While the early years can be the most taxing for parents, they are also the most critical for child development. A major American study has found that the effects of good childcare on infants can be seen even at the age of 30.
The study found that children who received a quality programme of extensive early childcare were also four times more likely to be university graduates.
Overall, 23 per cent of participants had a college degree, compared to only 6pc of the control group.
The long-running internationally regarded Abecedarian Project is led by the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina.
Researchers have followed a cohort of participants from early childhood through adolescence and into adulthood, thereby generating a remarkably comprehensive set of longitudinal data.
One of the study’s authors, Dr Craig Ramey, said the findings have significant implications for public policy: ”I believe that the pattern of results over the first 30 years of life provides a clearer than ever scientific understanding of how early childhood education can be an important contributor to academic achievement and social competence in adulthood.
”The next major challenge is to provide high quality early childhood education to all the children who need it and who can benefit from it.”
However, a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) survey found that Ireland was amongst the most expensive places in the developed world for childcare, with families paying an average of 29pc of their income on childcare costs. A recent survey by Childminding Ireland found that almost half of parents were cutting back on childcare in 2010, due to the recession.
Start Strong director Ciairín de Buis says: ”Research evidence from Goodbody Economic Consultants in Ireland and the OECD shows that quality supports in children’s early years reduces the need for later expenditure in the criminal justice system, healthcare and remedial education. Through its effectiveness in prevention and early intervention, quality early care and education reduces future social expenditure. Through its effectiveness in prevention and early intervention, quality early care and education reduces future social expenditure.” Despite the proven benefits, apart from one free pre-school year, the Irish Government provides little or no support for early childcare.