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Do Effects of Early Child Care Extend to Age 15 Years? Results From the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development


  • This study is directed by a Steering Committee and supported by NICHD through a cooperative agreement (5 U10 HD027040), which calls for scientific collaboration between the grantees and the NICHD staff. The content is solely the responsibility of the named authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institutes of Health, or individual members of the Network. Current members of the Steering Committee of the NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, listed in alphabetical order, are: Jay Belsky (Birkbeck University of London), Cathryn Booth-LaForce (University of Washington), Robert H. Bradley (Arizona State University), Celia A. Brownell (University of Pittsburgh), Margaret Burchinal (University of California, Irvine), Susan B. Campbell (University of Pittsburgh), Elizabeth Cauffman (University of California, Irvine), Alison Clarke-Stewart (University of California, Irvine), Martha Cox (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Robert Crosnoe (University of Texas, Austin), Sarah L. Friedman (Institute for Public Research, CNA), James A. Griffin (NICHD), Bonnie Halpern-Felsher (University of California, San Francisco), Willard Hartup (University of Minnesota), Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek (Temple University), Daniel Keating (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), Bonnie Knoke (RTI International), Tama Leventhal (Tufts University), Kathleen McCartney (Harvard University), Vonnie C. McLoyd (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Fred Morrison (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), Philip Nader (University of California, San Diego), Marion O’Brien (University of North Carolina, Greensboro), Margaret Tresch Owen (University of Texas, Dallas), Ross Parke (University of California, Riverside), Robert Pianta (University of Virginia), Kim M. Pierce (University of California, Irvine), A. Vijaya Rao (RTI International), Glenn I. Roisman (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Susan Spieker (University of Washington), Laurence Steinberg (Temple University), Elizabeth Susman (Pennsylvania State University), Deborah Lowe Vandell (University of California, Irvine), and Marsha Weinraub (Temple University).

  • The authors express their appreciation to the study coordinators at each site who oversaw the data collection, to the research assistants who collected the data, and especially to the youth and their families who cooperated so willingly with repeated requests for information.

concerning this article should be addressed to Deborah Lowe Vandell, Department of Education, University of California, 3200 Education Building, Irvine, CA 92697. Electronic mail may be sent to


Relations between nonrelative child care (birth to 4½ years) and functioning at age 15 were examined (N = 1,364). Both quality and quantity of child care were linked to adolescent functioning. Effects were similar in size as those observed at younger ages. Higher quality care predicted higher cognitive–academic achievement at age 15, with escalating positive effects at higher levels of quality. The association between quality and achievement was mediated, in part, by earlier child-care effects on achievement. High-quality early child care also predicted youth reports of less externalizing behavior. More hours of nonrelative care predicted greater risk taking and impulsivity at age 15, relations that were partially mediated by earlier child-care effects on externalizing behaviors.

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