Indicator List for Early Childhood Development

Small Child

Child Trends researchers study young children from birth through early elementary school with a focus on understanding how the experiences children have across different settings promote optimal development and well-being. Our team works with the federal government, state agencies, communities, and foundations on research, evaluation, and policy projects that address important issues for policymakers, practitioners, and families. We are skilled at developing resources and reports that address complex topics in easy-to-understand terms. We are strong thought partners in addressing a range of early childhood issues.

Much of our work fits into five broad categories.

Indicator List for Early Childhood Development


Attitudes Toward Spanking

In 2014, according to a nationally representative survey, 76 percent of men, and 65 percent of women, 18 to 65 years old, agreed that a child sometimes needs a “good hard spanking.” This proportion has declined modestly since 1986 among women, while approval among males, after declining into the early 1990s, has remained steady.



There has been substantial progress in recent years in getting mothers in the U.S. to breastfeed their infants, and the latest available national data have met Healthy People 2010 goals, but not those for 2020.


Child Care

Among children ages birth to four whose mothers were employed, 24 percent were primarily cared for by a parent during the hours their mother was working in 2011.


Children with Limitations

According to report by a parent or other adult household member, nearly one in five children, ages five to 17, (19 percent) had one or more limitations in 2013. These include limitations in normal physical activities due to health conditions and impairments, difficulty seeing, difficulty hearing, diagnosed learning disabilities, or difficulty bathing or showering without assistance.


Early Childhood Program Enrollment

The proportion of three- to six-year-old children (not yet in kindergarten) who attended center-based early childhood care and education programs increased from 55 to 61 percent between 2007 and 2012. Gains were particularly high for Hispanic children.


Early School Readiness

Compared with white or black children, Hispanic children are less likely to be able to recognize the letters of the alphabet, count to 20 or higher, or write their names before they start kindergarten. Black children are similar to white children on these measures, but are more likely than white children to be reading words in books.

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Family Meals

Children in poorer families, and those whose parents had less education, are more likely to have meals together with their families than are children with wealthier or more educated parents.


Head Start

Enrollment in Head Start decreased between the 2011-12 and 2013-14 program years, from 979,000 to 916,000 children, but Head Start enrollees increased as a proportion of all young children in poverty.

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