Informal child care (child care by untrained family members, relatives or employees in the home) in Western populations is often associated with poorer psychological well-being, which may be confounded by socioeconomic position. We examined the association of informal child care, common in non-Western settings, with adolescent psychological wellbeing, using Hong Kong’s Chinese “Children of 1997” birth cohort.
Multivariable linear regression was used to examine the adjusted associations of informal child care (at 0.5, 3, 5 and 11 years) with parent-reported Rutter score for child behavior at 11 years, self-reported Culture-Free Self-Esteem Inventories score at 11 years and selfreported Patient Health Questionnaire-9 depressive symptom score at 13 years. Model comparisons were used to identify the best representation of child care, in terms of a critical period of exposure to informal child care (independent variable) at a specific age, combination of exposures to informal child care at several ages or an accumulation of exposures to informal child care.
Child care was not associated with behavioral problems. A model considering child care at 3 years best represented the association of child care with self-esteem while a model considering child care at 5 years best represented the association of child care with depressive symptoms. Informal child care at 3 years was associated with lower self-esteem (-0.70, 95% confidence interval (CI) -1.26 to -0.14). Informal child care at 5 years was associated with more depressive symptoms (0.45, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.73).