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?