Gunnar's research on stress in child care settings receives national attention
Recent research led by Regents Professor Megan Gunnar, Institute of Child Development, has attracted national media attention. Her study of preschoolers attending full-day, licensed child care showed that their levels of the stress hormone cortisol exceeded their cortisol levels when they were at home. The study, published in the journal Child Development, found children's cortisol levels highest in settings with intrusive or over-controlling care providers, where children were frequently moved between activities, had relatively little free play time, and spent long periods of time in structured activities led by the providers.
Researchers studied about 150 three-and four-year-olds in 110 different family child care homes, observing both the children's behavior and the behavior of their care providers. They sampled saliva to measure the children's cortisol levels.
"These findings indicate that the behavior of the care provider is associated with both how well children function at child care and how much their cortisol is elevated," said Gunnar. "They add to our understanding of how children process stressors in child care, highlighting differences between boys and girls in how they express being more physiologically stressed."