Classroom Composition, Childcare History and Social Development: Are Childcare Effects Disappearing or Spreading?


Jay Belsky, Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues, Birkbeck University of London, 7 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3RA, United Kingdom. Email:


Core findings of the ongoing National Institute of Child Health and Human Development study of early child care and youth development through the end of the primary-school years are summarized, highlighting the fact that both positive effects of good quality care on cognitive-linguistic-academic functioning and negative effects of extensive exposure to childcare on social development dissipate over time. Results showing that more time spent in any type of care or in center-based care in particular predict somewhat elevated levels of externalizing problems are given special attention and considered in light of new results from the early childhood longitudinal study showing that being in kindergarten classrooms comprised of many children with extensive childcare histories contributes to externalizing behavior over and above children's own personal childcare histories. Implications of these latter results for the study of childcare are considered, especially with respect to the meaning of evidence documenting apparently dissipating childcare effects.