A study indicates that starting in childcare at an early age has no effect on children's cognitive development, compared to at home care.

The latest Growing Up in Ireland report also indicates high engagement with the Free Pre-school Year programme.

The Government-funded study of children being carried out jointly by the ESRI and Trinity College Dublin shows that by the age of five, children who attended childcare and children who were cared for full-time at home by their parents showed no difference in their language and reasoning skills.

It also suggests starting in childcare, including creches, from as young as nine months old had no effect on children's cognition by the time they turned five.

The research, which is based on a representative sample of 9,000 children, also highlights that by the age of five almost all of the children in the study had participated in pre-school education through the Free Pre-school Year.

22% of parents said they would not have been able to afford to send their child to pre-school without this programme.

This figure was almost 40% for lower-income parents and parents with low education.

The researchers said this suggested the Free Pre-school Year had broadened access to quality childcare for disadvantaged social groups.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Helen Russell of the ESRI, said according to the study, family background has more of an effect on a child's cognitive outcomes than childcare. 

Dr Russell said the research did find that children in childcare with a leader who has a graduate qualification have more positive outcomes.