Study: Delaying kindergarten may help child's behavior

Could starting Kindergarten one year late make a positive difference in a child's emotional behavior? Some researchers are saying yes.

"Children who start school later have much lower scores on a measure of inattention and hyperactivity," says Dr. Thomas Dee, a professor at Stanford University who co-authored a research paper that claims there are mental health benefits in delaying kindergarten by one year. That means starting your kid in school at age 6, instead of age 5. His study doesn't prove an increase in test scores, but an increase in a child's ability to better control his or her emotions and behavior. Dee says the more years a kid spends playing and interacting with peers, the more that child will be ready for school.

"The basic argument is that when young children have lots of opportunities to play it enhances their capacity for self-regulation because they have to both create and inhibit the realities in which they're playing," Dee says.

A professor at Hunter College agrees that it makes sense. If a student starts school a little later of course they may be better prepared because their brain will be more developed, says Lacey Peters, assistant professor of early childhood education. But she also says it's really not the same for every child, and it's the school's responsibility to meet each student's needs.

"Kindergartens are changing a lot, so there are much more demands placed on children because they're expected to do things that are not necessarily age-appropriate," Dr. Peters says. "The ways in which they have to teach is making it more difficult for them to concentrate, to be present in classrooms, focused and just engaged in a meaningful way."

Brooklyn mom Yuanyi Tan likes the idea of starting her 2-year-old daughter Francesca in school later. This way she can expose her to the real world for longer.

"Because I want her to learn from society," Tan says. "I want her to learn and find who she is before she goes to school, so I agree with that."

But Bronx mom Erin Diaz believes early education is key.

"My daughter has been going to pre-K since 3 years old and her developmental skills are pretty awesome," she says.

Dee's results were based on a Danish survey that tracked 10 percent of all births in Denmark over several years. Dr. Dee recommends that parents do research before deciding on a kindergarten. He believes the more play-time involved, the better.