Abstract
Introduction
Methods
   Participants
   Materials
   Procedure
Results
Discussion
Selected References
Appendix A
Tables
   Table 1
   Table 2
 Relevant Links

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      The Effects of Early Child Care Experiences 
          on Temperament and Perceived Social 
                 Adjustment in Kindergarten

                                    By: Stacey Malone
 
 

                                                             

 
Abstract
     The present study examined the influence of early childcare on the social adjustment of kindergarten students, specifically whether children who have experienced childcare outside of home, in some form of daycare adapt better than children who remain at home with a parent. The hypotheses for the present study were that, (1) children who attended some form of daycare would perceive themselves as being more socially adjusted to kindergarten than children who did not experience daycare, (2) children who attended some form of daycare would also perceive themselves to be more sociable and assertive in this new environment, and (3) temperamental styles influenced the child's perceived social adjustment based on the child's prior experiences, or lack there of, with daycare. Data was obtained through the distribution of 3 questionnaires to 14 kindergarten students and their parents. Parents of the participants in this study received and completed both a biographical questionnaire and the Carey Temperament Scales: Behavioral Style Questionnaire (Carey & McDevitt). Child participants completed the Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance (Harter and Pike, 1984). An ANOVA, used to analyze the collected data, yielded significance for two of the four factors of perceived competence and social acceptance and no significance on the scale of temperament. Further analysis through a Tukey Post Hoc showed significance between groups regarding cognitive competence as well as significance between groups regarding peer acceptance. Results of this study did not completely support the hypothesis of a difference between daycare experiences or the influence of temperamental styles and more consistent social adjustment in kindergarten. Findings of this study are discussed in comparison with supportive results of other studies. Confounds in methodology are discussed in terms of their influence on the results.

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Introduction
      The transition to kindergarten is an important step in the life of a child, and may elicit some fear in children as they anticipate their first day of school in an environment that is entirely new and unfamiliar. Not all children will anticipate this major step in the same manner. For some, they have been in social settings surrounded by several children before, such as in a daycare or nursery school environment. For others, the only environment they have known involves their home setting and being surrounded with familiar faces. Research has attributed the variability in the degree of adjustment to experiential antecedents, such as prior peer experiences and exposure to non-familial settings, such as daycare (Ladd & Price, 1987).

The Necessity of Daycare 

      The need for childcare has increased dramatically over the years due to the increase of employment of women, and especially mothers, outside of the home. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network (NICHD), there has been an overwhelming growth of mothers in the workforce over the past 25 years. In 1975, 34 percent of mothers with children under six years of age worked outside the home and in 1999, this increased to 61 percent (NICHD, 2003). Reasons for joining the labor force range from the desire to increase their standard of living, to the desire to maintain a career and encounter new experiences in accordance with the changing roles women are expected to play in our society. 
      In order to meet the needs of these children, society today has several different forms of day care available to working parents. Some parents opt for in-home care with a relative, au pair, or nanny. This option allows for the child to remain in a familiar environment, though it may lack the professional care a child may receive elsewhere. Another option available is the family day-care home, where the child is cared for in an in-home environment and able to interact with other children. Yet another option would be a professional day-care center, where the child is left in the care of an educated staff and separated into groups according to their age and ability. 

Impact on Child Development 

      Research by Clarke-Stewart et al. (1994) suggests that perhaps the amount of time spent in child care programs from infancy to preschool is associated with social adjustment in the following years. In 1991, a study was designed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Early Childcare Research Network so as to address such issues. A total of 1,364 children and their families were chosen from diverse economic and ethnic backgrounds within the United States and followed in a longitudinal study designed to address questions regarding whether experiences in nonmaternal care. The extensive research by the NICHD Early Childcare Research Network (2002) has yielded results demonstrating that, even after having controlled for child and family characteristics, early child care experiences were a strong predictor of children’s development. Additional research has been focused specifically on the issue of the developmental differences between children who have attended daycare and children who remain at home with their mothers (Clarke-Stewart et al., 1994). A study by Pelligrini (1992) acknowledges findings of a study conducted by Piaget (1970) where it was suggested that peer interactions facilitate development while such adult-child interactions inhibit development. 

Advantages and Disadvantages on Cognitive and Social Behavior

      Such research comparing children who have attended daycare and children who remain at home with their mothers has also found advancements in cognitive and language development as well as higher achievement exhibited in children who attended a daycare during preschool years when compared with children who did not (Carey, 1999). Distinctions in the social behavior of the children were also observed (Clarke-Stewart et al., 1994). For instance, children who attended daycare were found to exhibit more self-confidence, be more outgoing, verbally expressive, self-sufficient, and comfortable, while acting less distressed, fearful, and timid in new situations (Clarke-Stewart et al., 1994). Why might daycare children exhibit such qualities? Perhaps it is because they have been exposed to more socialization at a younger age and on a more constant basis than children who remain at home. When predicting the adjustment of children to kindergarten, Ladd and Price (1987) found that children with considerable exposure to daycare adapt better because they have already been accustomed to such tasks as being separated from parents, acknowledging the authority of the teacher, making new friends, and accepting unfamiliar group settings. 
      Contrary to the positive aspects of daycare, Fergus P. Hughes (1999), author of Children, Play, and Development, reports that aggression and resistance to adult authority are apparent in children who have been enrolled in some form of child-care. Although their socialization skills may be enhanced, the environment the children are subjected to can influence certain behaviors, such as assertiveness and aggression, exhibited in such socialization. 

The Role of Temperament on Social Adjustment

      Although daycare experiences clearly have an impact on the degree of social adjustment, other factors have been found that also impact or influence social adjustment. Research has demonstrated a relationship between a child’s temperament and adjustment and behavior problems (Fabes, Shepard, Guthrie & Martin, 1997). Temperament can be defined as a predispositional personality component concerning patterns in emotion, mood, and reactivity. Further research examined the relationship between various child care settings and perceived temperament and it was found that children enrolled in professional daycare centers exhibited more difficult perceived temperament styles than children attending family daycare centers (Griffin & Thornburg, 1985).

The Daycare Dispute

      Children may not adjust uniformly to the new environment of kindergarten due to the various forms of child care they experienced. Some children may have been previously engaged in an environment similar to that of kindergarten, adult-instructed activities with same-age peers. Other children may have experienced child care situations guided by peer-instructed activities with peers of varying ages, similar to the environment of a playground. Some children may have only had exposure to siblings and cousins of varying ages in a familiar family environment. Previous exposure helps to form the child’s frame of reference, and when introduced to this new and intimidating environment, it is this predisposition that will evoke certain behaviors and either excel or inhibit adjustment ability. It is clearly apparent that experiences prior to the kindergarten transition affect social adjustment. The environment a child is subjected to during initial growth and development will shape the qualities and behaviors he will exhibit in other situations. 

Incentive for Research

      The question to ask is who is better off, children exposed to child care with same-age peers, children exposed to child care with different-age peers, or children who remain in the familiar home environment? Perhaps an even more pertinent question would be to evaluate the various types of daycare and the specific impact each has on social adjustment. When it is time to make the transition to kindergarten, are children who attend a family daycare at a disadvantage socially when compared to children attending a professional daycare center or children who remain at home?
       Research by Griffin & Thornburg (1985) found distinctions between various child care settings and perceived temperament. Although it has been established that aspects of temperament are strong predictors of early childhood adjustment (Guthrie & Martin, 1997), little research has included the role of daycare along with temperament on adjustment.
       In view of such research, it was hypothesized that (1) children who attended some form of daycare would perceive themselves as being more socially adjusted to kindergarten than children who did not experience daycare, (2) children who attended some form of daycare would also perceive themselves to be more sociable and assertive in this new environment, and (3) temperamental styles influenced the child's perceived social adjustment based on the child's prior experiences, or lack there of, with daycare. 

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Methods
Participants

    Participants of this study were 14 kindergarten students, 10 male and 4 female, as well as their parents. Ages of the kindergarten students ranged from five to six years old. Participants were enrolled at a private catholic elementary school in a southern New Hampshire city. 

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Materials

      A brief biographical questionnaire (Appendix A) was issued to parents of participants so as to determine age, gender, and any child care experiences prior to the child’s transition to kindergarten. 
Parents of the participants were also asked to complete the Carey Temperament Scales: Behavioral Style Questionnaire  so as to establish a background regarding temperament and behavior tendencies. According to the creator of this scale, William B. Carey, temperament characteristics are a dimension of behavioral style and personality that partially determine how one would respond to a variety of situations. The survey consists of 110 questions aimed to measure temperament along nine different categories: activity, rhythmicity, approach, adaptability, intensity, mood, persistence, distractibility, and threshold. Responses to each question in all nine categories are rated on a 6-point scale of frequency (6 = almost always, 5 = frequently, 4 = variable: usually does, 3 = variable: usually does not, 2 = rarely, 1 = almost never). 
      A third measure, The Harter and Pike Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance (Harter and Pike, 1984), was administered to participants of this study. The purpose of administering this survey was to use a self-report method to gain insight into the participants’ feelings of social acceptance and competence, which were the means for measuring social adjustment. The survey consisted of 24 questions representative of four subscales, cognitive competence, physical competence, peer acceptance, and maternal acceptance. There are 6 six questions, representative of a specific skill, for each subscale.  Responses to the 24 items are recorded on a 4-point scale (4 = always, 3 = most of the time, 2 = sometimes, 1 = not at all) 
 

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Procedure
      After collecting consent forms, parents of participants enrolled in this study were issued a packet consisting of the biographical questionnaire as well as the Carey Temperament Scales: Behavioral Style Questionnaire. Over the course of a week, each child was individually administered the Harter & Pike Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance. In an adjacent room to their classroom, each child was asked to play a game entitled “Which boy/girl is most like me?” and instructed that if at any time they did not want to continue with the game, they could return to their classroom. Two pictures were presented to the child and, after a brief description of what the pictures were about, they were asked to point to the picture that is most like them. After selecting one of the two pictures, they were further asked if to rate their similarity to that picture on a 2-point scale depending on the picture they chose. 
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Results
        A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to analyze the results between the type of daycare experienced and the four subscales of perceived competence and social acceptance (cognitive competence, physical competence, peer acceptance, maternal Acceptance). Another ANOVA was used to analyze the results between the type of daycare experienced and nine subscales of the Carey Temperament Scales: Behavioral Style Questionnaire (activity level, adaptability, approach, mood, intensity, distractibility, persistency, threshold, rhythmicity). Results show that of the 13 subscales analyzed, the independent variables only demonstrated significance on scores of perceived cognitive  competence (F (3,10) = 6.17, p< .02) and perceived peer acceptance (F (3,10) = 5.39, p < .02). 

Perceived Cognitive Competence

        A Tukey Post Hoc was conducted to further determine the significance of the relationship between the independent variables and cognitive competence. Results demonstrated that scores for perceived cognitive competence were significantly higher in children who have received no daycare (M = 3.80; SD = .141) only when compared to children who have received in-home childcare (M = 3.13; SD = .404). Scores for children enrolled in a family daycare (M=3.76; SD = .057) were significantly higher on the perceived cognitive competence scale only when compared to children with in-home childcare (M = 3.13; SD = .404). Scores for children enrolled in a professional daycare (M= 3.75; SD = .208) were also significantly higher on the perceived cognitive competence scale only when compared to children with in-home daycare (M = 3.13; SD = .404).

Perceived Peer Acceptance

      Again, a Tukey Post Hoc was conducted to further determine the significance of the relationship between the four independent variables and perceived peer acceptance. Result demonstrated that children enrolled in a professional daycare (M = 3.6; SD = .336) have a significantly higher score for perceived peer acceptance when compared to children with no daycare children (M = 2.77; SD = .368) or with in-home care (M = 2.6; SD = .529). There was no significance between the perceived peer acceptance scores of children enrolled in a professional daycare and children enrolled in a family daycare (M = 3.0; SD = .00).

Physical Competence and Maternal Acceptance
      As seen in table 1, data from the subscales of physical competence and maternal acceptance failed to identify any significant differences between children enrolled in any of the four independent measures.

Temperament Behavior

      As shown in table 2 , analysis of the results obtained from the Carey Temperament Scales: Behavioral Style Questionnaire failed to reveal any significance between the nine subscales and the four independent measures.

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Discussion
     Past research has indicated that the experiences during early childcare play a role as a predictor of later adjustment (Clarke-Stewart et al, 1994). It is obvious that not all children will adjust to these challenges of transition in the same manner. Ladd and Price (1987) attributed this variation in the degree of adjustment to experiential antecedents. In 1991, a longitudinal study by the NICHD was initiated so as to determine how variations in child care influenced children’s development (NICHD, 2003). Since it was apparent that experiences prior to the school transition had an impact on adjustment to this transition, It was hypothesized that, (1) children who attended some form of daycare would perceive themselves as being more socially adjusted to kindergarten than children who did not experience daycare, (2) children who attended some form of daycare would also perceive themselves to be more sociable and assertive in this new environment, and (3) temperamental styles influenced the child's perceived social adjustment based on the child's prior experiences, or lack there of, with daycare.
      In support of the hypothesis, children enrolled in some form of daycare scored higher on the scale of peer acceptance, although not all forms of daycare yielded these results. Children enrolled in a professional or family daycare scored higher than children who received in home care or no daycare at all. Professional daycare centers and family daycare centers are more similar when compared to in home care or no daycare, where the child remains in a familiar environment. Children in a professional or family daycare center are surrounded by other children, which would facilitate peer interaction, while children who receive care in their home lack the same degree of such daily interactions. Contrary to what was expected, children who did not experience any form of daycare were perceived to be the most cognitively competent. Perhaps parent's who remain at home with their children have more time to work with their child on cognitive tasks than parent's whose children are left in the care of others. 
     The influence childcare experiences on temperamental styles relating to social adjustment demonstrated no significance. There was no evidence to support the hypothesis temperamental styles influenced the child's social adjustment based on the child's experiences, or lack of, with daycare. Although significance was found between daycare experiences and peer acceptance, as well as no daycare experiences and cognitive competence, overall, the hypothesis was not supported. There was no evidence from the results that exposure to daycare allowed the child to socially adjust to the transition to kindergarten at a more consistent manner.  The results analyzed make it difficult to determine whether the child's experiences with daycare had an impact on their adjustment to kindergarten. Because marginal significance was found for peer acceptance and cognitive competence, but not for any of the remaining 11 factors measured, perhaps the measures used, especially temperament, were inappropriate. 
     Perhaps the methodology for obtaining information could be at fault. Despite a biographical questionnaire completed by parents of the participants, there was no actual measure of the child's temperament or perceived levels of cognitive and social acceptance prior to entering kindergarten. A longitudinal study involving a pretest and posttest, as was initially intended for this study, would have accurately accounted for predispositional differences, if any, between the groups. 
     Past research has yielded conflicting evidence as to the effects of childcare on social behavior and adjustment (DiLalla, 1998; Maccoby & Lewis, 2003; Fabes, Hanish, & Martin, 2003). While some researchers argue that experiences with daycare yield positive results in later adjustment, others, such as DiLalla (1998) contend that daycare experiences would inhibit socialization. The NICHD study disputed this claim by contending that daycare experiences provided an essential element of socialization that would increase adaptability in future social situations (DiLalla, 1998). 
     The examination of daycare experiences and its effects on social development and adjustment is a controversial relationship to examine. It is unethical to simply divide children into various groups and monitor their adjustment over time. Because this is extremely unethical and immoral, we can never fully account for individual differences. Examining a child's personality, temperament, family life, daycare experiences, quality of care, and development, as well as adjustment, appear to be the only means of accurately accounting for predispositional differences. Because this study does show promise on some of the factors measured, perhaps a more extensive study, involving the above mentioned measures of a child's predisposition would better account for potential significance of daycare experiences and social adjustment, as well as settle this debate over the positive and negative effects of daycare on future socialization and adjustment in schools. 
 

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Selected References
Clarke-Stewart, K.A., Gruber, C.P., & Fitzgerald, L.M. (1994). 
      Children at Home and in Day Care. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence 
      Erlbaum Associates. 
 

DiLalla, L.F. (1998). Daycare, child, and family influences on 
      preschoolers’ social behaviors in a peer play setting. Child Study 
      Journal, 28(3), 223-245.

Fabes, R.A., Hanish, L.D., & Martin, C.L. (2003). Children at play: 
      the role of peers in understanding the effects of child care. Child 
      Development, 74(4), 1039-1043.

Fabes, R.A., Shepard, S.A., Guthrie, I.K., & Martin, C.L. (1997). 
      Roles of temperamental arousal and gender-segregated play in 
      young children’s social adjustment.  Developmental Psychology
      33(4), 693-702. 

Griffin, S., Thornburg, K.R. (1985). Perceptions of temperament in 
      three child care settings. Early Child Development & Care
     18(3-4), 151-160. 

Hughes, F.P. (1999). Children, Play, and Development. Boston: 
      Allyn and Bacon. 

Ladd, G., & Price, J.M. (1987) Predicting children’s social and 
      school adjustment following the transition from preschool to 
      kindergarten. Child Development, 58(6). 1168-1189.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early 
      Childcare Research Network (2003). Does the amount of time 
      spent in child care predict socioemotional adjustment during the 
      transition to kindergarten ? Child Development, 74(4), 976-1005.

Pelligrini, A.D. (1992). Kindergarten children’s social-cognitive 
     status as a predictor of first grade success. Early Childhood 
     Research Quarterly, 7(4), 565-577.

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Appendix A

Biographical Information

Please answer the following:
 

What is your child’s name?

 __________________________

What is your relationship to the child?

 __________________________

What is your child’s gender?

 ______ Male

 ______ Female

What is your child’s age?

 ______

Prior to entering kindergarten, did your child attend some form of daycare?

 ______ Yes

 ______ No

If yes, what kind of daycare?

 ______ In home care (nanny, au pair, grandparent, etc)

 ______ Family daycare center (home of the provider)

 ______ Professional daycare center (parental workplace, non-home environment)

 ______ Other (Please explain)

   ____________________________________________________

Approximately, how long has your child been enrolled in a daycare program?

 __________
 
 

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Tables

Table 1

Mean scores and standard deviations for the scales of Perceived Competence and Social Acceptance (for children with professional center, family center, in-home, or no daycare experiences)

___________________________________________________________

Perceived Comp.        Professional    Family Center    In-Home    No Daycare
&  Acceptance               Mean   SD        Mean   SD        Mean   SD     Mean   SD
____________________________________________________________

Physical Competence    3.37    .221        3.20   .360          2.93    .602        3.37  .505

Maternal Acceptance    3.47    .330        2.90   .360           3.00    .500        2.92  .644
___________________________________________________________
 
 

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Table 2

Mean scores and standard deviations for the Behavior Style Questionnaire 
__________________________________________________________

Behavioral Style   Professional     Family Center     In Home       No Daycare
 Questionnaire        Mean   SD           Mean   SD      Mean   SD       Mean   SD
      Subscales 

Activity Level           4.27    1.22         3.25     .270     3.51    .513     2.91   .330

Adaptability              3.29    .764         3.83     .964      2.58    .941    2.69   .551

Approach                  3.41    .536         3.84      .458     3.36     1.31   3.48   .362

Mood                          3.39    .341        4.08      1.21      3.25    .465    3.27   .603

Intensity                    4.64    .424        4.69      .669      4.14    .381    4.43  .766 

Distractibility          3.80    .774       3.33      .960       4.00    .435   3.53   .615

Persistency              3.67    1.11       2.83      .115      2.82    1.17   3.10   .355 

Threshold                 3.48    .679       3.64      .460        3.84    .517    3.66   .541

Rhythmicity             2.94     .805      2.92      .558        2.78    .190    3.09   .433
 
 

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Relevant Links
Saint Anselm College
NICHD
APA
 

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