• Decisions about child care are too important to rest on one opinion or one study.

  • Parents, teachers, governments, and the public need to know what the research says.

  • CCKM's Research Guide to Child Care Decision Making provides easy access to quantitative summaries based on the findings of 66 reports.

  • The reports are studies of the relationship of child care factors to children's development.

  • The Research Guide answers two questions based on research findings.
          What’s better for children’s development, home care or centre care?
          What factors of child care matter to children's development?

Parents, early childhood educators, policy makers, and researchers make important decisions about the care of our nation’s youngest citizens. They decide the conditions under which children learn and play during the work-time hours of their parents. These decisions are especially important because the first years of life are thought to set the stage for children’s future learning opportunities and achievements.

Parents want to know what is best for their own children, teachers want to know what is best for children in their preschool, policy makers want to know what is best for the nation, and researchers want to know how to find the answers. Many decisions have to be made: What to do? What to fund? What to study?

Decisions about child care are informed in many ways. Friends, relatives, doctors, and teachers offer their opinions. Parents examine their own attitudes and feelings to determine what seems like the right thing to do for themselves and their families. Attention is sometimes given to data from the latest child care study reported in the press or posted on the Internet.

But individual opinions or single research studies are not enough to inform the important decisions that must be made about child care. Decisions can be better and more confidently made when one has access to large and credible bodies of evidence. Evidence is defined by the accumulated results of child care research, not by one study.

Decision makers need access to the data and results of studies that have been gathered widely from respected research sources and weighed in a fair and open manner. Objective reviews of research literature can help to reduce personal bias in decision making by focusing attention beyond opinion-confirming evidence.

For this reason the Canadian Centre for Knowledge Mobilisation (CCKM) created an easy-to-use Research Guide that summarises the results of 66 research reports in words and in numbers. Overall, the research examined the relationship of seven factors of child care to children’s cognitive, language, and behavioural development. The Research Guide is meant to help parents, teachers, and policy makers find out what the research says. The Research Guide is also meant to help researchers find out what has already been studied, how it has been studied, and where the gaps can be found and filled with new research. In the end, readers can add the knowledge of accumulated research findings to other factors that will influence their decisions about child care. Why rely on just one opinion or one study for such important decisions? 

The Research Guide for Child Care Decision Making was created by CCKM with funding from the Canadian Council on Learning and Research Works! for child literacy, a Community-University Research Alliance of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. These organisations bear no responsibility for design or content of CCKM’s Research Guide. It is important to know that CCKM does not represent any child care agency or interest group, or governmental, non-governmental, or arm-length governmental organisation advocating for or against non-parental child care.

CCKM recognises that several reviews of child care research have already been published. The Research Guide is meant to add value to the existing literature with the following features.

Focus on links between the conditions of child care and children’s development.
Special attention to the Canadian context.

A large sample of reports, and s
tudies that included large samples of children.
A range of reports, not limited to studies conducted in the United States.
Full disclosure on how the reports and their data were selected and coded.
Quantitative synthesis of results, but not limited to randomised controlled trials.
Annotated summaries and direct access to each report.
Resources for identifying child care databases.
Resources of tools for measuring quality of care and children’s development.

Across the 66 reports in the Research Guide, children, conditions of child care, measures of child development, and so forth differed from study to study. The research questions and how they were asked also differed from study to study, year to year, decade to decade, country to country, researcher to researcher. How could such diverse research, therefore, be harnessed together to competently inform decision making?

The answer lies in a simple but painstaking process of collecting the published research studies, cataloguing the procedures and results of each study, and summarising findings across studies. The process relies on methods that are transparent, systematic, reliable, and dispassionate.

The Research Guide contains nine sections that are arranged so that the reader can choose one or another and in any order. In addition to the Aims, the Introduction to the Research Guide explains the Background upon which child care research rests, and describes in detail the Methods used to obtain, select, and summarise the 66 reports contained in the Research Guide. The methods included the creation of easy to understand quantitative displays of accumulated results. The results came from 563 individual tests of the cognitive, language, and behavioural development of nearly 28,000 children.

Evidence from the 66 reports is summarised around two questions central to decisions about the work-time care of infants and preschoolers: What’s better for children’s development, home care or centre care? What factors of child care matter to child's development? The questions are answered based on seven factors of child care that were examined in research studies: type of care, age of entry into non-parental care, time spent in non-parental care, stability of caregiving, quality of child care, teacher education, and adult-child ratio in child care. The evidence for each of the seven factors is displayed in research Scorecards, along with citations that include summaries of each research report that contributed to the findings. Where possible, the full text of the report is attached for those who want to read the details of the studies.

Researchers and policy analysts may want to know about the databases that were used in some of the reports; they are listed and described in the Resources section of the Research Guide. Descriptions of tools used to measure children's development and the quality of child care are also provided as Resources. Students and researchers may find these materials helpful in understanding past research and planning future research. Finally, a printable booklet containing the online Research Guide can be ordered free of costs.

Research Review Team

Kathleen Bloom (University of Waterloo) Director, writer, product designer
Cara Cressman
(University of Western Ontario) Web designer, project manager, editor
Julie Hachey
(University of Waterloo) Data extraction specialist, graphic designer
Katie Lam (University of Waterloo)
Research Assistant
Beatrice Moos
(University of Toronto) Lead reviewer, data extraction specialist, editor
Dana Schultz
(University of Ottawa) Article retrieval coordinator


The work for this project was funded in part by the Canadian Council on Learning, and by Research Works!, a Community-University Research Alliance of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.  The Research Guide is the property of the Canadian Centre for Knowledge Mobilisation and does not necessarily reflect the views of any other organisation. 

The information and resources included in the website may be used only for noncommercial purposes such as private study, teaching, and research, provided that you do not modify such content. The content cannot be copied, distributed, or transmitted without full citation.

Citation format:
Canadian Centre for Knowledge Mobilisation (2006, June). CCKM's Research Guide to Child Care Decision Making. Waterloo, ON: Author.

Citation format for the 66 research reports are listed in the Scorecards.

Every effort was made to ensure accuracy, but CCKM cannot be held liable for loss or damage of any kind based on the information contained in this document. CCKM will endeavour to correct any mistakes or misleading information. Please send comments to

    2006 © Canadian Centre for Knowledge Mobilisation