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Growing up in Ireland: Non-parental childcare and child cognitive outcomes at age five

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McGinnity, Frances; Russell, Helen & Murray, Aisling
Publication Date: 
3 Dec 2015


Executive summary

This report investigates the experience of non-parental care in early life and its association with children’s cognitive development at age five using a large representative sample of children (circa 9,000) from the Growing Up in Ireland survey. This survey collected data on the same children in infancy in 2008/2009, at age three in 2011 and at age five in 2013. The report is written against a backdrop of international and policy debates on non-parental childcare, particularly centre-based childcare, and its potential impact on children’s development.

The report addresses a number of questions. What do we know from the Growing Up in Ireland survey about the nature and extent of non-parental childcare in infancy and at age three, prior to participation in the Free Preschool Year? Do children who experienced different types of non-parental childcare at age three differ in terms of their vocabulary and non-verbal reasoning from those who have just experienced parental care? Does participation in different forms of childcare influence the change over time in vocabulary and non-verbal reasoning scores between ages three and five? Does the influence of non-parental care differ for advantaged and disadvantaged children? This report considers cognitive outcomes, though clearly socio-emotional outcomes are another important aspect of child development.

The report distinguishes between relative care (usually by a grandparent), non-relative care (typically a childminder) and centre-based care (e.g. crèche) as main non-parental care types at age three. The report also considers some aspects of the children’s experience of the Free Preschool Year, a major policy initiative in recent years in the area of Early Care and Education in Ireland, using data collected in 2013 when the children were five.