Child & Youth Care Forum

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 101–117 | Cite as

Is Early Center-Based Child Care Associated with Tantrums and Unmanageable Behavior Over Time Up to School Entry?

  • Suna Eryigit-Madzwamuse
  • Jacqueline Barnes
Original Paper



Existing research suggests that there is a relationship between greater exposure to center-based child care and child behavioral problems though the mechanism for the impact is unclear. However the measure used to document child care has usually been average hours, which may be particularly unreliable in the early months when fewer children are in center care. In addition individual trajectories for behavior difficulties have not been studied.


The purpose of the current study was to examine whether the extent of exposure to center-based child care before 2 years predicted the trajectory of children’s difficult behavior (i.e., tantrums and unmanageable behavior) from 30 to 51 months controlling for child and maternal characteristics.


Data were drawn from UK-based families, children and child care study (n = 1201). Individual growth models were fitted to test the relation between early center-based child care experiences and subsequent difficult behavior.


Children with more exposure to center-based care before two had less difficult behavior at 30 months, but more increase over time. Initial levels were predicted by higher difficult temperament and lower verbal ability. Higher difficult temperament and lower family socio-economic status predicted its change over time.


Findings suggest that early exposure to center-based care before 2 years old is a risk factor for subsequent behavior problems especially when children have a longer period of exposure. A possible explanatory process is that child coping strategies to manage frustration are less well developed in a group context, especially when they lag behind in expressive language.


Tantrums Unmanageable behavior Center-based child care Early exposure Child characteristics Maternal characteristics 



The authors would like to thank the families who took part in the study and the research team. Data for this study were drawn from the Families, Children and Childcare Study, funded by the Tedworth Charitable Trust and the Glass-House Trust and led by Dr. Penelope Leach and Professor Jacqueline Barnes in London and by Professor Alan Stein, Professor Kathy Sylva and Dr. Lars-Erik Malmberg in Oxford.

Conflict of interest

Neither author has any conflict of interest in the form of grants, employment by, consultancy for, shared ownership in, or any close relationship with, an organization whose interests, financial or otherwise, may be affected by the publication of the paper.


  1. Anme, T., & Segal, U. A. (2004). Implications for the development of children in over 11 hours of center-based care. Child: Care, Health and Development, 30, 345–352. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2004.00429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnes, J., Leach, P., Malmberg, L. E., Stein, A., & Sylva, K. (2010). Experience of non-maternal childcare in England in relation to socio-emotional and language development at 36 months. Early Child Development and Care, 180, 1215–1229. doi: 10.1080/03004430902943959.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bath, H. I. (1994). Temper tantrums in group care. Child & Youth Care Forum, 23, 5–27. doi: 10.1007/BF02629766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Belsky, J., Burchinal, M., McCartney, K., Vandell, D. L., Clarke-Stewart, K. A., & Owen, M. T. (2007). Are there long-term effects of early child care? Child Development, 78, 681–701. doi: 0009-3920/2007/7802-0020.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Civic, D., & Holt, V. L. (2000). Maternal depressive symptoms and child behavior problems in nationally representative normal birthweight sample. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 4, 215–222. doi: 10.1023/A:1026667720478.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Conners, C. K., Sitarenios, G., Parker, J. D. A., & Epstein, J. N. (1998). The revised Conners’ parent rating scale (CPRS-R): Factor structure, reliability, and criterion validity. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 26, 257–268. doi: 0.1023/A:1022602400621.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). The five-factor model of personality and its relevance to personality disorders. Journal of Personality Disorders, 6, 343–359. doi: 10.1521/pedi.1992.6.4.343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Crosby, D. A., Gennetian, L. A., Dowsett, C. J., & Huston, A. C. (2010). A tale of two methods: Comparing regression and instrumental variables estimates of the effects of preschool child care type on the subsequent externalizing behavior of children in low-income families. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1030–1048. doi: 10.1037.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Einon, D., & Potegal, M. (1994). Temper tantrum in young children. In: Potegal M. & Knutson J. F. (Eds.), The dynamics of aggression: Biological and social processes in dyads and groups (pp. 157–163). New Jersey: Lawrence. doi:  10.1007/978-0-387-89676-2_22.
  10. Fenson, L., Dale, P. S., Reznick, J. S., Bates, E., Thal, D., & Pethick, S. (1994). Variablity in early communicative development. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59, No. 5, Serial # 242. doi:  10.1177/027112149901900103.
  11. Goldberg, D. P., & Hillier, V. F. (1979). A scale version of the General Health Questionnaire. Psychological Medicine, 9, 139–145. doi: 10.1017/S0033291700021644.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goldsmith, H. H. (1996). Studying temperament via construction of the toddler behavior assessment questionnaire. Child Development, 67, 218–235. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1996.tb01730.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Goodman, R. (1997). The strengths and difficulties questionnaire: A research note. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38, 581–586. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01545.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Goodman, S. H., Ross, M. H., Connell, A. M., Broth, M. R., Hall, C. M., & Heyward, D. (2011). Maternal depression and child psychopathology: A meta-analytic review. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 14, 1–27. doi: 10.1007/s10567-010-0080-1.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. UK Government (2012). Statutory maternity pay. Retrieved from UK Government website:
  16. Gupta, N. D., & Simonsen, M. (2007). Non-cognitive child outcomes and universal high quality child care (IZA Discussion paper no: 3188). Retrieved from Institute for the Study of Labor website:
  17. Hogan, A. E., Scott, K. G., & Bauer, C. R. (1992). The adaptive social-behavior inventory (ASBI)—a new assessment of social competence in high-risk 3-years-olds. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 10, 230–239. doi: 10.1177/073428299201000303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jacob, J. I. (2009). The socio-emotional effects of non-maternal child care on children in the USA: A critical review of recent studies. Early Child Development and Care, 179, 559–570. doi: 10.1080/03004430701292988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Leach, P. (2009). Child care today: What we know and what we need to know. Cambridge, UK: Polity Books.Google Scholar
  20. Leach, P., Barnes, J., Malmberg, L. E., Sylva, K., & Stein, A. (2008). The quality of different types of child care at 10 and 18 months: A comparison between types and factors related to quality. Early Child Development and Care, 178, 177–209. doi: 10.1080/03004430600722655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Malmberg, L-E., Davies, B., Walker, J., Sylva, K., Stein, A., Leach, P., & Barnes, J. (2005). Recruitment to and sample description of the families, children and child care (FCCC) study in relation to area characteristics. Retrieved from FCCC website:
  22. McCartney, K., Clarke-Stewart, A., Owen, M. T., Burchinal, M., Bub, K. L., & Belsky, J. (2010). Testing a series of causal propositions relating time in child care to children’s externalizing behavior. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1–17. doi: 10.1037/a0017886.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McCartney, K., Owen, M. T., Booth, C. L., Clarke-Stewart, A., & Vandell, D. L. (2004). Testing a maternal attachment model of behavior problems in early childhood. Journal of Psychology and Psychiatry, 45, 765–778. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2004.00270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Melhuish, E. C. (1987). Socio-emotional behavior at 18 months as a function of daycare experience, temperament and gender. Infant Mental Health Journal, 4, 364–373. doi: 10.1002/1097-0355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Melhuish, E., Phan, M., Sylva, K., Sammons, P., Siraj-Blatchford, I., & Taggart, B. (2008a). Effects of the home learning environment and preschool center experience upon literacy and numeracy development in early primary school. Journal of Social Issues, 64, 95–114. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.2008.00550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Melhuish, E., Sammons, P., Sylva, K., Taggart, B., Siraj-Blatchford, I., Hunt, S., Barreau, S., and Welcomme, W. (2008b). Tracking and mobility over the pre-school and primary school period: Evidence from EPPE 311. Report of the Effective Pre-school and Primary Education 3–11 Project. Retrieved from Institute of Education website:
  27. Miner, J. L., & Clarke-Stewart, K. A. (2008). Trajectories of externalizing behavior from age 2 to age 9: Relations with gender, temperament, ethnicity, parenting, and rater. Developmental Psychology, 44, 771–786. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.44.3.771.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (1998). Early child care and self-control, compliance and problem behavior at 24 and 36 months. Child Development, 69, 1145–1170. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.1998.tb0616.Google Scholar
  29. NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2003). Does amount of time spent in child care predict socioemotional adjustment during the transition to kindergarten? Child Development, 74, 976–1005. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. NICHD Early Child Care Research Network. (2004). The type of child care and children’s development at 54 months. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19, 203–230. doi: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2004.04.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pauli-Pott, U., Haverkock, A., Pott, W., & Beckmann, D. (2007). Negative emotionality, attachment quality, and behavior problems in early childhood. Infant Mental Health Journal, 28, 39–53. doi: 10.1002/imhj.20121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pluess, M., & Belsky, J. (2009). Differential susceptibility to rearing experience: The case of child care. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 396–404. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.01992.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Redmond, S. M., & Rice, M. L. (2002). Stability of behavioral ratings of children with SLI. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 45, 190–201. doi: 10.1044/1092-4388(2002.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rescorla, L., Ross, G. S., & McClure, S. (2007). Language delay and behavioral/emotional problems in toddlers: Findings from two developmental clinics. Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research, 50, 1063–1078. doi: 10.1044/1092-4388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Richman, N. (1977). Is a behavior checklist for preschool children useful? In P. J. Graham (Ed.), Epidemiological approaches to child psychiatry (pp. 125–137). London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  36. Rose, D., & O’Reilly, K. (1998). Final report of the ESRC review of government social classifications. Retrieved from Office for National Statistics website:
  37. Shaw, D. S., Keenan, K., & Vondra, L. (1994). Developmental precursors of antisocial behavior: Ages 1–3. Developmental Psychology, 30, 355–364. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.30.3.355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Singer, J. D., & Willet, J. B. (2003). Applied longitudinal data analysis: Modelling change and event occurrence. New York, NY: Oxford Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stein, A., Malmberg, L.E., Leach, P., Barnes, J. & Sylva, K. (2012). The influence of different forms of early childcare on children’s emotional and behavioural development at school entry. Child: Care, Health and Development. Advance online publication. doi:  10.1111/j.1365-2214.2012.01421.
  40. Stevenson, M. B., & Lamb, M. E. (1979). The effects of sociability and the caretaking environment on infant cognitive performance. Child Development, 50, 340–349. Retrieved from
  41. Thompson, R. A., & Lamb, M. E. (1983). Security of attachment and stranger sociability in infancy. Developmental Psychology, 19, 184–191. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.19.2.184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Van Beijsterveldt, T. C. E. M., Hudziak, J. J., & Boomsma, D. I. (2005). Short- and long-term effects of child care on problem behaviors in a Dutch sample of twins. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 8, 250–258. doi: 10.1375/twin.8.3.250.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wahl, K., & Metzner, C. (2012). Parental influences on the prevalence and development of child aggressiveness. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21, 344–355. doi: 10.1007/s10826-011-9484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social IssuesBirkbeck, University of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations