Saturday, June 10, 2006

British Study: Better For Kids If Mom Stays Home

From the Daily Mail:
Babies should be looked after by their mothers in their first years of life, Tony Blair’s favourite think tank signalled yesterday.

It published research that admitted babies and toddlers sent for long hours in daycare learn less quickly, have worse health, and behave worse than other children.

It also suggested that the children suffer because mothers who return home from work tired and unhappy are less able to give them the time and full attention they need.

The warnings over childcare published by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggest a dramatic rethink over working mothers and childcare at the heart of the Blairite establishment.

Since 1997 Labour has poured billions into subsidising nurseries and childminders through the tax credit system, through direct daycare benefits, and through the troubled Sure Start project meant to help the neediest families.

Persuading mothers to go back to work soon after their children are born has been a central plank of Mr Blair’s ‘project.’

Three years ago the Department of Trade and Industry - then headed by current Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt - published a paper describing those who do not return to jobs in the first two years after childbirth as a ‘problem.’

It said mothers who stayed at home were not giving the taxpayer a return on the cost of their education.

Despite growing evidence from independent studies that full-time childcare can have harmful effects, new figures from the Education Department last week boasted proudly that a record number of more than 700,000 children now attend nurseries for more than four hours a day.

But two articles in the IPPR’s journal said the children would be better off staying at home with their mothers.

Psychologist and TV presenter Oliver James, who described himself as a ‘reasonable left wing person,’ said he was sceptical about the drive for ‘affordable childcare.’

He said: ‘My proviso comes in when politicians, who have the evidence about how important early care is on children’s development, decide that only people doing paid work are of any value and that there is a moral duty for us all to do a paid day’s work. Trying to persuade parents of very young children, particularly single mothers, to leave them and go out to work, while not an unqualified no no, fails to recognise that somebody has got to be left holding the baby and that, on the whole, it is better if it is one of the child’s biological parents up to the age of three.’ Oliver James added: ‘On the whole children who attend daycare under three are at greater risk of being aggressive.’

A second article by US academic Janet Waldfogel told IPPR subscribers that in the first year after birth ‘there are reasons to think that exclusive mother care would be best for a child.’

She cited learning ability, health and social development as adversely affected for those who are in childcare before their first birthday.

‘Across all three dimensions, with all things held equal, children tend to do worse if their mothers work in the first year of life,’ she said. Children also did best if they lived in two-parent families, she added, in a view that conflicts with the Government’s policy that claims all kinds of families are just as good as each other.
This of course, flies in the face of feminist dogma.

Feminists have long since moved beyond the position that women should have equal opportunity in the workforce. Rather, they think that women should work, and indeed are being anti-social and traitors to their gender if they don’t.

Interestingly, studies like these could be used by liberals who oppose U.S. welfare reforms of the last decade or so. Those reforms have stressed getting welfare moms off welfare and into jobs, with the consequence that their children are in child care.

We think the tangle of pathology that surrounded the old AFDC program, which produced massive long-term dependency, had harmful consequences for children which fully justify the risks of child care. Certainly, self-sufficient two-parent families are radically different from single moms living on welfare.

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