Does Preschool Have a Dark Side?

Does preschool have a dark side?
Surely not — right? I mean, look at the cute little kids, attentively engaged in a learning experience. They’re learning to get along with peers — right? My own state of Indiana is currently debating whether to fund preschool, since we’re already funding full-day kindergarten. More structured time can only be a good thing for kids — right?

Turns out, maybe not. A study has correlated preschool attendance with negative influence on social behavior, suggesting that kids who go to preschool actually have worse social skills than those who don’t.

This is interesting, as it certainly flies in the face of the general perception. I did “home preschool” with my three daughters, and with each one, I remember feeling the need to apologize when I had to check on the registration form that they hadn’t attended preschool. I’m sure their teachers were a bit concerned. After all, nowadays it’s odd for a child to enter kindergarten having not gone to preschool. Would they know how to write their names? Could they get along with others?

The article linked is interesting. The study it references shows that preschool attendance is linked with more defiant behaviors, tantrums, and aggression, but this is only if a child attends a commercial preschool — the negative results were not seen if a child was cared for in another adult’s home. This is comforting for the parent who has felt she has to find childcare during the day because she works.

You might also think that lower-income children show more negative effects resulting from their preschool attendance in lower-quality preschool centers, but that wasn’t the case. The middle- and upper-income kids showed worse behaviors than those with less means.

The study suggests reasons why preschool may be harmful to kids’ behavior. It posits that kids in preschools have higher stress/cortisol levels than kids either in their own homes during the day or with a relative or another caregiver. They suggest that this may be because children in preschool are stressed by having a harder time feeling bonded with an authority figure at preschool, since the teacher there is most likely responsible for quite a few kids. Another reason for the stress could be that all the interactions with other children are hard on kids.

After reading the study, I felt grateful that I was able to avoid preschool for my girls. What’s your opinion? Does preschool have a dark side? Is it something we as a society should fund for all kids? Are there alternatives?

5 thoughts on “Does Preschool Have a Dark Side?

  1. Preschool has never been big on my list! No one thought much about it 50 years ago when my children were young. We thought that a grandmother, close friend, or trusted neighbor were the way to go when we needed childcare while working. The kids were happy and felt loved, too. What bothers me about preschool is the fact that it is too organized and regimented in many cases. I believe that young children need time to explore and dream on their own with a certain amount of freedom rather than being led or told what to do every minute of the day. Kids need to play, imagine, and just be kids at ages 3 and 4, in my opinion.

  2. My siblings and I didn’t even attend kindergarten, let alone preschool. Judging by the outcomes of our lives, I think starting in the first grade was adequate education and interaction for us, although I confess to suffering what would be diagnosed as separation anxiety now, when I began first grade. I don’t think that would have been avoided by starting me in school earlier, though. In fact, it probably would only have been accentuated by that.

  3. I am not a fan of preschool. I didn’t start school until 1st grade, and by 4th, they were wanting me to skip a grade! I was in daycare some, and it was very stressful and exhausting, especially emotionally. We homeschooled our boys, but even if someone didn’t want to do that, the later they start, the more secure and well-adjusted they are, in my opinion.

  4. I mothered three intelligent daughters and I never picked the preschool route. A close friend really put the heat on, trying to get me to have my youngest child attend preschool with her daughter, but I did not cave.

  5. My daughter attended preschool and we definitely noticed a negative change in her behavior for the first few months. She learned how to throw tantrums, for example! However, she learned a ton of good stuff there, too. Will my second child go to prek? Maybe, maybe not. I can certainly see the good side and bad side of preschool exposure.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.