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Child Care Linked to Varying Effects on Childhood Injuries

Risk of injury in infants in formal child care different in higher, lower socioeconomic groups

MONDAY, Nov. 30 (HealthDay News) -- The use of formal child care -- such as a day care center -- was associated with both higher and lower risk of unintentional injury in infants, depending on the children's socioeconomic group, according to research published online Nov. 24 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Anna Pearce, of the UCL Institute of Child Health in London, and colleagues analyzed data from a longitudinal study of a group of children collected at ages 9 months and 3 years. Mothers provided information on whether the children's main child care provider was a parent, an informal provider such as a relative or neighbor, or a formal provider such as a nursery.

At 9 months, the researchers found that infants of mothers from higher socioeconomic groups cared for in formal child care were less likely to be injured than those who were watched only by a parent; in lower socioeconomic groups, such infants were more likely to be injured. At age 3 years, informal child care was associated with a higher risk of injury, but this risk was only seen in more economically disadvantaged groups. And by age 3 years, formal child care was not associated with an increased risk of injury in any group.

"Our analyses and findings from existing literature imply that child care can reduce injuries occurring both in child care and elsewhere. We have shown that the association of child care with injury varies by social group. Increasing the number of infants cared for in formal child care without addressing the factors that may be causing these differential effects, such as quality and affordability, could widen inequalities in injury," the authors write.

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