Bigger differences in the quality of child readiness programs, he explained, will result in bigger differences in academic outcomes.
The 1,364 youth in the study have been evaluated periodically since they were 1 month of age as part of the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, the most comprehensive and longest running study of child care in the United States.
To determine whether the effects of quality child care persist into adolescence and whether any new effects emerge, researchers examined quality of care, number of hours in child care and type of care.
Quality was defined in terms of caregivers' warmth, sensitivity to children's needs and cognitive stimulation of the young ones under their care.
Although the study followed kids' experiences, it was not designed to determine cause-and-effect.
The current analysis also did not assess teen outcomes based on whether or not they had been in child care. But earlier reports from the study showed that children who were in child care on a routine basis scored higher than children who had no child care, Vandell said.
In addition to better test scores, quality care also was associated with fewer behavior problems at age 15.
On the other hand, teens who had spent more hours in child care reported more risk-taking and greater impulsivity compared with those who had spent fewer hours in child care.
"I think the caveat you have to put on that is not only are the effect sizes small but, relatively speaking, the number of impulsive and risk-taking behaviors self-reported by these you
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