The effects of environmental variations in day care centres in the development of young children in Singapore
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of variations in the day care
environment on linguistic and social-emotional development of pre-school children in
Singapore after home background has been taken into account.
This study examined differences in the environment of 16 day care centres. Characteristics
of the environment were assessed by the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, ECERS
(Harms & Clifford, 1980) and the Target Child Method of Observation, TCM (Sylva, Roy
& Painter, 1980). The ECERS measured the physical and programmatic features of day care
centres and produced a total 'quality' score and seven subscale scores. These consisted of
assessments of personal care and routines, furnishing and display, language-reasoning
experiences, fine and gross motor activities, creative activities, social development and adult
needs provided in day care centres. This rating scale was validated in Singapore and
discriminant validity was established. Reliability was also obtained before proceeding with
the assessment of the day care environments. The TCM investigated the interactive features
of day care centres and consisted of typical activities and social interactions experienced by
children. Inter-observer reliability was established and child behaviours were systematically
observed and coded for 12,800 thirty-second intervals.
Day care effects were investigated by assessing children at two time points. A pre-test,consisting of linguistic and social-emotional assessments, was conducted on 122 pre-school
aged children at the beginning of the year and a post-test administered towards the end of the
year. Data analysis was conducted by regressing these outcomes on the ECERS measure of
the day care environment. T-test analyses were also conducted to investigate differences in
typical child behaviours (as nasured by the TCM) between 'high' progress centres and 'low'
progress centres. Child characteristics and home background variables were included in the
analyses to control for possible confounding of the effects of the day care environment on
This study found that total centre 'quality' and specific subscales on the ECERS were related
to some aspects of linguistic and social emotional development of children. Results also
suggested that certain child activities and social interaction were associated with higher
progress in language development.