High-quality childcare is linked to a plethora of positive perks.
No matter how much you love your job or your daycare center, saying farewell to your little one every morning is never easy. But take heart, moms, because an array of studies show that high-quality childcare, where there are frequent, positive interactions between caregivers and children, which usually correlates with low teacher-to-student ratios and teachers with higher levels of education, pays off in a number of important ways, well into adulthood. Want proof? Check out these surprising perks of sending your kids to daycare, all backed by scientific research and guaranteed to make you breathe a little easier the next time someone tries to make you feel guilty for being a hard-working mother.
1. Daycare may lower the risk of cancer.
It turns out all of those daycare germs may be a good thing, strangely enough. Researchers from the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale in France studied 280 cases of childhood cancer, and found that kids who had been in daycare were less likely to have acute leukemias than those who had only been at home. They theorized that kids who aren’t exposed to infections end up overreacting to germs later on, leading to immune system malfunctions like leukemia. Other studies have shown that kids who attend daycare or playgroups have about a 30 percent lower risk of developing the most common type of childhood leukemia.
2. Daycare makes kids smarter.
In 2006, the National Institute of Childhood Health and Human Development conducted a seminal study of over 3,000 kids, and the verdict should be reassuring to moms everywhere: Overall, children who were cared for by others didn’t develop any differently than children cared for exclusively by their mothers. However, there was one encouraging caveat: Children in high-quality daycare had better language and cognitive development during the first four-and-a-half years of life. Even better, the benefits remain at least through the age of 15.
3. Daycare makes kids more likely to get college degrees.
Again, it’s high-quality daycare here that counts. A 30-year study led by the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that infants enrolled in a high-quality childcare program were four times more likely to have earned a college degree. They also had significantly more years of total education than their peers who were part of a control group.
4. Daycare makes kids more likely to postpone parenthood.
Sure, you want to be a grandma—a loooong time from now. Well, good news: The same UNC study, dubbed the Abecedarian Project, found that the kids in high-quality care delayed parenthood by almost two years compared to the control group.
5. Daycare makes kids more likely to stay employed.
That’s right—daycare makes kids more likely to hold down a job as adults, the UNC study found. At age 30, kids in high-quality care were more likely to have been consistently employed (75 percent had worked full-time for at least 16 of the previous 24 months, compared to 53 percent of the control group).
6. Daycare makes kids less likely to inherit their mom’s depression.
It makes sense: If Mom is hurting, kids are more likely to pick up on it if they’re at home than at daycare. That’s the conclusion from a 2013 study conducted by the University of Quebec, examining 1,759 children with mothers who suffered from depression. Research shows that depressed women are more likely to have kids who also develop depression and anxiety disorders, and that those problems can extend through the teenage years. But kids who attended daycare had a 79 percent reduced risk of developing emotional problems, compared to kids who stayed home with their moms.
7. Daycare makes kids less likely to get sick in grade school.
If that isn’t a reason to love daycare, we don’t know what is. Again, it seems that all those early childhood sniffles pay off down the road by toughening up kids’ immune systems. A study of 10,000 Australian children found that kids under 3½ were more likely to have ear infections than those exclusively at home (duh), but that ongoing problems with ear infections were lower in children who had attended daycare as babies. So, take heart, moms: They’re getting it out of their system now.
8. Daycare prepares kids for school.
Quality, as always, is key, but a 2016 study found that by age 5, children who attended formal childcare programs had substantially stronger reading and math skills relative to similar children who attended informal, home-based childcare settings. According to researchers from the University of Virginia, Cornell University, the Urban Institute and Stanford University, teachers with lots of education and training in early childhood development are pretty good at, well, developing little learners.
9. Daycare makes kids more efficient communicators.
One key to effective communication is adjusting your speech based on who you’re talking to, and it looks like kids in daycare may be more intuitive in this regard. To study the neural mechanisms that support verbal and non-verbal communication, Dutch researchers watched 5-year-olds playing a two-person game, and discovered that the more days children spent in daycare, the better they were able to adjust their communication style to the other player—likely because of their exposure to a greater variety of social situations, they suggest.
10. Daycare moms are more likely to participate in their kids’ schools.
It's time to say goodbye to the stereotype of the busy working mom who misses the PTA meeting. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin studied 1,300 children and found that moms whose kids were cared for in daycare centers or in others’ homes were more likely to be involved in their children’s schools starting in kindergarten—even more likely than mothers who cared for their kids themselves. That participation included everything from being in regular communication with teachers to attending an open house and forging friendships with other parents.
This article originally appeared on Working Mother.