Does Early Childhood Education Inhibit Socialization

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One reason many parents choose to send their children to preschool is the hope that they will learn better people skills. However, many times what happens is actually the opposite. Rather than learning how to properly socialize, little ones return home with increased behavior problems such as rudeness, whining, and aggression. In fact, according to a 2005 study from Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley, the result of early childhood socialization skills was quite amazing. Here are the findings:

“We find that attendance in preschool centers, even for short periods of time each week, hinders the rate at which young children develop social skills and display the motivation to engage classroom tasks, as reported by their kindergarten teachers. This lack of development of social skills involved three specific areas: children’s externalizing behaviors (such as aggression, bullying, acting up), interpersonal skills (such as sharing and cooperation), and self control in engaging classroom tasks.” What’s more, these negative behaviors became worse, dependent on the amount of time the children spent at preschool centers each week.

Another study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD) produced similar results. In 2003, rigorous research was conducted on the effect of childcare on over a thousand children under the age of five. Tracking them from infancy to kindergarten, researchers found that the more time kids spent in non-maternal care during the first 4.5 years of life, the more behavioral problems they developed. Temper tantrums, uncooperative attitudes, destruction of toys and objects, talking back, physical fights, and other defiant problems were included.

When considering these studies and others like them, the evidence suggests that preschool can be detrimental to a child’s emotional and social well being. How can this be? Wouldn’t spending time with peers seem like the logical way for a child to learn social skills? Possibly not! The data indicates that learning to manage a complex peer setting for an extended period of time throughout the week is the trigger that causes a great deal of stress in young children. In addition to this negative element, most preschoolers are far from being the best as social tutors. Impulsive, selfish, and lacking in their ability to control their emotions and understand social etiquette, preschoolers require the guidance of loving adult supervision to learn compassion, self-control, patience, and other desirable social characteristics.

The influence of early childhood education can also involve negative academic factors. For instance, Jay Belsky of Birbeck University in London studied the long-term effects of early child care in center-based, child-care home, in-home care (by non-relative), and relative care. According to Belsky, “The amount of time spent in childcare from birth to 54 months was related to children’s low vocabulary scores in fifth grade.” Other researchers are also concerned about the backlash of making restless young children develop negative attitudes about school with an overly-structured approach to early childhood education. (Blakemore and Frith 2005; Diamond and Hopson 1999).

For these reasons and more, parents would be wise to prayerfully consider what, when, where, and if formal preschool instruction is truly the best option for their child’s early education.After all, providing quality parental care and the right experiences for early childhood education will undoubtedly not only affect how a child socializes now, but also how he functions for the remainder of his life.