Is child care having a negative effect on the development of children in the United States? Studies show that there are indeed negative psychological and developmental effects on children. Scientists in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom are coming to the same conclusion. It is best for a child to be cared for at home. Over the past five to six decades women have been entering the workforce in ever increasing numbers. Some enter because of financial need and others for professional and career goals. Whatever the reason, the result for the children is the same; they are in daycare.
Many professionals have debated for years about the pros and cons of all-day daycare for children. Does age matter, does amount of time per day matter, does size of facility matter, does the education and training of the staff matter, does staff turnover matter…some experts say yes, others say no. The truth is all of these things matter. As an infant grows and develops it forms attachments that will shape its emotional and social development. Once a woman’s maternity leave is over she must make the decision whether to return to work or stay home with her newborn.
This is a tough decision! For many moms, working is not an option; either due to single parenthood, a spouse that is unemployed or underemployed, or just a desire to have her own career. Unfortunately the infant suffers long lasting effects as a result. An infant’s development is based on a secure attachment to a primary caregiver. This is one of the most crucial stages of development in a child’s life and if this stage is interrupted they will likely suffer emotionally and socially. A child’s attachment to its caregiver is not fully and “securely formed until about two years of age”.
(Day care information, Essortment, pg. 1). An interruption to this attachment can happen for many reasons; divorce, death of the mother, neglect, or long-term daily separation. When a strong and secure attachment is not formed during the first year of a child’s life, then it is unlikely that the child will never be able to form “stable intimate relationships, such as close friendships or even marriage”. (Day care Information, Essortment, pg. 2). In my line of work as an elementary school teacher assistant, I see this every day.
My classes of first graders ages six to seven years old are filled with children that have dramatic separation anxiety, significant aggression, emotional immaturity, and difficulty forming meaningful friendships. I live in a community where many of the mothers are able to stay at home and care for their children. It is almost always apparent which children were raised at home by their moms and which spent most of their early childhood in daycare. It is evident that parent-infant bonding is crucial. “Western specialists say that if this bonding is not established…it will not develop later.
” (Miller, pg. 151). Many parents are under the misconception that ‘hothousing’, which is more education at an earlier age, is better. However, they are not quite right. Even professional educators have taken the position that early and more education for children is better. It is many professional educators belief that enrolling children in preschool, pre-kindergarten, and all-day kindergarten is better for the child. But some experts are theorizing that programs like all-day kindergarten only exist to encourage more women to reenter the workforce thereby increasing the local tax base.
This is not a valid reason for putting our children’s development at risk. In addition, according the Jeanette McCarthy Gallagher at Temple University, “There is a natural pace to the development of children. When we hothouse children, we superimpose a learning environment in order to make them learn faster. ” (ProQuest, New York Times, pg. 1). The truth is, children learn best from “play and interaction with their environment and from interactions with people” not from a structured academic program. (ProQuest, New York Times, pg. 2). Children must be allowed to grow and mature at their own natural pace.
The old saying ‘kids must be kids’ is based on this basic need. Dr. Sigel of the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey says “Denying, or at least not recognizing, the child’s active outreaching curiosity has negative consequences. ” (ProQuest, New York Times, pg. 2). When hothousing a child occurs parents run the risk of the children having what is known as achievement anxiety. This is when a child “come(s) to believe they are valued for what they memorize or produce or achieve”. (ProQuest, New York Times, pg. 2). It appears that there is more evidence that supports the belief that ‘mother knows best’.
Meaning, children belong in the care of their mothers, at home, where they can be allowed to play, daydream, and explore their environments. As I welcome a new group of first graders every year, I often wonder what is in store for the new year. They always seem to have a very wide range of personalities, abilities, and maturities. We have the well cared for children that have been raised at home by attentive, mature, well-educated mothers. We have the somewhat neglected children being raised at home by immature, inattentive mothers…some who have barely finished high school.
Then we have the children that have had to grow up in daycare spending an average of thirty-five hours a week away from working moms. Some of the working moms are well educated and others barely passed high school and are working minimum wage jobs, but all of them are putting their children in daycare. Children need to be children. They should not be exposed to all of the pressures of our adult working lives by having to spend most of their waking hours away from home in an extremely structured environment. I see it everyday; it’s like a ‘burn-out’ syndrome of sorts.
These kids should not have to be exposed at such an early age to “excessive sensory stimulation, over-regulation of children’s activities and daily schedules; small opportunity to be original…excessive stress from all-day socializing (one researcher likened the social stress of fulltime day care to taking part in a cocktail party that lasts all day, every day-without the lubricating effects of the alcohol! ). (ProQuest, Hard Cases, pg. 1). In addition to what teachers are witnessing in schools, there is medical evidence to support the negative and stressful effects of full-time daycare on children.
In a study performed by the Institute of Child Development of the University of Minnesota it was found “that in kids younger than three, levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, rose in the afternoon during full days they spent in day care, but fell when they got home”. (Negative Effects, pg. 2). This is concrete proof of the stress our kids are subjected to during all day daycare. Researchers have agreed that the quality of the daycare facility does matter. A child will suffer fewer negative effects if they are enrolled in a quality daycare program.
‘Quality’ means that the staff to child ratio is low, the staff is highly qualified by having college degrees, that there is a structured and supportive environment, and that there is a low staff turnover. “Many studies have shown the high quality daycare does not damage a child’s intellectual development (though it is evident that most daycare in the United States is substandard and therefore potentially damaging even in the area of intellectual development). (Essortment, pg. 2). Intellectual development is important, but in the very early years emotional development is most important.
Children need a strong sense of security to build self-confidence and maturity to handle stressful situations. “Children who attend full-time daycare, especially if they began in daycare before the age of two, are more aggressive, less socialized, and less mature emotionally than children who spend their early years with a primary caretaker with whom they have formed a strong attachment. Most experts strongly recommend against placing an infant under the age of one in full-time daycare at all. ” (Day care information, Essortment, pg. 2).
Over the years there have been countless studies on the effects of full-time daycare on children. Some of these studies are an attempt to validate different daycare programs; some are an attempt to ease women’s concerns about working full-time outside of the home, while other studies are an attempt to explain the negative effects on a child’s emotional and maturity development. While some studies have found a small number of children that excel in full-time, institutional daycare; most do not. Those that do are “hard-wired for happiness”.
(Hard Cases, pg. 2). Unfortunately this is not the case for most children. “It is not that all babies and young children exposed to full-time industrial daycare psychologically crash and burn, but that clear majorities suffer ill effects to their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being”. (Hard Cases, pg. 3). On the rare occasion when experts site how children thrive and develop greater independence because of attending daycare; what they are really doing are turning a negative into a positive.
“’Early independence’, when examined a little more closely, often describes looser parental and familial attachment, and/or greater reliance on the peer group at an age when, in most times, parental influence has customarily held sway”. (Hard Cases, pg. 3). This may be a partial explanation as to why some youth are more easily drawn into gangs as a substitute family. I believe that all-day, every day child care is having a negative effect on the development of children in the United States. More and more researchers are finding out that full-time daycare is indeed having a negative psychological and developmental effect on children.
And “That the troublesome behaviors last through at least sixth grade”. (ProQuest, Day Care, pg. 2). My conclusion as well as many researchers in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom is that it is best for a child to be cared for at home where “Parenting quality has stronger and more persistent effects on all aspects of children’s development that child-care experience”. (Are There Long Term Effects, pg. 2). Works Cited Cecilia Forsyth. (2010, February 18). All-day kindergarten is harmful. The Spectator, A. 8. Retrieved September 6, 2010, from Canadian Newsstand Complete.
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