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Psychologists have always been interested in how children's development is related to their early experience. From their first studies of "maternal deprivation" to their latest investigations of "within-family variance," psychologists have probed the effects of children's early lives. While researchers have been tracking down answers to questions about early experience, however, the questions have kept one step ahead of them. In the beginning, it seemed enough to ask about the mother's influence on the child. Later, it was found necessary to include the father, and still later, siblings. But even as psychologists broadened their search to include the entire family, the ecology of early childhood shifted to include those outside the family — in nursery school and day care, with nannies and peers. Today, in this society, even the youngest children live in complex worlds of home and beyond.
Taking a look at the complex worlds of contemporary preschoolers, the authors question how the components of these worlds contribute to children's development. Some of the questions they pose include:
• Do mothers have as significant an influence on children who spend time every day with another caregiver as they do on children who are home all day?
• How predictive of development are children's experiences in nonfamilial caregiving environments?
• Do experiences in these other environments have the same links to development as similar experiences at home?
• Does knowing about children's experiences in both home and daycare environments increase our ability to predict their development?
The answers to these questions are not readily available in the existing research literature. Nevertheless, they are important to those who would understand the context of child development, either as a window into human development or as a reflection of contemporary childhood.
Contents: Background: Children's Experiences and Their Effects on Development. An Integrative Study: Purpose and Design. Methods of Documenting Children's Experiences. Describing Children's Experiences. Links Between Family and Day Care. Assessing Children's Development. Cognitive Development: Family Predictors. Cognitive Development: Day Care and Beyond. Social Competence. Sociability with Mother. Compliance. Peer Relations. Conclusion.