The earlier, the better

Children who go to daycare a year earlier than their peers are more communicative, more assertive and more conscientious as adolescents. This is the conclusion of the study „Früher Kita-Besuch beeinflusst Persönlichkeitseigenschaften bis ins Jugendalter“ by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin).

“Children who have been at daycare for a year longer have, on average, better communication skills and are more assertive. These are important personality traits that can later have an impact on educational and job market opportunities,“ according to study author Frauke Peter. She and her colleagues Maximilian Bach and Josefine Koebe analyzed the long-term effects of starting daycare at the age of three on personality traits. They evaluated data from the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS) on more than 4,500 pupils in the ninth grade who had attended a daycare center either from 1997 or 1998. Since 1996 parents in Germany have the legal right to send their children to daycare from the age of three. A place has to be provided.

The interviewed adolescents were asked to assess the extent to which certain personality traits apply to them. Their assessments were within this framework:

  • Openness to new things: I am someone who has little interest in artistic, aesthetic experiences versus I am someone who has a lively imagination or imagination.
  • Conscientiousness: I am someone who works hard versus who is more lazy.
  • Extraversion: I am someone who can go out and be sociable versus I am someone who is reserved.
  • Compatibility: I am someone who is more likely to complain about others versus who is generally trustworthy.
  • Neuroticism (emotional stability): I am someone who gets nervous versus relaxed, can deal with stress.

The answers were compared with answers from people of the same age group who had not yet been to daycare when they were three years old.

The influence of the parental home, socio-economic characteristics such as the educational qualifications of the parents or household income were factored out. As the personality traits of the parents also have an influence on the personality of the children, the sociologists filtered these out as well. They come to the conclusion "that the positive influence of the early day-care center attendance on the extraversion persists even if the influence of the parents' personality traits is factored out“.

It is all about the self-assessment of the adolescents. No matter which school they attended as a 15-year-old – daycare-kids were on average ahead of their peers in non-cognitive skills such as flexibility and openness to new things, a sense of responsibility, communication skills, self-confidence and assertiveness. No matter what type of school you attend, no matter what opportunities you got from home. These personality traits have a lasting effect. They have a "significant influence on later success in education and the job market," the authors summarize.

For more information on the study (in German) follow here.

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