A brisk, somewhat partisan tour of the daycare maze--options, research implications, expert opinion--plus a quick scan of viable foreign alternatives. Like other works in the consistently reliable Developing Child series, this book approaches a complex subject cautiously and covers large areas (caregiver traits, individual needs) expeditiously. Current research suggests that quality daycare, an elusive commodity, has no detrimental effect on intellectual ability and in fact may hasten social development: mother remains a special person and peer interactions tend to be ""more complex, reciprocal, and mature."" (Daycare children also pick up more colds, rashes, and raw language.) Children in homecare--and individual temperament or history frequently dictates this setting as preferable--don't test quite as well, but they may develop skills of practical competence (such as shopping) that tests don't measure; once in school, however, they catch up quickly. In general, daycare centers offer better physical facilities and intellectual stimulation, while homecare offers better social/personal conditions. Clarke-Stewart supplies guidelines for assessing specific places (spatial organization, turnover rates), discusses caregiver style and class size, and emphasizes the importance of matching program to child. Easy children can thrive in nearly any environment, she reminds us, and insecure ones will have trouble in the best. Finally, she concludes with a brief examination of the established systems of France, Sweden, the Soviet Union, China, and Israel. Opponents may argue that Clarke-Stewart underplays the potential for mischief in daycare settings (she acknowledges the prevalence of dreary situations without closely examining them or the conditions that fuel them). But the information one needs on the road to a decision is readily available here, and the Suggested Reading list can enlarge the picture.