- Study used data taken from Ireland’s national longitudinal study of children
- Researchers found babies in ‘centre-based care’ have better motor skills such as hand-eye coordination than those at home
- While language skills were the only area in which children who are cared for by their own extended family outperformed others by the age of three
- This suggests that a mixture of childcare is ideal for pre-school infants
Infants who are looked after by a parent or other relative during their formative years have been found to develop speech faster and more effectively than those in crèches.
But working mothers who use childcare facilities needn’t feel guilty because toddlers in ‘centre-based care’ have better motor skills such as hand-eye coordination.
The study suggests there is no single childcare type that is necessarily better or worse than any other and that a mixture is ideal.
Researchers at Maynooth University showed language skills are the only area in which children who are cared for by their own extended family outperformed others by the age of three.
They used data collected from the national longitudinal study of children, ‘Growing Up in Ireland,’ which gave them a nationally representative sample size of more than 11,000 infants and 8,500 children.
This allowed them to study the influence of early childcare choices on child development between nine months and three years.
The study, expected to to be published later this month, said: ‘Babies in centre-based care show greater abilities in fine motor skills (e.g. turning of page, holding of pencil) than babies who have not attended centre based care.’
‘However babies cared for by relatives at nine months are demonstrably stronger in vocabulary or naming skills.’
Report author Catriona O’Toole said: ‘The research highlights there is no single childcare type that is necessarily better or worse than any other.
‘Children and families are complex and have diverse childcare needs.
‘Therefore, a multi-strategy approach to childcare is appropriate, whereby consideration to given to the development of warm, responsive and stimulating environments for all children, regardless of whether they are cared for in the formal early years sector, with childminders, relatives, or by stay-at-home parents.’
The researchers stressed that children’s physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development is influenced by earlier developmental milestones and that a family’s wealth and resources as well as childcare plays a role.
The report added that access to paid-for childcare depends on social class and children born into richer families are more likely to go to crèches, for example.
It also claimed that investment in childcare only has a limited effect on people later in life, particularly for children living in poverty.
‘There is a tendency to view investment in early childcare care and education as the ultimate policy instrument for abolishing inequalities in childhood, co-author Delta Brown said.
She also said the study highlights the increasing role grandparents are playing in caring for children.
‘The positive outcomes in language and communication development associated with care by grandparents may indicate that children do particularly well when they and their families have access to a wide circle of social support.’
The study highlights the increasing role grandparents are playing in caring for children (illustrated by stock image) and says the the positive outcomes in language and communication development associated with care by grandparents indicates children do better in well-supported families.