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Working parents: Leave your day care guilt at the door

Many parents worry that when they drop their child off at day care, they are setting their offspring up for less than optimal lifelong outcomes. A Canadian investigation indicates that parents may not need to worry so much.

Day care and qualified caregivers are a fact of life for many children, but many parents may be anxious about whether this is hurting their child. A Canadian exploration on long-term outcomes for young children in formal child care may provide some relief.1

Investigators ran a 30-year prospective cohort follow-up study that linked to government administrative databases. They made note of exposure to any formal child care by accredited caregivers in either residential settings or centers at ages 6 months, 1 year, 1.5 years, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years. There were a total of 2905 participants who had data regarding child care use.

In the cohort, 59.4% of male participants had completed high school by age 22 years to 23 years and 78.5% of female participants had done the same. At the last follow-up, which covered 2860 participants, the mean income for male participants was $47,000 in Canadian currency and $32,000 for female participants.

Investigators used group-based trajectory modeling to create 3 groups: formal child care onset in infancy (∼6 months), formal child care onset as a toddler (after 2.5 years), and those who were never exposed. Following propensity score weighting, males whose child care started in infancy had greater odds of graduating from high school than males who had never been exposed. Male participants who had exposure to child care also had a reduced chance of low income as young adults. Female participants had no significant association between child care attendance and graduation rates as well as incomes.


1. Domond P, Orri M, Algan Y et al. Child care attendance and educational and economic outcomes in adulthood. Pediatrics. 2020:145(6):e20193880. doi:10.1542/peds.2019-3880