Tag Archives: Child Care

Survey of scientific literature finds that children need their mom for first 3 years

Child grabs for his mom, who is leaving for work
Child grabs for his mom, who is leaving for work

Recently, an article published in the Wall Street Journal reported on research survey done why a far-left Democrat psychotherapist based in far-left New York City. Surprisingly, her book caused an uproar among the author’s left-wing allies. How come?

Excerpt:

Motherhood used to be as American as apple pie. Nowadays it can be as antagonistic as American politics. Ask Erica Komisar.

Ms. Komisar, 53, is a Jewish psychoanalyst who lives and practices on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. If that biographical thumbnail leads you to stereotype her as a political liberal, you’re right. But she tells me she has become “a bit of a pariah” on the left because of the book she published this year, “Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters.”

[…]The premise of Ms. Komisar’s book—backed by research in psychology, neuroscience and epigenetics—is that “mothers are biologically necessary for babies,” and not only for the obvious reasons of pregnancy and birth. “Babies are much more neurologically fragile than we’ve ever understood,” Ms. Komisar says. She cites the view of one neuroscientist, Nim Tottenham of Columbia University, “that babies are born without a central nervous system” and “mothers are the central nervous system to babies,” especially for the first nine months after birth.

What does that mean? “Every time a mother comforts a baby in distress, she’s actually regulating that baby’s emotions from the outside in. After three years, the baby internalizes that ability to regulate their emotions, but not until then.” For that reason, mothers “need to be there as much as possible, both physically and emotionally, for children in the first 1,000 days.”

What’s interesting about this is how the left responds to the science. You might have heard that the left is very fond of science, but veterans of debates about God’s existence know that people on the left tend to be hostile to science that goes against their view: the Big Bang cosmology, cosmic fine-tuning, biological information, irreducible complexity, molecular machines, habitability, etc. And early childhood education is no exception.

More:

Christian radio stations “interviewed me and loved me,” she says. She went on “Fox & Friends,” and “the host was like, your book is the best thing since the invention of the refrigerator.” But “I couldn’t get on NPR,” and “I was rejected wholesale—particularly in New York—by the liberal press.” She did appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” but seconds before the camera went live, she says, the interviewer told her: “I don’t believe in the premise of your book at all. I don’t like your book.”

[…]Ms. Komisar tells of hosting a charity gathering for millennials at her apartment. One young woman “asked me what my book was about. I told her, and she got so angry. She almost had fire coming out of her eyes, she was so angry at my message. She said, ‘You are going to set women back 50 years.’ I said, ‘Gosh, I wouldn’t want to do that.’ ”

[…]The needs of children get lost in all this—and Ms. Komisar hears repeatedly that the hostility to her message is born of guilt. When she was shopping for a literary agent, she tells me, “a number of the agents said, ‘No, we couldn’t touch that. That would make women feel guilty.’ ” Another time she was rejected for a speaking gig at a health conference. She quotes the head of the host institution as telling her: “You are going to make women feel badly. How dare you?”

[…]“The thing I dislike the most is day care,” she says. “It’s really not appropriate for children under the age of 3,” because it is “overstimulating” given their neurological undevelopment. She cites the “Strange Situation experiments,” devised in 1969 by developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth, a pioneer of attachment theory: “A mother and the baby are on the floor playing. The mother gets up and leaves the baby in the room alone. The baby has a separation-anxiety response. A stranger walks in; the baby has a stressed reaction to the stranger.”

[…]Researchers sample the infant’s saliva and test it for cortisol, a hormone associated with stress (and inversely correlated with oxytocin). In a series of such experiments in which Ms. Komisar herself participated, “the levels were so high in the babies that the anticipation was that it would . . . in the end, cause disorders and problems.” In a more recent variant of the experiment, scientists use functional magnetic resonance imaging to look directly at the brain of an infant reacting to photos of the mother and of a stranger.

I spoke to a millennial co-worker in my office who is very proud of his strong feminist views. His wife just had a baby, and they stuck the baby in daycare after 3 months so that she could go back to work. I did speak to him about what the research says (daycare and public school studies are a hobby of mine!), but I try to only disagree with him on one thing at a time, and right now, we’re disagreeing about cohabitation and marital stability. It’s amazing how confident millennials are about taking positions on things like daycare, cohabitation, public schools, etc. without ever having consulted the relevant peer-reviewed science.

Let’s look at one of the studies, to see some evidence.

Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected
Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected

The UK Telegraph reported on a recent study that measured the brain development of 3-year-old children.

Excerpt:

Take a careful look at the image of two brains on this page. The picture is of the brains of two three-year-old children. It’s obvious that the brain on the left is much bigger than the one on the right. The image on the left also has fewer spots, and far fewer dark “fuzzy” areas.

To neurologists who study the brain, and who have worked out how to interpret the images, the difference between these two brains is both remarkable and shocking. The brain on the right lacks some of the most fundamental areas present in the image on the left. Those deficits make it impossible for that child to develop capacities that the child on the left will have: the child on the right will grow into an adult who is less intelligent, less able to empathise with others, more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crime than the child on the left. The child on the right is much more likely to be unemployed and to be dependent on welfare, and to develop mental and other serious health problems.

[…]The primary cause of the extraordinary difference between the brains of these two three-year-old children is the way they were treated by their mothers. The child with the much more fully developed brain was cherished by its mother, who was constantly and fully responsive to her baby.

The child with the shrivelled brain was neglected and abused. That difference in treatment explains why one child’s brain develops fully, and the other’s does not.

[…]Professor Allan Schore, of UCLA, who has surveyed the scientific literature and has made significant contributions to it, stresses that the growth of brain cells is a “consequence of an infant’s interaction with the main caregiver [usually the mother]”.

The growth of the baby’s brain “literally requires positive interaction between mother and infant. The development of cerebral circuits depends on it.”

Prof Schore points out that if a baby is not treated properly in the first two years of life, the genes for various aspects of brain function, including intelligence, cannot operate, and may not even come into existence. Nature and nurture cannot be disentangled: the genes a baby has will be profoundly affected by the way it is treated.

I always like to consult the findings of science to find out the right way to achieve a goal. This puts off some prospective mates, who want to avoid planning and preparation so they can ride a roller-coaster of emotions and just do whatever they want to be happy in the moment. But in every other area of life, I’ve found that doing things the right way always involves studying and planning, then careful execution of a plan. Nobody passes an exam by going clubbing when they should be studying. Going clubbing is more fun “in the moment”, but studying always gets better results.

In this case, it’s very clear that keeping a mother at home for the first three years of each child would require some earning and saving by me, since men are the principal providers. And I expect that women who are looking for husbands to raise their children with will look for men who have made preparations to give the young children what they need. Not everything a man does is about looks and fun – there are real requirements here. It’s very important for young people to prepare for marriage and raising children by working backward from what the science says about children’s needs.

The more you read about the science, the less wiggle-room there is for feelings. Doing the right thing (saving money for a stay-at-home mom) is hard because it feels bad. But when you inform yourself with science, it makes it easier to override your bad feelings, because you know you’re doing the right thing to achieve a result. If you can’t bring yourself to prepare now to do things right later, then you should read more science, and that might make it easier to do the right thing.

Survey of scientific literature finds that children need their mom for first 3 years

Child grabs for his mom, who is leaving for work
Child grabs for his mom, who is leaving for work

Recently, an article published in the Wall Street Journal reported on research survey done why a far-left Democrat psychotherapist based in far-left New York City. Surprisingly, her book caused an uproar among the author’s left-wing allies. How come?

Excerpt:

Motherhood used to be as American as apple pie. Nowadays it can be as antagonistic as American politics. Ask Erica Komisar.

Ms. Komisar, 53, is a Jewish psychoanalyst who lives and practices on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. If that biographical thumbnail leads you to stereotype her as a political liberal, you’re right. But she tells me she has become “a bit of a pariah” on the left because of the book she published this year, “Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters.”

[…]The premise of Ms. Komisar’s book—backed by research in psychology, neuroscience and epigenetics—is that “mothers are biologically necessary for babies,” and not only for the obvious reasons of pregnancy and birth. “Babies are much more neurologically fragile than we’ve ever understood,” Ms. Komisar says. She cites the view of one neuroscientist, Nim Tottenham of Columbia University, “that babies are born without a central nervous system” and “mothers are the central nervous system to babies,” especially for the first nine months after birth.

What does that mean? “Every time a mother comforts a baby in distress, she’s actually regulating that baby’s emotions from the outside in. After three years, the baby internalizes that ability to regulate their emotions, but not until then.” For that reason, mothers “need to be there as much as possible, both physically and emotionally, for children in the first 1,000 days.”

What’s interesting about this is how the left responds to the science. You might have heard that the left is very fond of science, but veterans of debates about God’s existence know that people on the left tend to be hostile to science that goes against their view: the Big Bang cosmology, cosmic fine-tuning, biological information, irreducible complexity, molecular machines, habitability, etc. And early childhood education is no exception.

More:

Christian radio stations “interviewed me and loved me,” she says. She went on “Fox & Friends,” and “the host was like, your book is the best thing since the invention of the refrigerator.” But “I couldn’t get on NPR,” and “I was rejected wholesale—particularly in New York—by the liberal press.” She did appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” but seconds before the camera went live, she says, the interviewer told her: “I don’t believe in the premise of your book at all. I don’t like your book.”

[…]Ms. Komisar tells of hosting a charity gathering for millennials at her apartment. One young woman “asked me what my book was about. I told her, and she got so angry. She almost had fire coming out of her eyes, she was so angry at my message. She said, ‘You are going to set women back 50 years.’ I said, ‘Gosh, I wouldn’t want to do that.’ ”

[…]The needs of children get lost in all this—and Ms. Komisar hears repeatedly that the hostility to her message is born of guilt. When she was shopping for a literary agent, she tells me, “a number of the agents said, ‘No, we couldn’t touch that. That would make women feel guilty.’ ” Another time she was rejected for a speaking gig at a health conference. She quotes the head of the host institution as telling her: “You are going to make women feel badly. How dare you?”

[…]“The thing I dislike the most is day care,” she says. “It’s really not appropriate for children under the age of 3,” because it is “overstimulating” given their neurological undevelopment. She cites the “Strange Situation experiments,” devised in 1969 by developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth, a pioneer of attachment theory: “A mother and the baby are on the floor playing. The mother gets up and leaves the baby in the room alone. The baby has a separation-anxiety response. A stranger walks in; the baby has a stressed reaction to the stranger.”

[…]Researchers sample the infant’s saliva and test it for cortisol, a hormone associated with stress (and inversely correlated with oxytocin). In a series of such experiments in which Ms. Komisar herself participated, “the levels were so high in the babies that the anticipation was that it would . . . in the end, cause disorders and problems.” In a more recent variant of the experiment, scientists use functional magnetic resonance imaging to look directly at the brain of an infant reacting to photos of the mother and of a stranger.

I spoke to a millennial co-worker in my office who is very proud of his strong feminist views. His wife just had a baby, and they stuck the baby in daycare after 3 months so that she could go back to work. I did speak to him about what the research says (daycare and public school studies are a hobby of mine!), but I try to only disagree with him on one thing at a time, and right now, we’re disagreeing about cohabitation and marital stability. It’s amazing how confident millennials are about taking positions on things like daycare, cohabitation, public schools, etc. without ever having consulted the relevant peer-reviewed science.

Let’s look at one of the studies, to see some evidence.

Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected
Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected

The UK Telegraph reported on a recent study that measured the brain development of 3-year-old children.

Excerpt:

Take a careful look at the image of two brains on this page. The picture is of the brains of two three-year-old children. It’s obvious that the brain on the left is much bigger than the one on the right. The image on the left also has fewer spots, and far fewer dark “fuzzy” areas.

To neurologists who study the brain, and who have worked out how to interpret the images, the difference between these two brains is both remarkable and shocking. The brain on the right lacks some of the most fundamental areas present in the image on the left. Those deficits make it impossible for that child to develop capacities that the child on the left will have: the child on the right will grow into an adult who is less intelligent, less able to empathise with others, more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crime than the child on the left. The child on the right is much more likely to be unemployed and to be dependent on welfare, and to develop mental and other serious health problems.

[…]The primary cause of the extraordinary difference between the brains of these two three-year-old children is the way they were treated by their mothers. The child with the much more fully developed brain was cherished by its mother, who was constantly and fully responsive to her baby.

The child with the shrivelled brain was neglected and abused. That difference in treatment explains why one child’s brain develops fully, and the other’s does not.

[…]Professor Allan Schore, of UCLA, who has surveyed the scientific literature and has made significant contributions to it, stresses that the growth of brain cells is a “consequence of an infant’s interaction with the main caregiver [usually the mother]”.

The growth of the baby’s brain “literally requires positive interaction between mother and infant. The development of cerebral circuits depends on it.”

Prof Schore points out that if a baby is not treated properly in the first two years of life, the genes for various aspects of brain function, including intelligence, cannot operate, and may not even come into existence. Nature and nurture cannot be disentangled: the genes a baby has will be profoundly affected by the way it is treated.

I always like to consult the findings of science to find out the right way to achieve a goal. This puts off some prospective mates, who want to avoid planning and preparation so they can ride a roller-coaster of emotions and just do whatever they want to be happy in the moment. But in every other area of life, I’ve found that doing things the right way always involves studying and planning, then careful execution of a plan. Nobody passes an exam by going clubbing when they should be studying. Going clubbing is more fun “in the moment”, but studying always gets better results.

In this case, it’s very clear that keeping a mother at home for the first three years of each child would require some earning and saving by me, since men are the principal providers. And I expect that women who are looking for husbands to raise their children with will look for men who have made preparations to give the young children what they need. Not everything a man does is about looks and fun – there are real requirements here. It’s very important for young people to prepare for marriage and raising children by working backward from what the science says about children’s needs.

The more you read about the science, the less wiggle-room there is for feelings. Doing the right thing (saving money for a stay-at-home mom) is hard because it feels bad. But when you inform yourself with science, it makes it easier to override your bad feelings, because you know you’re doing the right thing to achieve a result. If you can’t bring yourself to prepare now to do things right later, then you should read more science, and that might make it easier to do the right thing.

Study: brain of child neglected by mother is smaller and underdeveloped

Dina sent me this article from the UK Daily Mail. In the past, I’ve written about how much children need their fathers, but this time I’m focusing on how much children need their mothers, especially in the first 5 years of development.

Here is two brain scans to compare:

Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected
Brain scans of 3-year old children: normal vs neglected

Excerpt:

Both of these images are brain scans of a two three-year-old children, but the brain on the left is considerably larger, has fewer spots and less dark areas, compared to the one on the right.

According to neurologists this sizeable difference has one primary cause – the way each child was treated by their mothers.

The child with the larger and more fully developed brain was looked after by its mother – she was constantly responsive to her baby, reported The Sunday Telegraph.

But the child with the shrunken brain was the victim of severe neglect and abuse.

According to research reported by the newspaper, the brain on the right worryingly lacks some of the most fundamental areas present in the image on the left.

The consequences of these deficits are pronounced – the child on the left with the larger brain will be more intelligent and more likely to develop the social ability to empathise with others.

But in contrast, the child with the shrunken brain will be more likely to become addicted to drugs and involved in violent crimes, much more likely to be unemployed and to be dependent on state benefits.

The child is also more likely to develop mental and other serious health problems.

Professor Allan Schore, of UCLA, told The Sunday Telegraph that if a baby is not treated properly in the first two years of life, it can have a fundamental impact on development.

He pointed out that the genes for several aspects of brain function, including intelligence, cannot function.

[…]The study correlates with research released earlier this year that found that children who are given love and affection from their mothers early in life are smarter with a better ability to learn.

The study by child psychiatrists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found school-aged children whose mothers nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus, a key structure important to learning, memory and response to stress.

The research was the first to show that changes in this critical region of children’s brain anatomy are linked to a mother’s nurturing, Neurosciencenews.com reports.

The research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Lead author Joan L. Luby, MD, professor of child psychiatry, said the study reinforces how important nurturing parents are to a child’s development.

My friend Katy tweeted this article from far-left NPR:

Parents do a lot more than make sure a child has food and shelter, researchers say. They play a critical role in brain development.

More than a decade of research on children raised in institutions shows that “neglect is awful for the brain,” says Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. Without someone who is a reliable source of attention, affection and stimulation, he says, “the wiring of the brain goes awry.” The result can be long-term mental and emotional problems.

The article goes on to talk about children who grow up without mothers in Romanian orphanages:

As the children grew older, the researchers were able to use MRI to study the anatomy of their brains. And once again, the results were troubling. “We found a dramatic reduction in what’s referred to as gray matter and in white matter,” Nelson says. “In other words, their brains were actually physically smaller.”

The scientists realized the cause wasn’t anything as simple as malnutrition. It was a different kind of deprivation — the lack of a parent, or someone who acted like a parent.

A baby “comes into the world expecting someone to take care of them and invest in them,” Nelson says. “And then they form this bond or this relationship with this caregiver.” But for many Romanian orphans, there wasn’t even a person to take them out of the crib.

“Now what happens is that you’re staring at a white ceiling, or no one is talking to you, or no one is soothing you when you get upset,” Nelson says. So areas of the brain involved in vision and language and emotion don’t get wired correctly.

I expect the woman I marry (if I marry) to have a college degree, and preferably a graduate degree, and a couple of years of employment. But I think to be fair to the research on child development, she has to stay home and invest in those children through the first five years at least. After that she can stay home or work as much as she thinks is beneficial to the family goals of impacting the university, the church and the public square – as well as continuing to raise those children.  I would take over more of the parenting as the children’s needs changed. When it comes to children, we work backward from their needs, and those needs create responsibilities and obligations on the grown-ups. That doesn’t mean the children are spoiled – it means that they get what they need.

Christian parents have to go even further

Here is a relevant post from Lindsay, a Christian mother who has a graduate degree in biology and was teaching biology before leaving her career to care for her children.

She writes:

Now, can a woman handle the logistics of the home, ensure her family is cared for, and still work outside the home? Perhaps, in some cases – especially if they do not yet have children. But no woman is Superwoman. We all have limitations. It’s just not possible for any woman to adequately care for children and home while holding down a full time job. The care of children and the home is primarily a woman’s responsibility in a way it isn’t for her husband. If there are no children, it may be possible for her to care for the home and her husband and still keep a job outside the home, but she must keep the home and her husband as her priority.

Once children arrive, it becomes pretty much impossible for her to work outside the home and still fulfill her duties at home. The funny thing about children is that they need constant care. One cannot care for children and work outside the home too. The choice once children come along is whether to outsource the care of the children to someone else or to do it yourself. I firmly believe that God entrusts children to a husband and wife because he wants them to be the primary influences in their children’s lives. That doesn’t happen if the children spend a majority of their waking hours in the care of someone else.

Children don’t just need food and shelter provided to them, they need love, teaching, discipline, a sense of security, and examples of how they are to live. All of those things are best done when the child spends time primarily with his or her parents. Daycare workers, school teachers, and even grandparents simply cannot provide them in the same way parents can. No one loves a child like his own parents do. No one has such a vested interest in ensuring that he grows up with the proper spiritual and moral training. Even if others care about the child, the responsibility for the training of a child belongs to his parents. Daycare workers and teachers and grandparents won’t answer to God for the soul of that child. His parents will.

For Christian parents, the stakes are even higher. Not only do they have to care about basic needs of child, but the higher spiritual needs as well. Men really need to be careful to pick a mother for their child who has demonstrated ability in caring for the needs of others, letting the needs of others override her own selfish desires.

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.

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: 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.

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