A new study on the effects of preschool on children, which finds attendance harms kids’ emotional and social development, is being used by a homeschool organization to help encourage parents to educate their children at home.

The study, conducted at UC Berkeley, found that while youngsters gained cognitive abilities via the preschool experience, behavioral problems also increased – especially among kids from wealthy families.

“The biggest eye-opener is that the suppression of social and emotional development, stemming from long hours in preschool, is felt most strongly by children from better-off families,” said UC Berkeley sociologist and study co-author Bruce Fuller.

On average, the report finds that the earlier a child enters a preschool center, the slower his or her pace of social development, while cognitive skills in pre-reading and math are stronger when children first enter a preschool program between the ages of 2 and 3.

“Our results for the intensity of attending a center program – measured in hours per week and months per year – are worrisome, while varying across different types of families and children,” the report says.

The study found that children who attended preschool at least 15 hours a week displayed more negative social behaviors when compared with their stay-at-home peers.

According to a statement from Berkeley, the research team found that more than 1.4 million children, ages 3 or 4, across the nation are enrolled in preschool programs and attend six hours or more daily. About 5.2 million children – including children under age 5 – attend preschool overall, although Hispanic children are less likely to enter a preschool than white and black youngsters. Nearly two-thirds of all 4-year-olds nationwide attend preschool in the year before starting kindergarten.

Fuller says those elected officials pushing for compulsory preschool should rethink the idea.

“The report’s a bit sobering for governors and mayors – including those in California, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina and Oklahoma – who are getting behind universal preschool,” Fuller said.

The report, entitled “The Influence of Preschool Centers on Children’s Development Nationwide: How Much Is Too Much?” looked at 14,000 kindergartners across the nation.

The Morningstar Education Network is using the results of the survey to point parents in the direction of homeschooling. The organization sponsors a website, ConsideringHomeschooling.org, to encourage Christian parents with preschoolers and those with kids in secular schools to educate their kids at home.

“These negative social behaviors children are displaying are getting worse,” said Denise Kanter, Morningstar’s research adviser, in a statement. “A child’s success in life and academic performance hinges on their healthy social and emotional development. Young children need to be at home bonding with their mothers and fathers.”

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