The extent to which homecare or day-care for infants may be beneficial or detrimental for subgroups of infants may depend on the family environment. The primary goal of this project will be to provide new information on childcare and infants? adaptation d uring the first 18 months of life. The project, which will be part of the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, will answer crucial questions about the effects of care on infants. The study will be especially informative because of the potentially larg e sample size (n=34 000) and the study's prospective nature.
Maternal leave and cash allowances program enable Norwegian mothers to choose to go back to work and use day-care or stay home and care continuously for their infants their first two years of life without loosing income. Surprisingly, no studies of large samples have investigated the associations between welfare programs and infant development. Does our welfare program protect children from developing behaviour difficulties at age 6 months and 18 months of age? In affluent families, in the richest country in the world, do infants pay a price or can we identify protective factors against infant behaviour difficulties in affluent as well as in less affluent families? Thus, in this project we wan t to investigate whether these welfare programs affect infants somewhat differently depending on the family environment, age and gender.
The results will indicate whether the family alone, or some combination of home care and group day-care might bring a bout benefits for young children and prevent them from developing behaviour difficulties at a very young age. In addition, this baseline study will provide crucial scientific knowledge for consecutive followups for the 7th wave planed at school entry.