Investing in home-based childcare benefits the child

Where do children feel more comfortable: in day-care centres or in home-based environments?  Research by Leiden education specialists led by Professor Rien van IJzendoorn shows that home-based childcare has a number of advantages over day-care centres: the children have a higher level of wellbeing, the carers are more sensitive and there is less noise.  Investing in home-based care is beneficial for the child.  The study: Welbevinden en stress van kinderen in de kinderopvang ('Wellbeing and stress among children in child care centres') is the first Dutch study into the quality of home-based childcare.


The study was conducted among 116 children aged between 1½ and 3½ years of age in 26 day-care centres and 55 home-based environments spread throughout the Netherlands.  The wellbeing of the children is the degree to which they feel safe and relaxed, and enjoy the activities in which they are involved. The wellbeing of the children, the sensitivity of the carers and the quality of the care were observed during visits to the day-care centres and the home-based environments.  The stress levels of children are determined by the hormone 'cortisol'.  The production of cortisol follows a 24-hour rhythm, whereby cortisol levels should reduce over the course of the day.  Cortisol levels were measured at the day-care centres and at home, so that a comparison could be made.

Stress level

The quality of childcare can play a significant role in promoting wellbeing and reducing the stress levels of young children.  This research therefore also examined the quality of the childcare.  The study covered a number of structural characteristics (such as group size), process quality (for example, language stimulation), the sensitivity of the carers (the extent to which they responded adequately to signals from the child), and the quality of the physical environment (in particular the noise).

Group size

As expected, considerable differences were observed in home-based childcare and day-care centres in terms of group size and the relationship between the number of carers and the number of children.  In  home-based care, there were on average three children to one carer; in the day-care centres there were on average eleven children to two childcare staff.


Home-based care appears to be more favourable than day-care centres: the children in home-based care demonstrate on average a higher level of wellbeing, the carers are more sensitive and there is less noise than in the day-care centres. The children in home-based care demonstrate a higher level of wellbeing with a carer who is more sensitive to the child's needs.  In the day-care centres, there is no correlation between sensitivity and wellbeing.


The research report Welbevinden en stress van kinderen in de kinderopvang  can be downloaded at:

Last Modified: 11-09-2008