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Day Care May Not Raise Behavior Woes in Kids After All

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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Amanda Gardner

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Parents who send their children to day care may be able to breathe a sigh of relief. New research finds that children in child care do not have an increased risk of behavioral problems.

The catch? The new study was conducted in Norway, which has a vastly different child care system than the United States -- where studies have been conducted that did find increased behavioral problems.

Differences between several studies finding behavioral troubles such as aggression -- including a 2007 U.S. National Institutes of Health study -- and this one from Norway noting no such link may be attributable to vastly different systems of child care in the two countries, authors of the new study suggested.

The researchers assessed behavioral problems in more than 75,000 children attending day care, including nearly 18,000 siblings, at ages 18 months and 3 years.

Without adjusting for factors such as family characteristics, the authors initially found a small association between children who spent very long hours in day care (more than 40 hours a week) and an increased risk of behavioral problems.

But the increased risk probably was not "clinically meaningful," meaning it wouldn't necessarily be apparent to the average observer, said Eric Dearing, co-author of the study, which appeared online recently in the journal Child Development.

But that finding changed when additional analyses were done, particularly when the authors zeroed in on children who were siblings.

"Once we moved beyond simple associations and began to compare siblings from the same families and individual children [in the same family] whose quantity of day care changed over time, we saw no evidence of an association," said Dearing, who is a psychologist and associate professor at Boston College's Lynch School of Education.

Because this study used more rigorous methods than commonly seen in U.S. studies (such as looking at siblings), at this point it's not possible to know why the Norwegian study had different results.

Certainly it could be due to the dramatic difference between the Norwegian child care system and that of the United States, Dearing said.

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