Centro per la Salute del Bambino onlus, Trieste
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Key words: Maternal time, Childcare, Childcare quality, Child development, Inequity
A review is made of the evidence about the effects of maternal time and childcare time on cognitive and non-cognitive child development. Both maternal time and, more broadly, caregiver’s time and attendance at childcare services are associated with improved cognitive and non-cognitive developmental outcomes. However, this is true only for structured, interactive maternal time and for high quality childcare services. Similarly to inadequate parenting, low quality childcare may even be detrimental for child development, particularly on its behavioural dimensions. Contrary to popularly held notions, working mothers usually dedicate as much developmental focused time to their children as non-working mothers. Mothers’ social and educational background is a strong determinant of early child development independently of childcare attendance. However, quality childcare can reduce the gap between children belonging to families of low socio-economical status (SES) and children belonging to middle to high SES groups. Overall, the findings of research studies are consistently indicating that there is no conflict between maternal time and childcare time since child development can benefit from both, provided that both are high quality. Child health professionals should promote development-focused parental practices as well as early attendance at childcare services. Public policies should increase access to and quality of early child education and provide opportunities to parents and caregivers to improve their parenting skills.
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