It’s common for scientific studies to conclude that we need more studies, but a recent review of child care highlights the lack of empirical research into some very important questions. This particular review looked at the existing research into abuse that occurs at child care centers, and found only 18 studies rigorous enough to provide helpful information. Even that information is spotty and not conclusive.
Some studies, for example, indicate that abuse at child care centers has different effects than abuse occurring in the home. One study, for example, indicated that verbal abuse by teachers (in all grades) correlated with later behavior problems. It is only one small study, however, and therefore is more of an indication than evidence.
The review also found indications that most perpetrators in child care centers are women, contrary to common stereotypes. That finding may be only a reflection of the fact that most teachers in child care centers are women, but it nevertheless provides evidence contrary to most common beliefs.
This review is valuable for the areas it found that need more research. We need to know which policies can prevent abuse in childcare centers and which just make us feel that we are doing something. This is an important area in which we need more thorough and rigorous research to that we can develop evidence-based policies.