Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development

A project of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, this study ran from 1991 through 2009. Analysis of the data, however, continues. The large team of researchers from multiple universities followed more than 1,300 children from their earliest years in various forms of child care into preschool and K-12 classrooms. The study’s findings—which included connections between children’s behavior problems and long time spent in center-based child care—sparked considerable controversy.

Some commentators used the results to argue that mothers’ work outside the home hinders their children’s development. Others, however, have focused on the positive aspects of center-based care, which can include stronger cognitive skills, and have said such findings show that policymakers should focus on improving center quality.