Preschoolers who attend early childhood education centres for 20-30 hours a week are more likely to have better emotional wellbeing and relationships with their peers.

The findings come from a new study, Preschool Behavioural and Emotional Outcomes Associated with Participation in Early Childhood Education and Care, which investigated whether the type of early child education (centre-based, home-based, and family or nanny care) and weekly hours of attendance at 24 months of age were associated with behavioural outcomes at 54 months.

Behavioural outcomes – including high levels of observed emotional symptoms, conduct behaviour, hyperactivity-inattention, positive peer relations, prosocial behaviour and total difficulties – were compared to children who did not attend ECE. More than 6000 children were involved, recruited from the longitudinal Growing Up in New Zealand study.

Led by A Better Start researcher Dr Stephanie D’Souza, the ECE study suggests that participating in New Zealand early childhood education – particularly centre-based for 20-30 hours a week – may be beneficial for the development of children’s emotional wellbeing and peer relations.

“As research in other countries has indicated that centre-based care and more time in ECE can negatively impact children’s behavioural development, our contradictory findings may reflect a unique aspect of the NZ ECE system, such as ECE quality,” the study says.

Read the paper – Preschool Behavioural and Emotional Outcomes Associated with Participation in Early Childhood Education and Care