Physical violence is an important health problem, and low maternal education is a significant risk for the development of chronic physical aggression (PA). We hypothesized that nonmaternal care (NMC) services could prevent the development of childhood PA problems, depending on the age at which the services are initiated.
Children who followed a trajectory of atypically frequent PA between 17 and 60 months of age among a population sample of 1691 Canadian families were identified. Maternal education and NMC were considered in predicting group membership while controlling for confounding family characteristics.
Children of mothers with low education levels (ie, no high school diploma) were less likely to receive NMC. Those who did receive such care had significantly lower risk of a high PA trajectory. Results from logistic regressions indicated that NMC reduced the risk of high PA, especially when initiated before age 9 months (odds ratio, 0.20; 95% confidence interval, 0.05-0.90). Children of mothers who graduated from high school were less at risk of PA problems, and NMC had no additional protective effect.
Nonmaternal care services to children of mothers with low levels of education could substantially reduce their risk of chronic PA, especially if provided soon after birth. Because children most likely to benefit from NMC services are less likely to receive them, special measures encouraging the use of NMC services among high-risk families are needed.