A good place for kids to grow

Photo: Yngve Ask/Innovation Norway

Photo: Yngve Ask/Innovation Norway

Sending children to barnehage is a safe decision, according  to a new study

Seven out of 10 one-year-olds attend barnehage, a Norwegian state-financed day care option found throughout Norway. Parents can now send their youngest children in good conscience, according to a survey by the Norwegian Folkehelseomstittet (Public Health Institute).

The study states that it is not harmful to send a one-year-old to barnehage. There is no difference between children who have been at home or in barnehage during their first 18 months of life, when it comes to both language and safety.

Previously, there has been some skepticism about whether it could be harmful for children to be separated from their parents at such an early age. Skeptics believed that parents should wait until children were at least two years old before letting others take care of them, and that it is harmful for children to spend up to 40 hours a week in barnehage.

“We have no evidence that suggests it is harmful for most children to start barnehage at 12 months. We have no evidence that children who have been at home up to 18 months are better prepared than children looked after by others,” said researcher and specialist in clinical psychology Synnve Schjølberg, to Aftenposten.

Inger Bygland Grosch, mother to Christiane (15 months) and Caroline (3 years) is one of the parents who is relieved to hear of the findings from FHI. Her children go to the Måltrosten barnehage in Voksenkollen. “Oh, it was nice to hear. After the debate, which has been in the media before, I felt guilty because my kids started barnehage at the age of 14 months. There have been so many assumptions,” she said to Aftenposten.

In the next neighborhood over, Tor Asbjørn Hegge sits with his daughter Linnea Caroline (13 months) on his lap. He also thinks it’s good to hear that research now shows that it is not harmful to submit a one-year-old to barnehage. At the same time, he states that he has always been sure that barnehage has been the best place for his daughter. “My wife and I both had long periods of leave and lots of quality time with Linnea, but now that she has turned one I think it is very healthy for her to be there. From the very first day we saw that she learned from and was inspired by the older children. And she is so social – it is obvious that she is glad to be with the other children,” he said to Aftenposten.

One-hundred-thirty children took part in the study through FHI. The parents of five-year-olds were asked to fill out a survey about how their children were linguistically and socially. The answers were compared with information about where the children were watched over in the period from zero to 18 months old.

One of the conclusions was that children who were looked after by someone other than parents are less anxious and sad than those who were watched at home. The researchers took into account the parents’ level of education, total family income, whether the child had siblings, whether they were twins or triplets, if there had been medical complications at birth, and whether the children grew up in a bilingual household when they analyzed their findings.

The Ministry of Education asked FHI to look at how the day in barnehage influenced the youngest children. Minister of Education Kristin Halvorsen said the survey shows that parents safely and with good conscience can both deliver their smallest children to barnehage when they leave for work.  She will now request more information about how services for children under 18 months can be further improved.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 9, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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