Be Child Care Aware: Positive Caregiver-Child Relationships Important In Childrens Development

Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  11/2/2004 8:43:30 PM

News You Can Use For November 2004

Early childhood education and quality of child care affect children’s social and cognitive development, and attachment to a caregiver can be a positive factor in that development, according to LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe.

Since children who attend child-care programs spend most of their active hours under the watchful care of someone other than their parent or guardian, it’s important to consider how the child-care program contributes to a child’s development, Gioe stresses.

"Research indicates that children who attend high-quality child-care programs have better language and math skills, as well as better social thinking skills," Gioe says, adding, however, "Adversely, research has shown that minimum-to-poor quality care may lead to poor school performance, delinquent behavior, depression, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and difficulty in developing positive relationships."

The LSU AgCenter expert says positive, long-term relationships between caregivers and children result in a positive relationship known as attachment.

"Simply stated, attachment is the early bonding that takes place between an infant and his or her primary caregiver," Gioe explains. "Traditionally, that’s the mother, but infants may also form an attachment relationship with caregivers in the child-care setting."

No matter who the bond is with, Gioe says infants’ attachments form early in their development as caregivers positively respond to the signals of infants and meet physical and emotional needs – such as feeding, singing, talking, holding, rocking and even changing diapers.

"Over time, an infant learns that a certain person or people provide them with a safe, predictable and comfortable world," Gioe says. "Positive, secure attachment relationships result in infants learning to trust, which, in turn, provides them with the security to explore their world."

The LSU AgCenter expert stresses the concept of attachment is important to keep in mind when choosing child care, because certain quality indicators may affect attachment relationships. Those factors of the child-care setting include:

  • Continuity of care – having the same person look after your baby for long periods. This may be referred to as primary caregiving.

  • Caregiver-to-child ratio – lower ratios allow for caregivers to be more responsive.

  • Caregiver educational levels – research shows that the educational levels of caregivers are directly related to levels of care. The better educated the caregivers are, the more likely they are to provide high-quality care.

  • High levels of responsive care – when babies communicate a need, whether it be crying because they have a dirty diaper or holding their hands up to be held, caregivers always should respond. Responses may be as simple as calling out a baby’s name when he or she seeks attention or as involved as changing a diaper.

  • Appropriate environments – infant environments should be soft and safe. Caregivers should provide a wide variety of materials and assist the children as they explore.

  • Appropriate health and safety procedures – policies should be in place and followed that ensure appropriate hand washing, diaper changing and sanitizing procedures. In addition, the child-care center should have policies for exclusion of sick children and policies on dispensing of medication.

The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.

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