsibilities, expectations and obligations”, but letting women be guided by their feelings harms children. My stock broker makes me feel uncomfortable because he knows more than I do, and does not respect my opinion. But I pay him to make investment decisions for me. I mustn’t let my pride get in the way of letting him do his job – a job he is more qualified than I am to do. Let him do his job.

Here’s a related question: Are biological fathers or unrelated men more dangerous for children?

This article from the Weekly Standard answers the question.


A March 1996 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics contains some interesting findings that indicate just how widespread the problem may be. In a nationally representative survey of state prisoners jailed for assaults against or murders of children, fully one-half of respondents reported the victim was a friend, acquaintance, or relative other than offspring. (All but 3 percent of those who committed violent crimes against children were men.) A close relationship between victim and victimizer is also suggested by the fact that three-quarters of all the crimes occurred in either the perpetrator’s home or the victim’s.

A 1994 paper published in the Journal of Comparative Family Studies looked at 32,000 documented cases of child abuse. Of the victims, only 28 percent lived with both biological parents (far fewer than the 68 percent of all children who live with both parents); 44 percent lived with their mother only (as do 25 percent of all children); and 18 percent lived with their mother and an unrelated adult (double the 9 percent of all children who live with their mother and an unrelated adult).

These findings mirror a 1993 British study by the Family Education Trust, which meticulously explored the relationship between family structure and child abuse. Using data on documented cases of abuse in Britain between 1982 and 1988, the report found a high correlation between child abuse and the marital status of the parents.

Specifically, the British study found that the incidence of abuse was an astounding 33 times higher in homes where the mother was cohabiting with an unrelated boyfriend than in stable nuclear families. Even when the boyfriend was the children’s biological father, the chances of abuse were twice as high.

These findings are consonant with those published a year earlier by Leslie Margolin of the University of Iowa in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect. Prof. Margolin found that boyfriends were 27 times more likely than natural parents to abuse a child. The next-riskiest group, siblings, were only twice as likely as parents to abuse a child.

More recently, a report by Dr. Michael Stiffman presented at the latest meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in October, studied the 175 Missouri children under the age of 5 who were murdered between 1992 and 1994. It found that the risk of a child’s dying at the hands of an adult living in the child’s own household was eight times higher if the adult was biologically unrelated.

The Heritage Foundation’s Patrick Fagan discovered that the number of child-abuse cases appeared to rise in the 1980s along with the general societal acceptance of cohabitation before, or instead of, marriage. That runs counter to the radical-feminist view, which holds that marriage is an oppressive male institution of which violence is an integral feature. If that were true, then child abuse and domestic violence should have decreased along with the rise in cohabitation.

Heritage also found that in the case of very poor children (those in households earning less than $ 15,000 per year), 75 percent lived in a household where the biological father was absent. And 50 percent of adults with less than a high-school education lived in cohabitation arrangements. “This mix — poverty, lack of education, children, and cohabitation — is an incubator for violence,” Fagan says.

Why, then, do we ignore the problem? Fagan has a theory: “It is extremely politically incorrect to suggest that living together might not be the best living arrangement.”

The moral of the story is that it is a lot safer for children if we promote marriage as a way of attaching mothers and fathers to their children. Fathers who have a biological connection to children are a lot less likely to harm them. We should probably be teaching women to choose men who have a certain tenderness towards people they mentor or nurture, as well. These things are not free, you have to persuade women to value the male tendency to want to lead / guide / mentor. A lot of social problems like child poverty, promiscuity and violence cannot be solved by replacing a father with a check from the government. We need to support fathers by empowering them in their traditional roles. Let the men lead. Swallow your feminist instincts, and prefer men who take seriously their role of leading others upward.

Study: non-family daycare linked to anti-social behavior in children

From the UK Telegraph.


Academics at Oxford University discovered that exposure to some forms of early education contributed to bad behaviour and could be linked to emotional problems.

The study, based on an analysis of infants from almost 1,000 families, showed that the strongest influence on children came from within the home itself.

Children raised in poor families with high levels of parental stress or mental health problems were most at risk of developing emotional problems by the time they started school, it emerged.

The research also uncovered trends relating to children who were in formal child care — away from their parents.

The disclosure will revive debate over the best way to raise children amid a surge in the number of under-fives enrolled in nurseries and with childminders in the past 20 years. Figures from the Department for Education show that 441,000 children under five are in day nurseries while another 272,000 are being looked after by childminders.

[…]In the Oxford study, researchers recruited 991 families with children aged three months. Mothers had an average age of 30.

Researchers assessed children at the age of four through questionnaires about their behaviour and emotions completed by teachers and parents. They also observed care provided by mothers and observed non-parental care for at least 90 minutes for those children placed in formal childcare settings.

The report, published in the journal Child: Care, Health and Development, said that “children who spent more time in group care, mainly nursery care, were more likely to have behavioural problems, particularly hyperactivity”.

The study, led by Prof Alan Stein, of Oxford’s Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that “spending more time in day care centres, over the total period was a predictor of total problem scores”.

“Children who spent more time in day care centres were more likely to be hyperactive,” it said. “Children receiving more care by childminders were more likely to have peer problems.”

The authors added: “The findings in relation to childminding suggest that it might be out of home care rather than group care that raises the risk of behavioural difficulties.”

The researchers also tracked other forms of early years care and found benefits to different approaches.

They found that children who spent more time in pre-school playgroups – normally for a few hours a day, rather than a full-time nursery – had fewer problems.

More time with a nanny in parents’ own home predicted higher levels of “pro-social behaviour”, showing willingness to help others, it emerged.

The study said: “These findings suggest that interventions to enhance children’s emotional and behavioural development might best focus on supporting families and augmenting the quality of care in the home.”

A study like this will be useful when debating people with open minds, but hardcore feminists and socialists, who want women to work in order to fund bigger government, will not be moved. Because for them, it’s not about evidence. It’s about ideology. That’s why we have to be careful about letting people like that get elected.