New York: If the thought of sending your toddler to daycare is bothering you, a new study can help you breathe a sigh of relief. Researchers have found that the amount of time children spend in daycare has little impact on aggressive behaviour.
"From a public perspective, our findings are important because they should help ease parents' fears about the potential harms of early non-parental child care," said study lead author Eric Dearing, psychological scientist at Lynch School of Education, Boston College in the US.
As women entered the workforce in increasing numbers in the 1980s, some child development researchers began reporting that daycare had harmful consequences for children's social and emotional adjustment.
These findings stoked uncertainty and fear among parents, and led to debate amongst researchers in the field.
In this study, researchers interviewed parents of almost 1,000 Norwegian children about time spent in daycare at ages six months and one, two, three, and four years old. Each year, the child's daycare teacher reported on aggressive behaviours like hitting, pushing, and biting.
"One surprising finding was that the longer children were in non-parental care, the smaller the effects on aggression became," Dearing explained.
When the children were two years old, those who had entered day care at earlier ages displayed modestly higher levels of aggression than peers who entered later.
Importantly, these differences in physical aggression diminished over time -- regardless of how much time children spent in daycare.
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.