No difference in development of children cared for at home and those in childcare

'Growing Up in Ireland' found longer hours of care can have some negative effects

Growing Up in Ireland, childcare, cognitive development, ESRI, Helen Russell

File photo of a child playing | Image: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire/Press Association Images

A new report has found no difference in a child's cognitive development between those cared for at home and those cared for outside the home.

The latest 'Growing Up in Ireland' report found that at age three, the main types of non-parental childcare arrangements are: relative care (often a grandparent); non-relative care (typically a childminder) and centre-based care (eg a crèche).

The study is based on a representative sample of 9,000 children and says childcare arrangements at age three did not influence children's abilities in language and reasoning at age five.

Instead, it found that some of the main influences on children's cognitive outcomes at age five are the child's gender, language spoken at home, number of older siblings, parents' education, parenting practices and home learning environment.

"Once these influences are taken into account there is no difference in either vocabulary or reasoning scores at age five for children cared for full-time by their parents and those who attend different forms of childcare at age three", it says.

"However, these findings do not take into account differences in the quality of childcare arrangements. Therefore we cannot rule out the possibility that high quality care has a beneficial effect while poor quality childcare has a negative impact".

 Free Pre-school Year

It also finds that longer hours of care - 30 hours or more per week - were associated with a small negative effect on vocabulary at age three, regardless of the type of childcare.

By age five, almost all of the children in the study (96%) had participated in pre-school education through the Free Pre-school Year.

Just 27% of these children were attending centre-based care at age three, showing that the scheme increased access considerably.

22% of parents said they would not have been able to afford to send their child to pre-school without the Free Pre-school Year. This figure rose to 36% among parents in the lowest income bracket and 38% of parents with low education.

Dr Helen Russell is an associate research professor with the ESRI and co-author of the report.

She told Newstalk Breakfast more siblings are not necessarily a good thing.