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Education Reporter

Daycare Linked to Behavior Problems in Britain, Too

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Just as a major American study revealed the link between time spent in formal child care and behavior problems, a similarly large British study came to the same conclusion.

The U.K.'s Department for Education and Skills backed the study, which sought to evaluate the effects of the 2001 Neighborhood Nurseries Initiative (NNI). This initiative hoped to boost employment and child development, especially in impoverished neighborhoods, by increasing daycare usage. It succeeded in the latter - from 31% of all families in 2001 to almost half in 2005. But the recent NNI evaluation found some disturbing trends among the 810 children it observed.

Those who spent more than 30 hours a week in daycare were more likely to display antisocial behaviors such as bossiness, bullying and teasing. The antisocial behaviors increased over time as children attended daycare. Children who attended for 35 or more hours per week were also more likely to seem "worried and upset." An article in the Telegraph frankly stated, "Children left in nursery care [are] 'turning into yobs.'"

A British teachers union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, also weighed in against what they called "institutional child care," saying it has a negative effect on childhood. The union also criticized the popular push to move to an 8 AM to 6 PM school day.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson responded negatively to the union's warning. "The argument that there is evidence that shows women are letting down their children by going out to work I think is just faintly ludicrous," he said. "The thrust of that question is that it is wrong for their kids to be in institutions, women should leave work and stay home looking after them. I don't accept that."

Johnson did not explore the middle ground between all women leaving the workforce, and all children spending 50 hours a week in school or daycare. (Telegraph, 4-5-07; www.dfes.gov.uk/research)

The American study found that children who had spent time in formal daycare were slightly more likely to be aggressive and disobedient. The effect persisted through the 6th grade and did not appear to depend on the quality of the daycare the child had attended.

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