The answer to the question above is, yes. Daycare does have a few negative effects on a child’s development, which are discussed here, in greater detail.
Putting children in daycare has its pros and cons. It’s a boon for working parents as it takes their mind off childcare. But daycare has its fair share of disadvantages, mainly affecting the emotional and social development of the child. Many parents ponder over whether or not to enroll their kids in daycare, and what negative impacts it may have on the child. But with both parents working, they are not left with much choice but to enroll the child in daycare. So how does daycare affect the child? Let us see in detail.
Negative Effects of Daycare on Children
How daycare negatively affects children is related to many factors, some of them being the quality of daycare, what time the child spends there, the age of the child, and the quality of the home environment. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) conducted a study which suggested that some children who spent long hours in daycare experienced more stress than others who spent more time in a maternal setting. But this does not mean that daycare affects all children. Even those who exhibited stress-related behavior did so only for a very limited period, and gradually overcame their behavior as they grew older.
Another independent study that was carried out claimed that children who were shy as compared to their counterparts, specially under the age of four, showed a higher level of the hormone cortisol, which is released when an individual shows signs of stress. This is because a shy child will not open up freely in public, and as a result might not mix well with other children and teachers at the daycare, a situation which can induce stress. But it was also noted that the hormone level rose during the time they spent in daycare, and dropped as soon as the child returned home. Again, this may happen with kids who are reserved as opposed to kids who are outgoing and make friends easily.
Another negative impact of daycare is less interaction between a mother and her child, which is very important especially in the early formative years. An infant or toddler enrolled in daycare for longer durations misses out on the bonding with his mother. Babies become extremely attached to their primary caregiver, which usually happens to be the mother. So it is essential that a child develops a deep bond with his mother, as this will lay the foundation for all the relationships he will form later in life.
The stronger the bond, the more stable and confident the child will feel as he grows up. Children spending more time with their mother undergo healthy social and emotional development. Long hours in daycare will definitely hamper this bonding, even if to a little extent. It has been observed, in a few cases, that kids who lost out on precious mother-child bonding have behavior problems, mood swings, and adjustment problems as they grow older.
Children in daycare also feel unprotected and vulnerable as compared to kids who are at home. For example, in a daycare, there is one caregiver attending to more than one kid at the same time, and as a result she may not delve deep into why the child is crying or not behaving and mixing well with others. This makes the child feel less safer, as compared to spending quality time with his mother or a caregiver at home, who tends to the child’s each and every social and emotional need. Such children may either suppress their emotions and close up, or exhibit aggressive behavior, a sign many experts feel denotes insecurity felt by a child.
Other impacts of daycare can mean children falling sick more often, if they come in contact with other sick children, and the daycare premises are not cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis. It must be noted that not all kids fall prey to illnesses. How often a kid falls sick is also dependent on his immunity levels, time spent in daycare, and the hygienic standards maintained at the daycare facility. Most of the time, this can be avoided if the child is up-to-date with his immunization schedule and the daycare adheres strictly to cleanliness and hygiene practices.
The points mentioned above do not mean that children should not go to daycare. In fact, the advantages of daycare outweigh its negative effects. Well-maintained daycare centers contribute a great deal to the overall cognitive, social, and emotional development of the child by providing a structured environment which is crucial in his growing-up years. Children become more social by interacting with other kids of the same age, and learn new activities, something which is not always possible if they get childcare at home.
To minimize the negative effects daycare has on children, it is important that you look for a daycare that is well-maintained, has a teacher-student ratio of not more than 1:4, so your child receives more personal attention from his teacher, is high on cleanliness, and where teachers are friendly and cooperative. Talking to parents whose children go to the same daycare as the one you intend to put your child into is generally the best way to find out the quality of that daycare. If you are working and your kid is too young, you can cut back on the time he spends in daycare by making alternate childcare arrangements at home, especially if you feel it could adversely affect his social and emotional development.