High-quality child care leads to youngsters doing better at math and science, according to new research.
Better childcare could help create the scientists of the future, suggests the study.
Researchers found that children who grow up with caregivers who provide warmth and cognitive stimulation do better in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The link is even stronger among children from low-income backgrounds, according to the findings published in the journal Developmental Psychology.
The research team studied data from just under 1,000 families with children who were born in 1991 and followed them until 2006.
As part of the study, trained observers visited daycare centers and preschools of all the children who were enrolled for 10 or more hours per week.
The observers visited when the children were six, 15, 24, 36 and 54 months old.
They rated the extent to which the caregivers provided a warm and supportive environment and responded to children’s interests and emotions.
They also took note of the amount of cognitive stimulation caregivers gave children, looking if they used rich language, asked questions to probe the children’s thinking, and provided feedback to deepen the children’s understanding of concepts.
Next, they looked at how the students performed in STEM subjects in primary and secondary school.
They examined the children’s scores on math and reasoning portions of tests in years four to year six. They also looked at test scores from teens in secondary school.
The study revealed that the children who had better emotional and cognitive care did better in STEM subjects towards the end of primary school, which in turn predicted greater STEM achievement in secondary school.
Sensitive and responsive caregiving in early childhood was a stronger predictor of high school STEM performance for children from low-income families compared with children from higher-income families.
Study author Dr. Andres Bustamante, from the University of California, Irvine, said: “Our results suggest that caregiving quality in early childhood can build a strong foundation for a trajectory of STEM success.
“Investing in quality childcare and early childhood education could help remedy the underrepresentation of racially and ethnically diverse populations in STEM fields.
“Our hypothesis was that cognitive stimulation would be more strongly related to STEM outcomes because those kinds of interactions provide the foundation for exploration and inquiry, which are key in STEM learning.
“However, what we saw was that the caregiver sensitivity and responsiveness was just as predictive of later STEM outcomes, highlighting the importance of children’s social emotional development and settings that support cognitive and social emotional skills.”
He added: “Together, these results highlight caregiver cognitive stimulation and sensitivity and responsiveness in early childhood as an area for investment to strengthen the STEM pipeline, particularly for children from low-income households.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Saba Fatima and Newsdesk Manager
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