Do Nannies Provide Quality Child Care?

Low-Quality Child Care Can Have Lasting Impact

Study finds behavior and academic problems persist through age 15

Low-quality care in the first few years of life can have a small but long-lasting impact on a child’s learning and behavior, according to new results from the largest, most authoritative assessment of child rearing in the United States.

The federally funded study, which has been tracking more than 1,300 children since 1991, found that obedience and academic problems among those who received low-quality care in their first 4 1/2 years of life persisted through their 15th birthdays, suggesting the potential for lifelong difficulties. Please click here to learn more about the study.
The differences between teens who received low- and high-quality care when they were very young were relatively small, and the endurance of these disparities startled.

“The fact that you have this persistent association is pretty remarkable,” said James A. Griffin of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is funding the research being reported Friday in the May-June issue of the journal Child Development.

Several experts praised the findings, saying they underscore the urgent need for local, state and federal governments, employers and others to improve access to high-quality child care.

“I think it is shocking that we don’t have a much higher proportion of our children . . . in excellent, quality child care,” said Sharon Landesman Ramey, director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education.

For the study, which began in 1991 amid growing concerns about the effects of parents’ increasing reliance on outside child care, researchers in Arkansas, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin followed 1,364 infants of various ethnicities, races and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The researchers collected detailed information about the type and quality of care the children were receiving through age 4 1/2 , including whether their custodians were parents, other relatives, nannies, babysitters or day-care centers in or outside a home, as well as the number of hours of which kind of care each child received. The subjects underwent tests assessing their academic and cognitive skills, and parents and teachers answered questionnaires about each child’s behavior. The quality was assessed based on observations of a host of factors, including the caregivers’ warmth, sensitivity, emotional support and how much cognitive stimulation they provided.

Influence of family more important

The researchers previously reported that toddlers who received higher-quality care had fewer behavior problems than those receiving lower-quality care. The type of care, whether it was inside or outside the home, did not seem to matter, although day-care centers appeared to be related to more acting out among first- and third-graders. Kids who received high-quality care scored better on tests measuring math, reading and other cognitive skills throughout elementary school.
Researchers had speculated that the negative effects of lower-quality care would disappear as the influence of other factors, such as peers, teachers and maturation, overcame the early childhood experience. But in the latest analysis of the data, they discovered that teenagers who had received higher-quality child care were less likely to report engaging in problem behaviors such as arguing, being mean to others and getting into fights. Those who spent more hours in child care of any kind were more likely to engage in impulsive and risky behaviors. And those who received moderately high- or high-quality care scored higher on tests gauging cognitive and academic achievement.
“What was the surprise for us was that the effects at age 15 were the same size as we had seen in elementary school and just prior to school entry,” said Deborah Lowe Vandell of the University of California at Irvine, who led the analysis. The researchers stressed that the benefits of higher-quality care were modest — a difference of just a few points on standardized tests measuring reading, math, memory and other cognitive abilities, and self-reports of behavioral problems. Other factors, such as the influence of parents and family members, were clearly more important. However, the findings held true even after the researchers took those and other factors into account.

The researchers plan to continue following the children.

“The likelihood is these can affect children throughout their lives, and not just low-income children,” said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research center.
© 2010 The Washington Post Click here to read article. Click here to see how higher education creates quality care which commands higher salaries.

Do you think nannies provide high-quality care?


  1. So I learned this in this newsletter: Educated (self educated or formally educated) and motivated nannies are paid well and provide much more individualized, quality care than most other early child care options. Low paid daycare workers and low paid, bad attitude nannies tend to provide just custodial care (shelter, warmth, food, clothing) rather than quality care (play, self esteem, curiosity and learning). The difference is custodial vs quality care and to be perfectly honest some nannies don't provide quality care.I feel like most nannies I know have no self-education or formal education in teaching or raising kids. Just because someone is a mother doesn't make them a good child care provider or nanny.This newsletter published an issue about cultural differences of caregivers and parents and this is a huge issue for some nannies and sometimes those differences don't allow for quality care (although that's not what the newsletter said. The newsletter said parents and nannies learn from one another).Most nannies I know haven't formal education other than being mothers. So I see nannies yelling at kids when potty training (big mistake). I see many nannies just letting the kids run around and play child-centered play rather than adult-directed, educational play. They may follow the "wives tales" they used as mothers such as putting whiskey on a baby's gums while she is teething (don't do it!). But they are simply doing what they were taught by their mothers in their culture. Then there are the nannies that just read on their own, attend workshops, try to learn more about being a great child care provider. These nannies are great. You don't need a college education to be a great nanny, just informed. So, if your parents spanked you all you do is read a book about the problems of spanking and then the nanny doesn't spank the kids they care for although they were spanked.What worries me are the nannies that don't know about SIDS or jaundice or good nutrition or positive potty training, or yell too much at the kids. I see it all the time and these nannies aren't providing quality care.Career NannyMaria LopezMiami FL

  2. Maria has guts to make such comments on a nanny newsletter blog. Quality nannies can give chidlren better quality care because nannies can address the immediate needs and concerns of the child's parents. In a daycare setting such individualized care is harder to provide to the child.Typically I really feel nannies provide better individualized care to children but there are always bad apples in every bunch. Of course there are bad nannies, but the nannies that read this newsletter tend to be the best and would raise very happy and well adjusted children.

  3. Cons of Daycare:1. It is very likely that the child will be sick more frequently. 2. Shipping your child to a daycare center can be inconvenient. Packing baby supplies, bundling kids up in the winter and getting yourself ready for work can be very time consuming. 3. It is a fact of life that daycare centers pay their employees very low wages. so turnover is high. If consistency in care providers is important to you, this may not be the best option. 4. If a child is very ill or has special needs daycare centers will not allow the child to attend. You will need to find back up care or be prepared to take days off from work. 5. Many daycare centers dictate when your child should be off the bottle, pacifier, take naps etc. If the idea of someone else calling the shots with your child's routine turns you off, you may not like this form of care for your child. On the other hand, some parents like the idea of the daycare center doing the "dirty work" and appreciate someone else getting their toddler to give up his comfies. 6. If your work hours are longer than the standard hours of operation for the daycare center, you will need to arrange for drop off and/or pickup by either a family member or another childcare provider. Pros of Nanny Care:1. One-on-one care for your child. This is especially desirable in the infant years. 2. Babies are held more often, comforted when crying. 3. Your child is cared for in a familiar and comfortable environment, your home. 4. More convenient for parents. Parents do not have to dress and pack up kids to transport them to outside care. 5. Less illness. Children do not catch every illness that is going around. Parents are not required to find sick care for their child or to take as much time off to care for a sick child. 6. Many times, parents enjoy a more flexible schedule. If parents need to leave early in the morning and can not return by the standard closing time of a daycare center, nanny care is sometimes a much better alternative. 7. More control over values, rules your child is exposed to. Parents can communicate to Nanny the way things are done and ask that Nanny follow family rules, teach family values, etc.

  4. Presenters at last fall’s NAEYC convention could upload their session handouts to their website so that attendees could print out any that they attended (and other ones they weren’t able to get to.) I took advantage of the access to them all and saved every handout there. One session that I wasn’t able to get to the room to in time before the chairs were all taken was child care in affluent communities. An environment a majority of nannies work in. The presenters had charted out benefits and then drawbacks. On the list of negatives were nannies.For a few seconds, reading that stung. But then I really thought about all the types of nannies I have observed when I’ve been out and about in my career. To be honest, I do understand what those childcare teachers were saying. And, no I can’t take it personal because of my own education, experience, and the type of caregiver I am.When I read another variation of this article, about quality care having a lasting impact, I decided to include that in my portfolio (website), see link in next paragraph. As a student of child development courses I have learned countless things on teaching children in all areas and stages. So much brain development takes place in the first few years of life. Young children need to experience appropriate discipline techniques, boundaries, limits. They also need support, stability, encouragement. We need to get them excited about lifelong learning. Babies, toddlers, infants, and preschoolers cannot be left in the hands of incompetent or uncommitted caregivers.In the past I have had to provide links to employers about types of things related to the nanny industry, like non-taxable perks, being paid on the books, etc. article like this helps me make the case as to why I am a great candidate, and in turn deserving of my salary request because of what I did to develop myself professionally. And, in turn ultimately how this is in the best interest of their child(ren)The legitimate nanny industry is facing competition in the form of those calling themselves nannies (and often aren’t qualified in child care) who are willing to be paid under the table, for less of a salary, more hours, increased job duties, and less perks. Partly because some employers are cheap, or the economy and supply and demand, or issues related to immigration.All of our association, organizations, businesses, etc. need to UNITE and raise the bar regarding what really does define a nanny by raising our standards, vocalizing our expectations, and pushing for licensing and credentialing in this occupation so that we can legitimately say we are a profession.THE BIGGEST REASON OF ALL — is because it is in the best interest of the children we serve and society as a whole.I applaud nannies that read on their own. But it is important to be involved in documentable and verifiable forms of education out there (for your own resume sake). AND, there are options all over our country if one just looks. Start with the child care licensing services in the area where you live. Trust me they welcome nannies in the programs and classes they offer. (I’m in them all the time.) Hospitals have health related workshops, etc. Lakeshore Learning Store offers ongoing free workshops. There are inexpensive online workshops. Invest time and effort into this, the payout can be an increased salary, or even the one hired in the first place.

  5. One of the biggest differences between the level of care provided at a day care and with nanny is the ratio of children to caregivers. I've done both and it's far different to be responsible for 5 of 10 one-year olds in one "classroom, than it is to be a nanny in a home. You're constantly putting out fires. The center I worked in was very poor quality and my co-teacher screamed all the time. I imagine things can be better, but that wasn't my experience. Child centered and adult directed play both play important roles in a child's development. As a teacher (elem cert) I believe that learning happens in every moment of everyday – especially in the running around, unstructured time. Maria, I'm thinking your comment may be directed to the nanny who is constantly watching TV, texting, and just providing that minimum "custodial care", who never engages his/her charges in directed learning activities.Kids aren't learning how to be self directed learners and how to work out problems with peers because of a hyper focus on achievement through non-stop learning activities and programs. Adults need to guide kids, but sometimes they need to step back and let kids have experiences and even(gasp) fail. We all learn through trial and error. It's not the absence of failure that builds self esteem, it's the getting up and trying again afterward.

  6. No surprise here. The study is obvious to anyone that loves children.What if anything did the study mention about national accreditation, such as that offered by the International Nanny Associaiton (INA) or National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)? Abby in San Diego

  7. When is the last time you met a perfect parent? When did parents stop realizing you get what you pay for? They want great care for no cost and it just doesn't work that way. I know a mother looking for a great caregiver for her very troubled special needs child. She has a long list of needs then mentions briefly, "But I can't afford a lot." ??? You get what you pay for! Why would an educated, special needs certified teacher care for your child if you can't afford her skills?There is no perfect childcare, but there is no perfect parental care either. The benefits of trying to find great childcare so the mother can be happy and work far outweigh the chance of possibly hiring low quality childcare.Parents must actively interview nanny candidates and daycare centers like crazy. Don't setlle. You won't find perfection but you can find a great quality caregiver if you look long enough and pay well enough. Parents don't have to "settle" for substandard care. But you may have to pay more for quality care.Reyna H., NY

  8. I don't know any terrible nannies. I think we are just under paid and over worked and haven't the time or money to pay for further education. I think the parents should help pay for cpr/first aid courses and further education like attending conferences and college courses for nannies. My last job helped pay for the cost of attending nanny conferences. My current employers do not. But I also never asked for them to pay for further education. Any advice on how to ask if they are willing to help pay for further education?

  9. Tuition reimbursement, workshop and nanny conference registration fees can be considered a type of perk (and I believe non taxable). Find articles on this when you have reviews etc. with your employers. Or even when you interview ask potential parents out right if they are willing to do this. Taking classes and paying for them should not be an excuse to not doing. I have earned hundreds of clock hours related to child care online for less than $200 dollars at home in evenings, weekends, or even when my charge naps during the day.The course work to earn my CDA was only $99, and I make more than that a day now as a nanny.County social services offer free programs for parents and caregivers on evenings and weekends. A few Saturdays ago during the Week Of The Young Child, I took a two hour class on intergrating the performing arts into early childhood settings. It was freem and I got breakfast to boot. And a certificate to add to my portfolio.My employers will pay for a lot of things that I do with my charge that are educational. And, they have paid for my attending conferences etc. but it started with my taking the interest and iniative in the the first place.Sometimes we have to invest in ourselves for others to seriously consider doing it too.

  10. It is a great topic because most of nannies where I work are not career nannies by choice but rather they are stuck with nothing else to do. I have not found anyone else loving their nanny job in my area. A few nannies I know in my area have good attitudes but still caring for kids in someone else's home isn't what they wanted as their job for their lives. When I invite them to read this magazine or attend workshops, groups or conferences with me they all decline. Even fun events they avoid, so they definately don't take classes to further their understanding of raising children.Most experienced nannies I know feel they have enough experience and therefore do not need to take classes. I will continue to though.I think that standard certifications and degrees are more important to earn than non-traditional certificates that parents may never have heard of. Parents have asked for my transcripts from college, but never about even my community college courses after I graduated college that I have taken over the years since I graduated.

  11. I think the most important topic from the article to come from the study is that if research continues to demonstrate that early learning is so important for future development, why does the government continue to under-fund this important field? Have you seen what the Have you seen what is happening to New Jersey, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Iowa, Alabama, Noth Dakota, Wyoming, Mass, Minnesota, California, New York, and Illinois public schools? Millions of dollars taken away from school districts and the schools and children lose teachers and programs?! Even affluent towns like the one I work in cannot afford to lose funding for public schools. I try to be a great nanny but that doesn't mean kids don't still deserve and need great Pre K programs, music programs, and liberal arts! Teachers, daycare workers, nannies need more money, not less! We can't entice great caregivers and teachers to stay in the field of teaching and raising our children if they are not paid living wages. Daycare workers, teachers and nannies all should be compensated more. This study only proves once again tha the nanny is the most important person a parent will ever hire (or daycare the most important setting to place your child in).Nanny in Manchester New Hampshire

  12. I find this article terrifying. My two children, ages two and almost four have been with a nanny since they were born. Now we are starting full-time daycare in August. I have been told that our program is the best in town (university affiliated, education students as class assistants) but, according to this article, even good quality daycare can have adverse effects on children: "Those who spent more hours in child care of any kind were more likely to engage in impulsive and risky behaviors." What can I do to combat these effects? Greensboro, NC

  13. Greensboro,The quality of child care centers has grown quite a bit in the past 15 years. Licensing and accreditation has improved in this amount of time as well. A great child care center in combination with good parenting is what you can do.

  14. Nanny Care is Most ConvenientThe convenience of nanny care can outweigh that of a childcare facility. Having a nanny could allow you to stay at work later or work weekends. Some nannies will accompany you on travel and stay overnight when need be. InteractionA good nanny can offer nurturing, individual attention to your child in the comfort of a familiar environment. With a nanny, your child could interact with other children through playgroups or at playground facilities.ControlNanny care provides you with greater control of the boundaries and rules for how your child should be reared; for example, you make decisions on potty training, bottle feeding, and nap times. CompromiseThe childcare decision doesn't have to be unequivocal; you can combine the positive aspects of nanny care and daycare to achieve other options. Another possibility is to divide your child's week between a nanny and a childcare facility.

  15. Considering I make more than a daycare worker, I have benefits, and have just these kids to nurture and raise I'd say I am providing the 2 I care for higher quality care than they could receive at MOST daycares. But there are great programs too. IMO most nannies provide unbeleivably high quality care.Marina New Providence RI

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