This study determined that the amount of time spent in full-time daycare was positively correlated with the number of friends children had as well as their participation in extracurricular activities. Also, more time spent in daycare was positively correlated to parents' ratings of popularity, leadership, the children's emotional well-being, and assertiveness, and was negatively correlated to ratings of aggressiveness. Based on these findings, it could be concluded that participation in full-time, high-quality daycare decreases the likelihood that children will have a propensity towards aggressive behavior.
After objectively reviewing the existing literature on this topic, insights may be gained by taking on diverse perspectives. The issue of daycare and its relation to aggressive behavior among children will be explored through the perspectives of two theorists from vastly different theoretical camps: Erik Erikson and B.F. Skinner.
Erik Erikson's perspective
Erikson's stage theory of psychosocial development consists of eight stages that expand across the entire lifespan and are not limited only to development in childhood, unlike the theories of his developmental predecessors (Niolan, 2007). The period of time between birth and the early school years can be categorized into four distinct stages in which individuals encounter a central themed conflict that must be overcome in order to progress to the next developmental stage. These three stages and their corresponding conflicts are infancy (trust vs. mistrust), toddlerhood (autonomy vs. shame and doubt), preschool (initiative vs. guilt), and school age (industry vs. inferiority).
Infancy, the first of Erikson's psychosocial stages of development, is characterized by the conflict of trust vs. mistrust. In this stage it is of the utmost importance that basic needs be met in order to ensure a sense of basic trust within the individual. These needs must especially be met by the mother, the provider of life and sustenance to the infant. If this basic trust is not established, the individual may develop a general mistrust of the world, which can lead to emotional and social maladaptations. Overall, this basic trust is grounded in the quality of care received by the individual and the quality of the relationship between the individual and the primary caregivers.
The second psychosocial stage in Erikson's theory is toddlerhood. This stage is characterized by the conflict of autonomy vs. shame and doubt. The acquisition of autonomy is considered to be the central task of children of this age, and this process involves decision making and the learning of self-control. Feelings of shame and doubt must be overcome in children at this stage through confidence. The conflict of this stage is a result of difficulties experienced in the adaptations required in order to adhere to the rules and restrictions of society.
The next stage of development is preschool, and this period is characterized by the conflict of initiative vs. guilt. During this time period, between the ages of 3 and 5 years, children begin to take initiatives to explore their own environments and start activities. The development of a sense of purpose occurs at this stage. This sense of purpose results in the setting and pursuit of goals. This process brings about feelings of guilt associated with asserting oneself in the face of possible failure.
The next stage of psychosocial development described by Erikson occurs mong school age children, and it is characterized by conflict between industry and inferiority. This conflict is based around the necessity to overcome feelings of inadequacy in order to successfully master new skills and tasks, with the ultimate goal being the development of competence. This stage along with the three before it, work together to provide individuals with a sold foundation for challenges that will be faced at future psychosocial stages. Furthermore, problems with any components of the stages discussed thus far have far reaching effects on future development. Bearing this in mind, Erikson would certainly express a strong opinion in regards to the relationship between daycare and aggressive behavior.
The claim expressed by Baron and Richardson (1994) that young children who have been in daycare exhibit increased aggressive behavior during the early school years would be theoretically explained by Erikson's theory with reference to the conflicts that must be overcome at each psychosocial stage. For instance, Erikson may argue that children who have been in daycare full-time since infancy display more aggressive behavior because they did not have the attachment to their mothers during infancy that is necessary for the development of basic trust. This lack of basic trust leads to a general mistrust of the world, which may be expressed by the child through aggressive behavior. How would Erikson's theory explain certain phenomena presented by research in this area?
Massie and Szajnberg (2002) assessed how the quality if mothering received by children within the first year of life affects their long-term emotional well-being. The researchers found that individuals that received more effective care during infancy demonstrated more advanced psychological defense mechanisms than children that receive less effective care. In the context of daycare, it could be proposed based on the findings of this study that less effective nurturing experienced at daycare by infants may have prolonged effects on the psychological well-being of individuals, and difficulties may be expressed in the form of aggressive behavior. Erikson's theory would postulate that the infants in this study that did not receive effective nurturing did not adequately overcome their internal trust vs. mistrust struggle, and this resulted in stunted or deficient development of basic trust. This deficiency may furthermore present itself during future psychosocial stages as problem behavior, such as aggressive tendencies.
Another research example that could be theoretically supported by Erikson's stages of psychosocial development is provided by the work of Deynoot-Schaub and Riksen-Walraven (2006). These researchers examined peer interactions and their relations to socio-emotional adjustment among toddlers in daycare centers. The results of the study indicated that the frequency of negative initiatives towards peers expressed by children was stable from 15 to 23 months of age, and was also predictive of aggressive behavior at 23 months of age. Positive interactions with peers, on the other hand, predicted well-being in the daycare environment at 23 months of age. Overall, the frequency of negative peer interactions significantly increased and the frequency of positive peer interactions significantly decreased between 15 and 23 months of age in the daycare setting. Erikson's theory would look to the toddler stage of psychosocial development in order to explain this phenomenon. The increase in negative peer interactions, which would include aggressive exchanges, during this period of time spent in daycare could be attributed to the fact that the children have not experienced the support required to develop confidence in order to over come the prominent conflict at this stage in life (autonomy vs. shame and doubt). Confidence at this point in life is necessary in order to overcome feelings of shame an effectively adapt to the rules and restrictions imposed by society.
Skinner's psychological theory is based in the idea that learning occurs as a result of change in overt behavior (Kearsley, 2007). Furthermore, changes in behavior result from the way individuals respond to events, or stimuli, that occur in their environment. Stimulus-response (S-R) patterns are reinforced, or rewarded, and this causes the individual to be conditioned to respond.
The main element to Skinner's theory is reinforcement, because anything that strengthens a desired response, whether it is a positive reinforcement (response given to the individual) or a negative reinforcement (when the response is withdrawn), is considered a reinforcement. Schedules of reinforcement and their subsequent effects on behavior also were of importance to Skinner's theory (Kearsley, 2007).
There are three main principles to Skinner's theory, as quoted from Kearsley (2007):
Behavior that is positively reinforced will reoccur; intermittent reinforcement is particularly effective.
Information should be presented in small amounts so that responses can be reinforced ("shaping").
Reinforcements will generalize across similar stimuli ("stimulus generalization") producing secondary conditioning. (These three principles were retrieved at (http://tip.psychology.org/skinner.html)
Skinner's theory would approach the association between daycare and aggressive behavior among children from a standpoint grounded in conditioned behavior. According to operant conditioning, children that display aggressive behavior continue to do so because they are somehow receiving reinforcement for the problem behavior. It could be argued from this perspective that children who are in daycare full-time do not receive enough attention of any kind. Acting aggressively results in attention from childcare providers, teachers, and parents, and although this attention may not be praise, it is reinforcement nonetheless for the attention starved children.
This concept of reinforced aggressive behavior may be illustrated by a study conducted by Borge, Rutter, Cote and Tremblay (2004). These researchers determined that aggression was significantly more common among children being cared for by their mothers in dysfunctional environments than among children in daycare. Skinner's operant conditioning theory would suggest that this is the case because children are being reinforced for their aggressive behavior. This reinforcement may be in the form of praise and rewards for ceasing the aggressive behavior rather than the non-display of…