Association between nonmaternal care in the first year of life and children's receptive language skills prior to school entry: the moderating role of socioeconomic status

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2007 May;48(5):490-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01704.x.


Background: Studies have suggested that nonmaternal care (NMC) may either carry risks or be beneficial for children's language development. However, few tested the possibility that NMC may be more or less protective for children with different family backgrounds. This study investigates the role of the family environment, as reflected in the socioeconomic status (SES), in the association between NMC in the first year of life and children's receptive language skills prior to school entry.

Method: A representative sample of 2,297 Canadian children aged between 0 and 11 months at their first assessment was followed over 4 years. Receptive language skills were assessed with the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test Revised (PPVT-R) when the child was 4 to 5 years old.

Results: After controlling for selection factors, SES was found to moderate the association between NMC and receptive language skills: Full-time NMC in the first year of life was associated with higher PPVT-R scores among children from low SES families (d = .58), but not among children from adequate SES families.

Conclusion: Full-time NMC in infancy may contribute to reducing the cognitive inequalities between children of low and adequate SES.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers*
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Language Development*
  • Language Tests
  • Male
  • Public Policy
  • Schools
  • Socioeconomic Factors