Do long periods of time spent in day care adversely affect the behavior of young children?

The question of whether or not day care is "good" for kids, especially younger children in critical stages of development, has puzzled parents and researchers for decades. A number of articles shedding day care in a bad light all seemingly stemmed from a single report published back in 2007, according to the New York Times, a study involving 1,300 U.S. children ages 4½ to 13 published in the journal Child Development.

The 2007 study posed the question, "are there long-term effects of early child care?" Researchers found that children who spent a year or more in day care were slightly more likely to be misbehaved in elementary school classrooms than their peers who spent considerably less time in the care of others. Since '07, the debate on day care has advanced, and the latest study from the University of Oxford has recently concluded that overall, children who spend less time with their parents may suffer, as the strongest influences on a child's behavior comes from the home.

"Spending more time in day care centers, over the total period was a predictor of total problem scores," the research team of the university's Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, led by Alan Stein, wrote. "Children who spent more time in day care centers were more likely to be hyperactive. Children receiving more care by child minders were more likely to have peer problems."

However, the researchers also found upsides to early socialization of children, as young kids who spent more time in pre-school playgroups had less problems with their peers than those who were more often babysat by their grandparents instead.

In one experiment, the research team directly observed mother's interactions with their children before observing non-parental care for at least 90 minutes. They then placed the young participants in alternative forms of care. Based on results, they concluded that the number of hours spent away from the mother was not directly linked to the child's behavior, though the researchers maintained that more time spent in group care affected "total problems and more conduct problems" overall.

"The findings in relation to child minding suggest that it might be out of home care rather than group care that raises the risk of behavioral difficulties," the authors wrote. "These findings suggest that interventions to enhance children's emotional and behavioral development might best focus on supporting families and augmenting the quality of care in the home."

"Studies of early childcare on which I have taken the lead in Oxford have shown that early childcare before 18 months was related to slightly higher mental ability and no adverse effects," Kathy Sylva of Oxford University told the Daily Mail. "The same study showed that childcare of higher quality had a benefit for children's learning. Overall, research shows that it is the quality of care that matters much more than whether the child is at home or in childcare."

Do you think day care is beneficial for children or is it better for kids to spend time at home? What are the positive and negative attributes of outside care? Share your opinion below!