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Eira Suhonen, Nina Sajaniemi, Alisa Alijoki, Risto Hotulainen, Mari Nislin & Elina Kontu

Children’s stress regulation, behavioral characteristics and play behaviour in day care centres

The aim of this study was to find out whether the quality of learning environment and children’s stress regulation are related to children’s behavioral characteristics and play behavior. A total of 384 children aged from six to seven years participated in this study.

To examine the function of stress regulative system, five saliva samples were collected during a day. Consulting special education teachers and students evaluated quality of learning environment with Learning Environment Assessment. Parents evaluated children’s behavior by using Children’s Behavior Questionnaire and teachers evaluated play behavior with Preschool Play Behavior Scale.

The results revealed that the higher was the quality of learning environment, the lower were cortisol levels both in day care and in evenings at home. Quality differences were most distinctive in team planning and in classroom arrangements. High quality team planning was associated with low cortisol levels in every measurement point.

Atypical cortisol pattern was revealed in 27 % of children. These children displayed more sadness that the other children. The relationships between cortisol and play behavior were scarce. However, children with high scores in rough play tended to have high cortisol levels still in the evening.

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