An alternative research strategy has been to consider aggregated structural and caregiver characteristics. For example, the NICHD Study of Early Child Care (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 1999a) assessed four structural and caregiver characteristics (child:staff ratio, group size, payday loans in Minnesota caregiver specialized training in child development or early childhood education, and caregiver formal education) in terms of guidelines recommended by the American Public Health Association. The investigators then summed the number of structural and caregiver characteristics that met recommended guidelines, resulting in summed scores of 0 to 4. At 24 months, 10–12 percent of classrooms met all four standards, whereas 34 percent of the classrooms did so at 36 months. At 24 months, 9 percent of the observed centers met none of the recommended standards; 3 percent of the centers met none of the standards at 36 months.
Associations between the number of child care standards that were met and child outcomes were then tested, with family income and maternal sensitivity controlled (see Table 4). Children who attended centers that met more recommended guidelines had fewer behavior problems at 24 and 36 months, and higher school readiness and language comprehension scores at 36 months. There were significant linear trends between the number of recommended standards that were met and children’s concurrent adjustment.
Analyses also compared children who were enrolled in classrooms that met a given individual standard with children whose classrooms did not meet that standard (see Table 4). At 24 months, children displayed fewer behavior problems and more positive social behaviors when centers met the recommended child:adult ratio. At 36 months, children whose caregivers had specialized training or who had more formal education exhibited fewer behavior problems and obtained higher school readiness and language comprehension scores.
Included in the table are studies that considered relations between earlier child care experiences and later adjustment
A compilation of these studies can be found in Table 3. To our knowledge, there are no published accounts that relate early child care quality to children’s adjustment beyond middle childhood. Table 3 presents information regarding sample size, controls for family factors, descriptions of the quality measures, descriptions of the child outcomes, and specific findings.
Investigators also have considered longer-term associations between process quality and children’s developmental outcomes
Findings on this issue have been reported by the NICHD Study of Early Child Care. Extensive information about the children, the families and child care was collected during home visits (1, 6, 15, 24, and 36 months), child care visits (6, 15, 24, and 36 months), and laboratory assessments (15, 24, and 36 months). Phone interviews were conducted every 3 months to track hours and types of child care. Children who were in nonmaternal care for more than 10 hours a week were observed in that care. The investigators (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 1998; 1999b; in press-b) asked if cumulative positive caregiving (the average of ORCE positive caregiving ratings collected during visits at each observation) is related to child developmental outcomes at 24 and 36 months. Mental development at 24 months was assessed in the laboratory with the Bayley. School readiness was measured using the Bracken School Readiness Scale, a scale that assesses knowledge of color, letter identification, number/counting, shapes, and comparisons. Expressive language skills and receptive language skills were measured at 36 months using the Reynell Developmental Language Scales. Mother and caregiver reports of child behavior problems were obtained using composite scores from the Child Behavior Checklist and the Adaptive Social Behavior Inventory. Peer skills were assessed during a videotaped semistructured play situation with a friend.
Relations between cumulative positive caregiving and child development were tested in analyses that controlled for child and family factors (child gender, maternal education, family income, maternal psychological adjustment, home quality assessed by Bradley and Caldwell’s HOME scale and videotaped observations of mother-child interaction) and other aspects of child care (time in center and total hours in care from 3 to 36 months). Table 6 summarizes findings from regression analyses and resultant partial rs that indicated effect sizes. As shown, the quality of child care during the first 3 years was related to children’s school readiness, expressive language, and receptive language at 3 years. Also shown on Table 6 are comparisons of children in high-quality and low-quality child care (defined with quartile splits), using the same covariates. This extreme group approach yielded d statistics. Effect sizes using this extreme group approach were significant for measures of school readiness, expressive language, and receptive language at 36 months.