Tag Archives: Daycare

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.

Stay-at-home motherhood falls to record low in the UK

Stay-at-home mothers at a record low in the UK
Stay-at-home mothers at a record low in the UK

Dina sent me this article from the UK Daily Mail, and I want to comment on it.

It says:

The number of stay-at-home mothers has hit a record low as more women choose to get a job, new figures reveal.

In the last two decades, the number of women who do not work to look after their home and raise their family has dropped by a third to just over 2million.

[…]The number of stay at home mothers and grandmothers has fallen steadily since records began in 1993.

New official figures show that there are only 2.024 million women out of work to look after a home or family, a 31 per cent fall on 2.913 million in spring 1993.

[…]The sharp turnaround comes after 20 years of social and economic change, with parents increasingly sharing the burden of raising a family and many women reluctant to give up their career once they have children.

In socialist countries like the UK, the majority of the people are so accustomed to big government and dependency that they cannot conceive of shrinking government and letting the private sector and families and churches solve any problem. Right now, the current problem is that they are spending too much on huge numbers of social welfare programs that reward selfish, destructive behavior like men not working, single motherhood by choice, unskilled immigration, welfare that is not means-tested, welfare that is not time-limited, and so on. It is a nanny state, and during election times, all the candidates do is talk about how they want to spend the people’s money to be “nice”. So, you can get breast enlargements, sex-changes and in vitro fertilization (IVF) as part of the country’s bloated “health care” system. So the question is: how will they pay for all this “generosity”? Well, all the political parties agree on the answer: it’s to put in places taxes and policies that make it impossible for women to stay home with their kids instead of working.


David Cameron has promised to double free childcare for three and four-year-olds from 15 hours per week during term time to 30 hours.

The Tories argue the measure will ‘help parents who want to work’.

But critics warn it is discriminating against people who do not want to go back to work.

Claire Paye, spokesman for Mothers At Home Matter, said: ‘The government has set arbitrary targets to get mothers into work and to make sure that they are using government funds to pay to look after those children instead of mothers doing it for free.

‘There is a real concern that the drop in stay at home others is because mothers are being priced out of the home.

‘The government’s only focus is to get mothers into work and they will not support any other family model than two parents working.

‘We are concerned that these figures represent families who are no longer able to choose to look after their own children even if they want to.’

In a House of Lords debate this week, the Bishop of Durham said stay at home parents were made to feel that they are ‘somehow not doing the best for the nation or the child’.

Rt Rev Paul Butler warned of the ‘implicit and not so implicit message that it is better to put your child in childcare and go out to work than stay at home and look after your own children’.

So, we have a couple of points in there. Stay-at-home mothers are shamed for “wasting” their education on raising children. Daycare, which is proven to affect children negatively, especially in the first two years, is set forward as praiseworthy. Tax increases force women out of the home to work, in order to maintain the same-standard of living they had before the higher taxes and big government. And those big social programs almost never go to help married couples – they are primarily there to enable a permanent lifestyle of disfunction.

I thought of a couple more problems. Easily obtainable divorce and sole custody for the mother is a major deterrent to men marrying in the UK. So, of course the marriage rate is in a free fall as men stop trying to get married and settle for stress-free jobs that allow them to scrape by as singles. Why work hard just to support a wife when the whole culture is telling her to divorce you and get alimony and child support for life? And you’ll never see your kids again, either. Easy divorce and easy premarital sex sounded like such a good idea to feminist ears, but they never thought about how men would respond to it. Most men just take the free sex that the feminist Sexual Revolution provides, and decline the responsibility of marriage and fatherhood.

Another problem is that Christian parents these days have a different view of the Christian life than I have. If you look at the shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, it’s very clear that parents have a responsibility to teach their kids about God. And that requires a plan to marry well so that the parents have time to teach their kids about God themselves (homeschooling), and put them into schools that will not push secularism on them.

Deut 6:4-7:

4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!

5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.

7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Eph 6:4:

4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Heb 12:9-11:

9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?

10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

As a man, I would of course be delegating a lot of this responsibility to my trusted chief of staff (i.e. – future wife), whose skill in parenting, especially apologetics, would be phenomenal. I would certainly not trust strangers to implement the specification in these Bible verses. If we had to bring in expert Christians – either through Sunday school, lectures, debates and conferences, or through books, DVDs, etc. then we would. But parenting the kids is our responsibility. Secular daycare and secular public schools will not be the main influence on my kids. And I oppose all policies and laws that make the state more influential than us in raising our kids.

Parents have a responsibility to make sure their kids will be Christians into adulthood, and will make a difference for Christ and his Kingdom. But what has happened is that Christianity has become all about me and my feelings. Parents themselves that they don’t have to know whether it’s true, in order to teach it to the children as truth. We think that it just has to make us feel comfortable and peaceful. But that is not the way to raise kids who will make a difference, much less remain Christian in a world like this.

New study: lack of secure attachment during early childhood harms children

This is from the leftist Brookings Institute, a respected think tank I usually disagree with.

They write about a new study:

Attachment theory is founded on the idea that an infant’s early relationship with their caregiver is crucial for social and emotional development. It is an old theory, born during the 1950s. But it can bring fresh light on issues of opportunity and equality today, as a three-decade longitudinal study of low-income children from Alan Sroufe, Byron Egeland, Elizabeth Carlson, and W. A. Collins, all University of Minnesota psychologists, demonstrates.

[…]Small infants are heavily dependent on caregivers, who must respond to their needs. But counter-intuitively, the infants who have a reliable caregiver are also most likely to become self-efficacious later.

Infants (aged 9 to 18 months) with responsive parents learn how their own behavior can impact their environment. This “call and response” process builds the infant’s sense of self-efficacy— one reason parents should pick up the sippy cup, especially for the hundredth time! But this virtuous learning cycle breaks down if the caregiver fails to respond adequately.

Here are the definitions:

  • Secure attachment: When the caregiver (mom, in this study) is present, the infant explores the room and interacts with the experimenter, occasionally returning to the caregiver for support. When the caregiver leaves, the child becomes sad and hesitates to interact with the experimenter, but upon their return, is visibly excited.
  • Anxious/resistant attachment: Regardless of the caregiver’s presence, the infant shows fear of the experimenter and novel situations—these infants cry more and explore the room less. They become upset when the caregiver leaves, and while they approach upon return often resist physical contact, as a form of “punishment”.
  • Anxious/avoidant attachment: No preference is shown between a caregiver and a stranger— infants play normally in the presence of the experimenter and show no sign of distress or interest when their caregiver leaves and returns. The experimenter and the caregiver can comfort the infant equally well.

And here the results:

The Minnesota study found that attachment makes a difference later in life. Without knowing students’ attachment history, preschool teachers judged those who had secure attachments to have higher self-esteem, to be more self-reliant, to be better at managing impulses, and to recover more easily from upsetting events. When teachers were asked which students, among those with serious struggles in class, nonetheless had “a core of inner self-worth, an indication that… maybe they could get better,” they picked students that had secure attachments as infants.

In contrast, children with anxious/resistant attachments:

  • tended to hover near teachers
  • became easily frustrated
  • were more likely to be seen as “dependent” by blinded observers
  • were less competent and patient with puzzles and other cognitive challenges

Children with anxious/avoidant attachments:

  • tended to be apathetic towards other children
  • failed to ask for adult help when stressed
  • were “often self-isolating”

Both groups had higher rates of anxiety and depression as teenagers.

So again, we are seeing that when it comes to parenting, you have to think about what you are doing. That doesn’t mean that you have to be slaves to your kids, or spoil them or hover over them. It means that what you are doing with your kids matters. It means that you need to make a plan to have enough time and money to be able to care for them. I think that the right time to talk about such things is during the courtship.

Also, one more point. If you meet people with some of these short comings, (I had most of the anxious/avoidant ones growing up), then try not to draw lines in the sand where you reject them over these shortcomings. Instead, do what I do. Recognize that these people have value and that if you take responsibility to care for them and supply for their needs, you might be able to guide them to do some pretty amazing things. Don’t be so self-centered that you expect people to be perfect so they don’t need anything from you. Nobody is perfect. Everybody has a story. If you want to be like Jesus, why not start by recognizing the effects of a disrupted childhood through study, and then make a plan to grow people – even difficult ones like me.