Day‐Care Participation as a Protective Factor in the Cognitive Development of Low‐Income Children

Margaret O.Brien Caughy, Janet A. DiPietro, Donna M. Strobino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


The impact of day‐care participation during the first 3 years of life on the cognitive functioning of school age children was examined. 867 5‐ and 6‐year‐old children from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth who completed the 1986 assessment were included in the sample. The dependent measures were scores on the Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT) subtests of mathematics and reading recognition. In addition to day‐care participation, the impact of the pattern of day‐care was examined by analyzing the effect of the number of years in day‐care, the timing of initiation of day‐care, and type of day‐care arrangement. After controlling for confounding factors, there were significant interactions between all 3 measures of day‐care patterning and family income for reading recognition performance. This association was further examined by exploring the interaction between the pattern of day‐care participation and the quality of the home environment. Initiation of day‐care attendance before the first birthday was associated with higher reading recognition scores for children from impoverished home environments and with lower scores for children from more optimal environments. In addition, a significant interaction between the type of day‐care arrangement and the quality of the home environment emerged for mathematics performance. Center‐based care in particular was associated with higher mathematics scores for impoverished children and with lower mathematics scores for children from more stimulating home environments. These findings are discussed in the context of developmental risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-471
Number of pages15
JournalChild development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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