ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
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Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal


Research Backs Dame Lesley Max on Link Between Child Aggression & ECE

Research supports the view of Dame Lesley Max on extensive use of non-parental ECE (childcare) being linked to more aggressive behaviour in young children.

However a businessl lobby group for early centre operators, the Early Childhood Council, has disputed the view of their invited conference keynote speaker at the weekend!

Dame Max says children are more at-risk of developing challenging and aggressive behaviour if they spend long hours in ECE. 

Many children in that circumstance lack a sense of safety and security and life seems to them a bit of a battle ground. And they have to be the dominant one, or the one that suffers. 

Extensive research built up over many decades into the effects of childcare or non-parental ECE on young children's development shows a clear risk for children developing more aggressive and anti-social behaviours (e.g. defiance and disobedience) compared to children who do not attend childcare or who attend for shorter hours. 

Read more:  The Evidence on Child Care/ECE Effects

Speaking for the executive of the Early Childhood Council lobby group, CEO Peter Reynolds denied that extensive childcare participation had a negative effect on children's behaviour, saying that many aggressive children did not attend ECE. 

Recommendations made by Dame Max included government funding to allow for more in-home care for young children instead of placement in non-parental ECE and supporting parental choice (e.g. of hours and type of ECE) by attaching funding to a child and not through early childhood centres.

For more on this see the following media stories:

In New Zealand government policy has financially incentivised non-parental ECE services (i.e. kindergartens and childcare centres) to extend the hours of enrolment required of families for a place for their child.

"Growth in Over 2 hours in 2007 and 2008 [the hours that children two years of age and older attend teacher-led ECE] reflects the additional demand sparked by the introduction of 20 Hours ECE [funding]. The growth in funded child hours has remained strong and data available for 2010 suggests that this growth is continuing.

"The additional government funding provided for all-day services has reinforced incentives [for centres providing part-time or shorter hours of care] to switch to all-day provision.  A result has been a widespread shift towards all-day provision" (funding and fiscal analysis No. 7 paper prepared by the ministry of Education ECE Taskforce Secretariat, 1 October 2010).

Dame Lesley Max's concerns about the effects on children of early extensive and non-parental ECE are expressed in the context of a policy environment that currently pushes for children to participate more and for longer hours in teacher-led ECE centres over what might or might not be the best choices for every child. 

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