High quality is essential for the most vulnerable children

The most vulnerable children are at greater risk of being influenced by negative factors at centre-based childcare, a study finds.



‘Some centre-based childcare facilities have a high percentage of unskilled workers on staff. This is a negative factor that is of significance for the children that are most vulnerable’, says Ragnhild Eek Brandlistuen.

As a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, she has led the work on a report about vulnerable children in centre-based childcare.

Boys are more vulnerable

Boys exhibit more symptoms of emotional difficulties in centre-based childcare where there are many unskilled workers, according to the report. The study uses data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Survey, which is based on a questionnaire completed by nearly 7000 mothers and early childhood educators.

In this context, the term “vulnerable children” refers to those who are at neurobiological risk. This includes children born prematurely or with low birth weight, and children who had a difficult temperament in infancy.

A difficult temperament in a child may, for example, involve the child crying a lot, or finding it hard to settle down, or demanding a great deal of attention.

Large groups were most negative for girls

If a group of children is too large, the vulnerable girls suffer the most. They are easily overlooked and may experience more language problems.

In this context, the term “vulnerable children” refers to those who are at neurobiological risk.

‘It is interesting to note that the size of a group of children has an impact on vulnerable girls, but not boys. The girls who had language problems demonstrated fewer symptoms if they were moved into small groups.

‘Earlier research has shown that girls struggle more than boys when it comes to making themselves heard in larger groups.’ Brandlistuen suggests that this might be why girls with developmental issues appear to have a better linguistic development trajectory in centre-based childcare with small groups.

Adaptation is essential

‘The researchers found that in the centre-based childcare where staff often adapts creative and physical play to suit the most vulnerable children, such adaptation has a preventative effect on children’s language problems. This is especially true for the vulnerable boys.

‘In centre-based childcare institutions that do not adapt as much, vulnerable boys develop language more slowly, and they are sadder and more subdued. This may be because it’s harder for them to be included in spontaneous play’, explains Brandlistuen.

Long days are negative for some

Earlier, when researchers have studied whether long days in kindergarten have a negative impact on children, their studies were limited to average kindergarten children. In that context, they found no correlation.

This study included such a large number of children that it has been possible to study sub-groups. In this context, they find that long days are negative for the vulnerable children. Children in this group who have long days in centre-based childcare demonstrate more restlessness and aggression.