Harvard University researchers are embarking on a longitudinal study to learn how informal and formal child care environments affect how children learn and grow. Most studies to date have looked at children in formal child care settings, yet millions of kids are cared for daily through informal arrangements with family or friends. And of those children in formal care settings, less than half are believed to be in programs that offer quality caregiving.
Researchers say the goal of this study is to look at all types of settings children are in, and to understand better what constitutes a quality environment no matter who is providing it. Researchers say they aren’t assuming that informal care environments are inferior to formal care; what they’re looking for are interactions and relationships.
Local communities in Massachusetts have been selected for the study, and researchers say 5,000 children ages 3 and 4 and their families will be followed and assessed for at least three years, but they hope to track the children into adulthood.