Despite the fact that Early Years is not part of compulsory education, many parents choose to take up free nursery provision once their children turn three-years-old.
A new study suggests that this choice provides a hugely beneficial start in life for their little ones.
Published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the French study of 1,428 children, concluded that children who attend nursery are less likely to have behavioural issues, poor social skills and difficult relationships with peers.
Researchers used a questionnaire completed by parents when their children were three, five-and-a-half, and eight-years-old to track youngster’s emotional development from birth up to the age of eight.
The questionnaire looked at 25 areas including hyperactivity or inattention, behavioural and emotional problems and social skills.
During the study period parents were also asked what type of childcare had been provided up to the age of three: formal – nursery, day care centre, crèche staffed by professionals; informal – provided by family or friends; or by a childminder.
This above question was asked when the children were four, eight, and 12-months-old and again when they were two and three-years-old.
44.5 per cent had been in the care of a child-minder, one in four attended formal care – which includes nurseries – while almost a third had been in the care of family and friends.
Overall 16 per cent had emotional issues, 15.5 per cent of children in the study had high levels of conduct problems and just over 15 per cent were hyperactive or had low attention spans.
Further figures showed that just over 13 per cent had poor social skills and just under seven per cent found it difficult to make friends with their peers.
Analysing the data and comparing those children who had been looked after by family and friends to those who received formal care, researchers found that the latter was less likely to have emotional and behavioural problems, and more likely to have better social skills.
Commenting on the study findings, co-author Dr Maria Melchior, of Sorbonne University, said:
‘Access to high quality childcare in the first years of life may improve children’s emotional and cognitive development, prevent later emotional difficulties and promote prosocial behaviours.’
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