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Stress and Child care

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One of the new concerns in the international debate on public child care deals with the question how much stress infants and toddlers experience in out-of-home care and whether this stress might harm later emotional and behavioural adjustment. The paper will explore patterns of stress reactivity and stress reduction at times when toddlers enter child care but also when they are well integrated in the daily routines of high-quality center-based care. Based on salivary cortisol and heart rate measures we first discuss acute stress levels following the mothers’ departures at child care entry as well as possibilities by which toddlers’ stress system can be regulated. In order to detect chronic stress patterns, we will then investigate daily cortisol profiles that children in center-based care display over an entire week when they are also exposed to challenging family circumstances. Whereas the child care entry can be seen as a strong separation stressor which might expose toddlers to acute stress, toddlers’ daily experiences in center-based care do not necessarily go hand in hand with stress. Current research has found clear evidence that stress in child care is moderated by toddlers‘ emotional involvement as measured by care quality ans satisfying relationships in both child care centers and at home.

This talk is part of the Social Psychology Seminar Series (SPSS) series.

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