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The wellbeing of babies and toddlers

Do babies and toddlers thrive more in a noisy or quiet day care centre? Research by specialist in Education and Child Studies Claudia Werner shows that children feel most comfortable in an environment where there is a little noise. With this kind of research, the method of analysis is very important. If not enough thought is given to different alternatives, particular correlations can be wrongly interpreted or even completely ignored.

Not too noisy and not too quiet

Children feel less at ease when noise levels are very high or very low, and in situations where there is a lot or very little variability in the level of noise (peaks and troughs). This is what Claudia Werner discovered. She studied the link between noise and the emotional wellbeing of children aged 0 to 4 in 64 day care centres.

As it is difficult to get young children to talk about their behaviour, Werner used systematic observations to measure the children’s wellbeing. She observed whether the children were relaxed, open to contact with others and enjoying themselves. On the study Noise in center-based child care: Associations with quality of care and child emotional well-being Werner worked with fellow Education and Child Studies researcher Mariëlle Linting. Linting teaches methods and techniques at Leiden University.

Choice of method

In order to establish links between the data, it is essential first to stop and think about what possible kind of relationships there could be between the data. In the above research one might expect a linear link, with more noise being associated with decreased wellbeing. However, the link could also be non-linear. If the researcher – on the basis of the expected relationship – had opted for the method of analysis most common for this type of data, she would only have been able to detect linear relations in the data. In that case, the outcome of the research would have been that there is no relation between noise and wellbeing in child care centres. In this study, the choice was made in favour of an analysis method that is also able to detect non-linear relations, which show that babies and toddlers not only feel less at ease when there is a lot of noise, but also in a very quiet environment. Their wellbeing is highest in situations where there is a low level of noise. This relationship would not have been discovered if only standard analysis methods had been applied.

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