Cognitive development is defined as the growth and change in a person’s ability to perform mental tasks including thinking, understanding and reasoning (California Department of Education, 2014). Cognitive development is a process involving a complex interaction between biological and environmental factors (Feinstein, 2003, as cited in Wong, & Edwards, 2013). There are multiple factors that occur in early childhood including breastfeeding, parental intelligence and obstetric complications that have been researched to understand the effect that they have on children cognitive development extending into adolescence and adulthood. However, research regarding these variables has been met with several limitations. It will be argued that the quality and quantity of formal childcare is a key variable that will affect a child’s level of cognitive development.
The ABS, 2011, defines formal childcare as regulated care separate from the child’s home including family day care and before and after school care. The importance of the quality of formal childcare on cognitive development is emphasised by Albers, Riksen-Walraven, and de Worth (2010). They investigated the relationship between the independent variable of the caregiver’s behaviour in childcare and the level of cognitive development during the first year of life.
Albers et al. selected a random sample of seventy childcare centres from which 86% agreed to participate. The childcare centres that disagreed gave reasons such as there were no new infants or issues related to organisational situations. 113 parents of children from these childcare centres were asked to participate and 64 gave consent with mean age of these children being 3.3 (SD=0.64).
The quality of childcare in these centres was then assessed by Albers et al. through naturalistic observation of one on one interaction with the child during their first week, 12th week and 24th week in care. This descriptive research design focused on measuring caregiver sensitivity and stimulation using two separate scales. Sensitivity was assessed through the caregiver’s response to cues and signals of the child while stimulation was measured by the degree that the caregiver attempts to enhance child development and foster learning. The level of cognitive development of the child was then measured using the Bayleys Scale of Development. Their results affirmed the importance of childcare as they suggested that even a small increase of the developmental stimulation given by the caregiver in childcare may advance an infant’s cognitive development.
The findings of Albers et al. that childcare providing stimulation enhances cognitive development are further supported by Li, Farkas, Duncan, Burchinal, and Lowe (2013) who studied the relationship between the quality of childcare and the level of cognitive development. The participants recruited for this study were a socioeconomically diverse sample of American children and their family. This study by Li et...