”Daginstitutionens betydning for børns udvikling – en forskningsoversigt”.

Christoffersen, M.N.
Højen-Sørensen, A.
Laugesen, L.
København: SFI – Det Nationale Forskningscenter for Velfærd, 14:23.


The purpose of this study is to examine and describe Danish and international research results that elucidate how attending daycare can impact a child in the short and long term. In addition, the study aims to identify the parameters that are assumed to determine the quality of the daycare centre, focusing in particular on the child-adult ratio, group sizes and level of training of staff.


In a number of countries the long-term consequences of the significant increase over the past decades in the scope of state-funded and regulated daycare (universal interventions) have been studied. The report describes how these studies have shown that children who are offered state-organised daycare in general fare better with regard to academic achievement, career development and earning, and starting a family, than their peers who are not offered stated-organised daycare. Apart from a few exceptions, especially vulnerable and marginalised children have benefitted from the increase in the number of state-funded and regulated daycare centres. However, the authors emphasise that this cannot be taken to mean that daycare centres as such always provide a better learning environment that stimulates the child’s development, well-being and learning than the child would otherwise have been exposed to in another care setting. There is a clear link between the positive results of universal daycare and the quality of the daycare, and the literature contains several examples of daycare that has had a negative effect on the children in the specific daycare centres.


Furthermore the systematic review explores which parameters are central when assessing the quality of daycare centres. This is done through experimental studies that use play activities to develop social, emotional, cognitive and creative skills. Based on these activities the studies show that the quality of the interaction between adult and child seems to be the most important factor with regard to the child’s intellectual development. Children learn the most in situations where they are active initiators and adults act as facilitators, participate in the activity, and ask relevant questions and help them develop their activities. The studies show that children in high-quality daycare centres fare better in comparison with the control groups. Thus more of these children find employment and more of them have completed vocational education. They also had a higher income, a lower crime rate, and fewer of them smoked marijuana in their teenage years and early adulthood. The quality of the daycare centre affects the child’s learning later in life by increasing the child’s intelligence, and stimulating curiosity and motivation, and by providing an environment in which the child develops a more positive self-perception and hopes for the future. The experiments that included efforts targeted to match the parents’ life conditions and that showed significant results had applied resources to improving the mothers’ attachment to the labour market. In general involving parents increased the positive effect on the child.


Whether a high-quality programme can actually be implemented in a daycare centre relies on structural parameters such as child-adult ratio, size of group and the level of training of staff. Decreasing the child-adult ratio has shown to make adults more sensitive and attentive, and children are offered more relevant activities aimed at their development as well as more learning games. Increasing the child-adult ratio is also linked to reducing stress symptoms in the child, as well as reducing emotional and behavioural difficulties and the number of conflicts between the children. With regard to group size, smaller groups with a greater child-adult ratio, and where the group is supervised by a practitioner with relevant training, lead to better inclusion of vulnerable children as well as greater commitment among staff.  A clear correlation was seen between staff’s qualifications and their interaction with the children. Professional staff provide more qualified high-quality care and are better at stimulating learning environments in which children can develop both socially and cognitively.



The report is a systematic review based on a comprehensive systematic literature search. The studies included in the review were primarily conducted in wealthy OECD countries, that is in Europe, in the US and in Scandinavia. Studies from developing countries have also been included in the systematic review. The studies reviewed were conducted from 1932 until today. When reviewing the studies, emphasis was placed on experimental studies that randomly allocate participants to an intervention group and a control group with a view to achieving the best possible experiences regarding which interventions are the most effective. In addition, particular focus was placed on two independent variables related to the quality of the daycare centre: child-adult ratio and the level of training of staff. The report applies a narrative analysis and, to a lesser extent, meta-analysis when analysing the studies included.


Christoffersen, M.N., Højen-Sørensen, A. & Laugesen, L. (2014): ”Daginstitutionens betydning for børns udvikling – en forskningsoversigt”. København: SFI – Det Nationale Forskningscenter for Velfærd, 14:23.

Financed by

The Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators