The effects of day care: A critical analysis

John T. Pardeck, Jean A. Pardeck, John W. Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Maternal employment has increased over the last thirty years in the USA. The result of this increase means more families are in need of day-care for their children. Examined in this paper are research findings on the effects of day-care on pre-school children and their families. The implications of these findings for policy development are critically discussed. Currently in the USA, over 50% of mothers work outside the home; this figure is expected to rise to 75% by 1990. The fastest growing segment of the working mother population is among those with children under two (Zigler and Gordon, 1982). This increasing rate of maternal employment over the last two decades has created the need for alternative arrangements for infants and young children. There is some concern among child developmental specialists that these alternative arrangements of care may have detrimental effects on a child's social and psychological development. Much of the concern about substitute care is based on the theory and research related to the negative effects of institutionalization on young children (Bowlby, 1951; Spitz, 1945). This body of literature, however, tells one little about the typical forms of substitute care experienced by most children. Obviously, children generally do not experience the extreme physical and social deprivation reported on in the institutional literature (Advisory Committee on Child Development, 1976: 117). Consequently, the quality of substitute care received by the majority of children is not comparable to the type of care studied in the institutional literature. Still, the possibility remains that even with high quality care, differences may be found in the behavior and development of children as a function of the type of substitute care received. The literature reports numerous studies on the impact of various forms of substitute care; however, most of these studies are not well designed (Advisory Committee on Child Development, 1976: 118). The typical form of substitute care focused on in the literature has been high quality, university based day-care settings, a form of substitute care most children do not have access to (Santrock, 1983: 159). Even though the majority of these studies have weak methodological designs and are based on day-care settings not experienced by most children, some meaningful findings have emerged in the literature. This paper will focus on those relevant studies reporting on the impact of one very common form of substitute care, day-care for the pre-school child. The major emphasis of the review will be on how day-care impacts the pre-school child's intellectual development, emotional development, social development, and the child's family system. The authors will draw from these findings several major policy implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-435
Number of pages17
JournalEarly Child Development and Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics

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