Structure, Caregiver–Child Interactions, and Children’s General Physical and Behavioral Development in Three Central American Institutions

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This article describes structural characteristics and caregiver–child interactions (N = 34) in three Central American institutions for infants and young children (N = 79) and relates differences in these characteristics to differences in children’s physical, behavioral, and cognitive development. Generally, the institution with the smallest group size, fewest children per caregiver, and a few consistent caregivers had children with the best physical, behavioral, and cognitive development; this institution also had many temporary volunteers who played with the children. Differences in the quality of caregiver–child interactions were not directly related to children’s development, but the potential benefit of high-quality interactions may have been minimized by a high children:caregiver ratio in one institution, and the presence of volunteers to play with children may have compensated for and/or minimized the display of higher-quality interactions by staff caregivers in another institution.

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