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New Study on Daycare and Aggression in Childhood

Millions of parents who drop off their kids at daycare have something important to think about: a new government-sponsored study indicates that the more time a child spends in daycare, the more likely he or she is to become aggressive, disobedient, and defiant. CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports.

In the study, 17% of children who spent more than 30 hours a week in daycare had behavior problems when they got to kindergarten. The findings are alarming, considering the government numbers that show nearly one out of three preschoolers go to some type of childcare facility while their parents are at work.

"We find clearly, indisputably, and unambiguously that . . . the more time children spend in care, the more likely they are to be aggressive and disobedient," says Jay Belsky, the study's author.

Belsky led what many experts call the most comprehensive study to date on the effects of childcare. The study followed more than 1,000 kids in ten cities from birth through kindergarten. The findings, which surprised many of the researchers, appear to fly in the face of other studies that suggest daycare has little or no negative impact on kids.

In addition, the study also found that the impact on the child was the same, regardless of the type or quality of daycare, the sex of the child, or the family's socioeconomic status. What seemed to matter most was time. The more hours spent away from parents, the more likely the child was to develop behavioral problems.

Critics, however, are quick to point out that the findings on childcare may be showing only part of the overall picture.

"It's not simply hours away from mother, [but] how stressed and tired parents are," says Ellen Galinsky, of the Families and Work Institute. We're finding that about one in four people feel very stressed out and very burned out and it's hard to focus on the kids."

Belsky touched off a debate 15 years ago when he first suggested that childcare posed a risk of developmental problems. Even though his latest research seems to support that earlier position, he says the study doesn't suggest that moms have to stay at home. He says it would be a big mistake to see this as an issue of whether there should be daycare. Instead, he suggests looking at how much time kids spend in such facilities.

There is some good news from the report. Researchers found aggressive behavior didn't necessarily lead to later violence, and that kids in quality daycare tended to develop better language and cognitive thinking skills.

Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, says studies like Belsky's bring up an opportunity to improve daycare and to make it easier for parents to balance work and family needs.
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