There is general agreement that pre-schooling has a direct effect on the children’s ability to acquire literacy, scientific, and numeracy knowledge which are crucial in cognitive development. There have been increased focus on early childcare and pre-school policies; this has resulted in the movement which urges parents to take their children to nursery. Despite the policies, there are no conclusive studies that have sought to determine the extent to which the nursery school care affects children’s development. Therefore, there is a need for a study to explore whether there are any developmental differences between nursery and non-nursery school children. The target age for the study is children aged between two and three years.
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The purpose of the project is to analyze if there are positive effects among the children going to nursery. This will be imperative because the information obtained can be used to inform the parents and policymakers on the merits or lack of it for the nursery childcare.
Project Description / Method
The project is a quantitative study method in which 60 study participants were recruited. The participants are the parents of children aged between 2 and 3. The participants were divided into two groups in which thirty parents had children who go to the nursery while the remaining thirty included parents of children who were not yet enrolled in the nursery. The parents were provided with questionnaires that probed the different aspects of children’s development.
Sampling was by use of both simple random and snowball in which parents with the kids going to the nursery were identified from the school and given questionnaire while those not going were reached through the snowball method. The findings of the study established that there were significant differences. The children going to nursery school showed improved social, communicative, and cognitive development compared to the non-nursery children.
Parents should be encouraged to take their children to the nursery to enhance their development and prepare them for primary schooling.
In many countries across the globe, there is a notable emphasis on pre-school education. In the U.S., 42% of 4-year-olds normally attend publicly funded pre-schools, and there is a substantial number attending private pre-schools (Yoshikawa et al., 2013). Generally, there has been vigorous debate on the merits of taking children aged between 2 to 4 years to the nursery; however, in most cases, the discussions are not informed by conclusive research evidence. As such, the following paper considers the positive impacts of preschool childcare and whether there are negative influences associated with not taking the child to the nursery. The study is expected to give up-to-date and non-partisan evidence to support or discount the debate.
Early childhood education has gone through drastic changes since the 1990s. In the past, it used to be considered as part of the preparation for the compulsory school; however, today that has changed because some inconclusive research findings point to some positive transformations for the young children aged between two and five years. High-quality nursery care has a longer implication on the development of the child as a learner (Yoshikawa et al., 2013). Different theory frameworks have been applied to explain the changes in terms of cognitive or psychoanalytic developments. A case in point is the Erikson’s Development Theory and Bandura’s Theory.
Erikson’s development theory
Erikson’s theory centers on psychosocial stages of development; the theory was significantly influenced by Feuds Theory on the topography of personality (McLeod, 2008). The theory is divided into eight stages that take place from early childhood to early adulthood, i.e., from infancy to 18 years. Successful completion of each stage leads to a better personality and helps the individual to acquire the basic virtues that relate to the particular developmental point; therefore, one stage endows the youngster with characteristics that are critical in resolving the requirement of the next stage. This signifies that a failure to complete one stage can negatively affect the subsequent developmental stage.
In the review of the children’s development, these stages could be best realized if the child is put in an environment that promotes holistic development (McLeod, 2008). For instance, about children aged between 2 and 3 years, the two significant psychosocial crises they need to address as per the theory are the second and the third stages. The second stage is autonomy versus shame at the ages between 1.5 and 3 years and it is marked by the child acquiring the basic virtue of ‘will’ if he/she completes the stage.
The other stage is the third stage in which the psychosocial crisis at hand is the initiative versus guilt. This stage takes place for children aged between three and five years. This is the period characterized by most parents deciding to take their children to pre-school. According to the provisions of the theory, children are supposed to acquire ‘purpose’ as a basic virtue. To achieve the desired virtues, Burger (2010) emphasizes the need for the children to be put in the right environment.
In this effect, the theory gives a critical view of the various stages of the development that can be applied to understand the needs of the children right from infancy. This is very relevant for every child as they search for their identity. Even though the theory does not advocate for nursery schools, the main emphasis is on providing the child with the best environment that will enhance positive development.
In contemporary times, many parents are involved with different work activities and not have adequate time to monitor the development of their children and expose them to the right socialization processes. The nurseries provide the opportunity for the child to grow in an environment that focuses on holistic development in terms of -social and learning abilities that are key to the future of the child. This does not necessarily point that the developmental stages as pointed in the theory can be developed only at the nursery. Children who are not disadvantaged in their home environment, cognitive and language development can still take place (Weiland & Yoshikawa, 2013).
In a report on the role of pre-school in Australia, Productivity Commission (2014) stated that “nurturing, warm and attentive carers are the most critical attributes of quality in any child care setting, especially for younger children” (p.4).
Concerning Erikson’s theory, the second stage, which is autonomy vs. shame or doubt, denotes the need for the caregivers to ensure a delicate balance. The child should not be assisted in every task because self-control is required but carefully to avoid the loss of self-esteem. This stage applies to children who are between two and three years. The nursery care setting allows the young kids to interact with their peers by playing, and hence allow the child to develop important social skills at an early age. Also, the children interact with trained professionals who monitor and assign them tasks that are relevant to the child’s developmental stage. Proper care at the stage will lead to the child becoming more secure and confident, and hence sets a good foundation for their future.
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The third stage is the initiative vs. guilt, which is a transition from the second stage and takes place between the ages of 3 and 5 years. The stage is characterized by vigor action; the children can actively interact with other kids and identify friends. A key feature is that the children are more playful and can organize their play activities such as making games and arranging stack cards. These are signs of cognitive development, and there is a need for a caretaker who can guide the children at the stage to build their learning capabilities (Goodman & Sianesi, 2005).
Bandura’s social learning theory
In theory, Bandura’s argument is on behaviorist development based on operant conditioning and classical conditioning. The theory stipulates that mediating processes take place when there is a stimulus and a response and behavior are learned from a particular environment through observational learning. In the context of the children’s development, children learn by observing the behavior of the people they interact with. The youngsters may be confined at home or nursery. The perspective of classic conditioning or operant conditioning implies that children will have differences based on the environment they are exposed to during their early years (Bandura, 2001).
The environment provides the models from which the children can encode their behavior. Similarly, the behavior learned is reinforced by the internal or external factors which come into conduct with the child. In essence, at the ages of two and three years, children need to be conditioned to a learning environment that will influence their future. As such, in the review of the role of the pre-school in the development of the children, Goodman and Sianesi (2005) pointed out the learning environment at nursery reinforces learning abilities for the children and creates a foundation from which they can internalize some aspects such as language acquisition. It is important to note that the conditioning processes relate to the ‘identification of self’ as pointed out by Feud in explaining the internalization of behavior.
Regarding the mediation process learning, Bandura’s theory holds the view that all humans are, information processors. As such, the cognitive process is an important precursor of observational learning. The theory proposes four critical meditational processes that determine how the child develops. The processes include attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. Attention relates to the extent a child is exposed to a given behavior.
Retention entails the formation of the memory of the behavior. Therefore, at the third stage of reproduction, Bandura stipulates that that social learning does not take place immediately and hence the need to put the child in an environment in which the desired behavior can be reproduced. It is through the full development of the processes that the child starts to develop a critical evaluation. Just like the case of Erikson’s theory, the environment of growth determines how well the child fully acquires the processes.
According to Weiland and Yoshikawa (2013), there is evidence of developmental benefits noted among children who attend quality child care at the ages of 1-3 years; however, there is no evidence of long-term benefits to such learning. This is because some studies find positive effects, some negative and others no effect. The variances in the findings have been attributed to the age differences and the varying qualities of child care. The current study focuses on a particular age group; therefore, the results are not likely to be affected by age variance.
Aim/s and objective/s / hypothesis
The study objectives include:
- To find out whether children who go nursery are more developed psychosocially than the children who do not.
- To find out the effects nursery has on the development of the children.
- Hypothesis: H0. There is no positive benefit for taking children aged between 2 and 3 years to nursery school.
To collect reliable data for this study, the research method employed was quantitative. The quantitative method was used to carry out the study; it provided empirical data that was used to test the null hypothesis. The quantitative data were collected from parents who have children aged between two and three years. The sample size used for the study was 60 parents. This sample was divided into two groups of 30 parents each.
The first group comprised of the parents of children who attend nursery while the second group was for parents whose children were not going to nursery. The main reason for dividing the sample was to provide data that can be comparatively analyzed to establish whether there are developmental differences between the children. The following subsections provide details of how the research was conducted and the rationale applied in carrying out the research.
Sampling Procedure and Sample Size
Sampling is the process of selecting a subset of the target population from the sample frame (Creswell, 2013). One of the key factors that enhance any kind of study is to ensure that a representative sample is selected. This requires a proper definition of the study population and specification of the sturdy frame and the sampling method to be applied. In the present study, the target population is the children; however, they cannot provide the required data so their parents are used as the key study participants to provide the required information. Therefore, the sampling frame is the parents with children aged between two and three years.
Two sampling procedures were used. The procedures were used based on the context of the study to ensure that objective inference could be drawn from the data collected. For the parents with children going to nursery schools, a simple random sampling method was used to identify the 30 parents with children in Inspire Children Nursery. The simple random method is a probability method that gives study participants an equal chance of being included in the study.
The method reduces inclusion bias. Even though the simple random method was used to select the parents to participate in the study, it is important to note that the location, which is Inspire Children Nursery, was purposely selected. The reason for getting the parents from the same learning center was to avoid the variations that have been identified in earlier studies due to different learning environments. It is important to note that differences in the quality of care have been one of the issues that led to the lack of conclusive findings on the role of the nursery in the development of children aged below five years.
In the second group, the sampling procedure used to include parents in the study was snowball sampling. Snowball sampling is a non-probability method which is based on a referral process. In this case, one study participant is used to identify other people who may be incorporated into the study. It is a chain-like process; therefore, one parent of a non-nursery going child was be identified and asked to refer the researcher to another parent.
The rationale for selecting the parents as the main sources of data was due to the experience they have with their children. Also, a sample size of 60 people ensured that diverse information on the children’s development could be deduced.
There are varied methods for collecting, in most cases the selection of the data collection method is influenced by the nature of the study and the type of the variable that is supposed to be measured (Creswell, 2013). In the present study, primary sources of data were used. The sources are the original materials or centers that have first-hand data. The primary sources give direct experiences about the phenomenon being investigated. For the study, the primary sources were the parents because they are best placed to provide objective information that relates to the growth and development of their children.
Instruments for Data Collection
The data collection instrument used in this study was the Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ) and the social demographic questionnaire. The ASQ depended on the age of the child while the social demographic questionnaire collected general information that pertained to the child and the parent. Even though the ASQ questionnaires differed based on age, one thing in common was that they probed the development of the child. It is through these questionnaires that the parents were supposed to provide objective data about their children.
The data collected from the parents was raw and needed to be operationalized to discover the trends relating to the topic under review. As a result, there was the necessity of a data analysis process. Data analysis comprises of applications that are used by the researcher to synthesize the data to make it easy to draw correlations. In the present study, the analysis was required to examine whether there existed differences between the children going and those not going to nursery. Therefore, the tool used to analyze the quantitative data was SPSS.
In any study, ethical considerations are crucial as they ensure that the study does not negatively infringe on the rights of the people involved. Study ethics entail the behavior that stipulates the relationships between the stakeholders in the research. The main reason for ethics is to make sure that the participants’ reputation is not injured or the research processes do not have adverse consequences. The ethical considerations in any study are philosophical and are influenced by the nature of the study and the prevailing societal norms. In any research, key stakeholders include the researcher, the users of the results, and the participants. In the case of the present study, sensitive data about the development of the children will be collected.
The parents may not be willing to give some of the information if confidentiality is not assured. Therefore, there is a likelihood of ethical issues in the research approach. To address the issues, ethical clearance was obtained from the authorities. Clearance is important as it ensures that a study is confined to the intended purpose and that the study participants are protected from possible misuse of the data they provide. Besides, the parents participating in the study were also required to give written consent.
As noted, for a study to be authentic there is the need to employ procedures that will ensure that the research findings are valid and reliable as the two form the basis for data interpretation. In the study, the primary focus was to determine whether there were developmental differences between children aged between 2-3 years who go to the nursery and their counterparts who do not. The reason for the selection of these age groups is because the years are the basis for the development of the academic and social foundations for the young ones (Burger, 2010). Also, in most jurisdictions, this is the minimum age for starting pre-school.
Therefore, the study procedure applied was first to seek ethical clearance from the concerned authorities. After the clearance had been given, the appropriate data collection tool was prepared and evaluated to determine whether it could collect reliable and credible data. In this case, the research instrument was the ASQ.
The next step entailed the identification of the study participants and seeking their consent to participate in the study. All the study participants were required to fill a social demographic questionnaire. The questionnaire gave overview information about the parent and the child. The variables captured by the social demographic questionnaire were the age of the participants, nationality, income, occupation, the average time the child spends with the parents, and the general information on the likes and dislikes of the child.
For the parents with the kids going to nursery, the parents were identified from the children attending Inspire children Nursery and were expected to collect their questionnaires from the nursery. For the other group of parents, they were identified through a referral process. The duration for answering the questionnaires was approximately 15 minutes. This process ensured that all the questionnaires were answered and returned for the subsequent analysis. The data collected was then entered into a computer for SPSS analysis.
It is important to note that this study excluded children with any form of disability either physical or mental. The rationale for the exclusion is because such children have individualized special needs; this implies that comparison can be drawn with other children without disabilities. Also, for children with disabilities, the needs vary considerably. It is important to note that there was no discrimination in terms of gender representation. Either male or female parent could be admitted into the study. Also, there was no age limit for the parents. The application of the outlined procedures ensured that the desired information was collected, which aided in providing the answers to questions that seek to find out the benefits of the nursery in the development of the child.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Summary of Findings
It is evident from the findings that children who go to the nursery performed better than their peers in terms of the parameters that were assessed. A case in point, the review of the parents’ responses showed that a high percentage of the children aged 3 years performed better on the parameters that were being tested compared to their counterparts who did not go to nursery. Some of the parameters in which nursery children showed higher performance included communication, socialization, and the ability to memorize some simple tasks. For instance, the copying ability for nursery children was relatively higher compared to the non-nursery children.
These findings relate to the dictates of the two theories in the literature review section. For example, Bandura’s operant conditioning and classic conditioning in which children learn from the models they are exposed to. The implication is that the children in the nursery are exposed to other kids who also act as peer models and the professional caretakers who can condition the children to certain developmental processes.
According to the analyzed data, the children who attend the nursery can perform better on cognitive tests. Also, the children had better communicative abilities, higher social competence, and less impulsive. The other positive effect reported is that the children were more cooperative when dealing with the caregivers. The findings also showed that children’s cognitive abilities for those in the Nursery were better developed compared to those who did not go.
The results did cut across the ages; for instance, enhanced the ability to memorize some tasks was reported among the nursery children aged between two and three years. The differences were pronounced among the children aged three years. For those with 24 months, the children going to nursery also performed better in the dimensions tested. However, the differences were not as much pronounced as for the three-year-olds. The findings attest to the fact that Nursery has a positive impact on the development of the child; it enhances holistic development in the various domains of the child.
For a long time, the association between the children’s attending nursery and they’re psychosocial development has been a major issue intriguing parents and policymakers. The findings of the current study provided a direction that the parents can rely on to make informed decisions about measures to take to ensure that their children get the best in the early years of life. Bearing in mind that there are past conclusive studies that have shown that the development of the brain is uniquely sensitive from birth to the school-going age, parents need to take measures to ensure they capitalize on the developing brain.
This is the stage that is the foundation for self-regulation, social interaction, and cognitive learning. This implies that at the early development stages, children need high-quality care to condition them to better physical, mental, and social development.
It is also evident that nursery education may have a direct effect on the cognition, emotional, and social development of the child and impacts positively on the school progress. Therefore, it is recommended that measures should be taken to encourage parents to take children to quality care nurseries which will lay a firm foundation for their holistic development. Secondly, there is a need for policymakers to increase their investments in the pre-schools to ensure that public nurseries are initiated across the country. The nurseries should provide quality care just as in the high-end private centers.
It is important to note that the current study focused only on one center; therefore, there may be variances if different nurseries with differing quality are studied. Thirdly, there is a need for awareness creation to all parents to embrace taking their children to the nursery immediately they reach two years. This is because it exposes the children to a favorable environment managed by professionals who monitor and aid the youngster in the psychosocial development.
Finally, there is also the need for further studies to explore the programs that result in high-quality care in the nursery schools; hence, provide a holistic overview of factors that policymakers should put into consideration.
Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. Media Psychology, 3(3), 265-299.
Burger, K. (2010). How do early childhood care and education affect cognitive development? An international review of the effects of early interventions for children from different social backgrounds. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 25(2):140-65.
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Goodman, A., & Sianesi, B. (2005). Early education and children’s outcomes: how long do the impacts last? Fiscal Studies, 26(4), 513-548.
McLeod, S. (2008). Erik Erikson: development psychology. Web.
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Yoshikawa, H., Weiland, C., Brooks-Gunn, J., Burchinal, M. R., Espinosa, L. M., Gormley, W. T.,… & Zaslow, M. J. (2013). Investing in our future: The evidence base on preschool education. Society for Research in Child Development, 1(1), 3-24.
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