For parents, especially new parents, choosing an appropriate childcare situation is often fraught with anxiety. Should they put their child in a cozy home-based daycare or in a center-based daycare operated in a larger commercial facility? There are trade-offs for both.

Even though childcare centers usually have more kids in attendance, they tend to offer age-appropriate curriculum designed to encourage literacy, language and social and emotional development. Past research had suggested that young kids who spent extensive time in early child centered day care were more likely to have higher levels of behavioral problems. But now a large new study contradicts those findings.

The results should be reassuring for parents whose children are in center-based daycare.

This research tracked the same sample of children from Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Canada and the United States at different points in time. Teams from several leading educational institutions including Boston College, the University of Oslo, the University of Minnesota, the German Youth Institute for International Educational Research, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Utrecht University, the University of Montreal, the University of Bordeaux and the Norwegian Center for Behavioral Development were all involved.

The researchers were interested in whether placing a child in a center-based care situation — the kind favored by many couples who work. — predicted behavioral difficulties such as arguing, biting or fighting.

They looked at over 10,000 toddlers and preschoolers, using data collected from the years 1993 to 2012. It’s notable that the different countries varied in their social policies regarding family leave and the specifics of early childhood education. Race and ethnicity data were only collected in the United States.

To find out if there were behavior problems, the researchers used teachers’ problem reports when available and parent feedback.

Teacher and/or parent reports were different depending on the country and included assessments of behaviors such as “hits, bites, kicks other children,” as well as “fights more,” “bullies other children,” “can be spiteful to others,” “restless, can’t sit still,” and “argues a lot.”

The study also took into account the number of hours per week children attended center-based care and excluded other types of care arrangements such as care by a relative or nanny.

“Testing and research showed almost no evidence that extensive time in child care centers causes behavior problems in young children.”

The results should be reassuring for parents whose children are in center-based daycare.

“Testing and research showed almost no evidence that extensive time in child care centers causes behavior problems in young children,” explained lead author, Catalina Rey-Guerra, Co-director of Fundación Apapacho and Fellow of the Institute of Early Childhood Policy at Boston College, in a press release. “This is the first study on the topic to bring together analyses of data from multiple countries with diverse sociopolitical contexts, allowing us to address concerns of generalizability and replicability in the literature,”

There were some limitations to the study. The research only considered short-term effects so it didn’t address whether long term harm from center-based care might emerge later in a child’s life. Researchers were also unable to examine what might have happened if the children in the study were not enrolled in center-based care.

Still, the findings are valuable for the big picture of childcare policy around the world they offer. “Understanding whether time in early child care harms children and how pervasive any such harm may be, is critical for guiding global social and economic policy,” said Rey-Guerra. “Healthy economies depend on parents of young children participating in the workforce in ways that ensure healthy development for their children and the future economy. Considering this, continued research into practices and policies that ensure early child care supports the well-being of children, and families, should remain an international policy.”

The study is published in Child Development.