The role of preschool in promoting children’s healthy development

Newresearch from Australia suggests preschool could be key in promoting better developmental outcomes .

The study, conducted by Sharon Goldfeld and colleagues, examined the relationship between early child education and care (ECEC) and children’s development. The authors analyzed population-level data from 227,694 children drawn from the 2009 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC).

Children were divided into four ECEC categories:

  1. Attended preschool
  2. Attended daycare without preschool
  3. Received informal non-parental care
  4. Received parental care only

The authors made two hypotheses:

  1. Attending preschool in the year before kindergarten would be positively correlated with better AEDC outcomes for all children.
  2. These benefits would be greater for children from more disadvantaged communities.

What did they find?

Across all developmental domains, a smaller proportion of children who attended preschool were vulnerable, compared to children who did not attend preschool.

Even after accounting for children’s demographic differences, those who attended preschool had lower odds of being vulnerable on all AEDC domains except for emotional maturity, compared to other ECEC experiences, or care exclusively by parents.

Preschool attendance helped children living in both advantaged and disadvantaged communities. However, children from the most disadvantaged communities still had higher odds of vulnerability than the most advantaged group.

What does it mean?

The results suggest attending preschool may be an effective approach to improving children’s developmental outcomes.

The results showing children from disadvantaged groups still do worse than their advantaged peers even after attending preschool suggest that although beneficial, preschool alone cannot substantially reduce inequity in outcomes across the socioeconomic divide.