Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Children looked after by grandparents 'are naughtier than those who spend day in nursery'

More junk science. This was not a controlled comparison. The kids who went to nursery probably came from different sorts of homes to start with

Young children looked after by grandparents are more likely to be badly behaved than those sent to nursery, a study claims today. They tended to have wider vocabularies, but were also more likely to show 'problem behaviour' and find it harder to get on with other children, said researchers. They were also less likely to be ready for school, according to the study by the Institute of Education, a University of London research body widely viewed as left-wing. The Institute tracked 4,800 children of working mothers and found those sent to nurseries and playgroups had a better understanding of colours, letters, numbers, sizes, comparisons and shapes.

But other experts said the findings appeared to contradict studies which found that care by grandparents was linked to happiness and security. They said grandparents often developed almost as close a bond with children as parents and were able to give children one-to-one attention. Siobhan Freegard, founder of parenting website, said the emotional benefits to children of being cared for by a grandparent may outweigh any short-term head start at school.

'There is a lot of research saying that children who went to full-time nurseries are ahead of their peers when they start school,' she said. 'But that head start is not sustained. It shouldn't be used so often as justification for putting children in daycare settings from a young age. 'There is plenty of time for education after the age of three. For a very small child, there are massive advantages in terms of brain and emotional development of having one-on-one attention from an adult who loves them.'

One Government-funded study previously found that toddlers put in daycare for long hours are 'significantly' more likely to bully or tease other children, and to demand their own way. Other Government-funded studies have found wide variation in the quality of day nurseries and creches, with the worst linked to slower progress at school and behavioural problems.

The latest research, publicly-funded through the Economic and Social Research Council, surveyed working parents when their children were nine months old and again when they were three. The three-year-olds were given simple assessments of their vocabulary and readiness for school.

Youngsters who were being looked after by grandparents at nine months were considered at the age of three to have more behavioural problems, judging from parental interviews, than those who had been in the care of a nursery, creche, childminder or nanny. This was particularly true of boys, and mainly manifested itself in difficulties getting on with other children. But while youngsters were also judged generally less prepared for formal education, they tended to have wider vocabularies and more accurate speech.

Researchers suggested that while grandparents may struggle to provide physical activities for children, they compensate with plenty of conversation. Dr Kirstine Hansen, research director said: 'Our research shows that grandparent care contributes both positively and negatively to child outcomes and, perhaps with government support, this situation could be improved


Drinking alcohol while pregnant

The retrospective self-report methodology of this study is about as low-quality as it could possibly be but the finding that moderate alcohol consumption is not harmful is in line with other work and helps to defuse the scares that are often put into pregnant women who like a glass of wine or two with dinner

Almost half of all Australian mothers-to-be drink alcohol throughout their pregnancy, and some even admit to bingeing in the final months before giving birth. The women who were prepared to drink on were also more likely to smoke during their pregnancy, according to a study of 4,700 mothers in Western Australia. Doing so placed these women at the most risk of having their baby prematurely, according to the research by WA's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. "Our research shows pregnant women who drink more than one to two standard drinks per occasion - and more than six standard drinks per week - increase their risk of having a premature baby," says institute researcher Colleen O'Leary.

This was the case even if the women stopped drinking before their second trimester, Ms O'Leary said. "The risk of pre term birth is highest for pregnant women who drink heavily or at binge levels, meaning drinking more than seven standard drinks per week, or more than five drinks on any one occasion."

The study focused on a random selection of non-indigenous women who gave birth between 1995 and 1997, and they were quizzed on their pregnancy and pre-pregnancy drinking habits. Fewer than 20 per cent of women abstained during the pre-pregnancy period, but this increased to 57 per cent in the first two trimesters before settling to 54 per cent in the third trimester. "Low" or "moderate" drinking came in at 44 per cent during the third trimester, while more than two per cent of women admitted to "binge" or "heavy" drinking in the final months before birth.

The study found a low birth weight was more likely to be caused by a mother's smoking rather than drinking.

And, while there was no difference for women who abstained or drank low levels of alcohol, it said abstinence was still the safest option. ""Women should be advised that during pregnancy, drinking alcohol above low levels increases the risk to the baby and that the safest choice is not to drink alcohol," Ms O'Leary said. The study was also conducted jointly by the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford. The results are to be published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.


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