Emotional Effects of Day Care

Written by tatyana ivanov
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Emotional Effects of Day Care
Children form a special attachment with their primary caregiver, which informs their secondary attachment styles. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Putting your child in day care can have both positive and negative emotional effects on your child. These effects are also determined by the age at which you put your child into day care, the amount of time the child is in day care and the type of care she receives. While day care is a must for many working parents, understanding the emotional effects of day care can help parents chose the right option.

Infants and Day Care

With maternity leave benefits being cut, moms and dads often have to return to work while their children are still infants. Due to the fragile developmental state of infants, placing them in day care can have very specific emotional effects. Infants tend to form strong attachment impulses to their primary caretakers, usually their mothers, within the first few months of life. This initial attachment is the primary relationship on which children base their secondary attachments. Infants placed in day care too early can exhibit signs of becoming emotionally detached and find it difficult to trust others.

Positive Emotional Effects

Children placed in day care at an early age learn to socialise with other adults and children much more rapidly than children who remain at home. Because children are exposed to a different variety of stimuli, they frequently develop cognitive functions more rapidly, including an increased vocabulary and better social skills. This cognitive development can be encouraged by certified caregivers who try to enhance a child's time in day care with songs, crafts, games and socialisation activities. Tolerance, sharing and other social skills can also be encouraged as children encounter other kids from different backgrounds and learn how to interact with them.

Negative Emotional Effects

Even after the first few months of life, children up to 2 years old can experience severe separation anxiety when placed into foster care that can cause negative emotional implications throughout their lives. When a child has not formed a strong attachment with a primary caretaker prior to being placed in day care, she can experience the same emotional withdrawal and distrust that infants placed in day care have been reported to experience. Additionally, this separation can cause stress and anxiety, which can cause the child to lash out or behave aggressively.


For many families, placing a child in day care is not optional. In this case, the attachment bond that is the foundation for the child's emotional growth can be nurtured through increased quality time with the primary caretaker after day care hours. Choosing a quality day care can also help prevent negative emotional impacts on your child. Day cares should be state-licensed and have multiple caregivers trained in early childhood development, as well as a good safety record. Putting your child in capable hands and nurturing a strong family unit, when he is at home, can help prevent negative emotional effects on your child.

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