The Truth about Child Care

  Media pundits and many on the talk-show circuit are outraged with the announcement this week of the largest long-term study of child care in U.S. history. Anti-day care folks are excited, because the study supports their view. The pro-day care crowd, however, are on the warpath, because the study says their programs have failed. Unfortunately for those trying to claim bias, this research wasn't conducted by conservatives; it's from the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health. They followed 1,100 children in ten cities and in many settings: relatives, nannies, large day care centers, preschools, and more, over a ten-year period. The results? There's a direct correlation between the amount of time spent in child care and undesirable traits, like aggression, defiance, and disobedience. Dr. Jay Belsky, a principal investigator for the study, reports that "as time goes up, so do behavior problems. Children who spent over thirty hours a week in child care are more demanding, more non-compliant, and they are more aggressive." They scored higher on "cruelty," "bullying," and "meanness," as well as "talking too much." This is especially sobering when we're hearing so much these days about bullying in the schools, with violence and persecution of certain students. There are many, like Senator Hillary Clinton and modern-day disciples of the Enlightenment thinker Jean Jacque Rousseau (who thought all kids should be raised by the state), who have claimed that, with "quality" child care and more taxpayer dollars, such problems would be solved. Well, the new study puts the lie to that idea. It shows that children who spend most of their time in child care are three times as likely to exhibit behavior problems in kindergarten as those cared for primarily by their mothers. It holds true regardless of the type or quality of care, family socio-economic status, or even if the mothers themselves were the paid care givers. Despite criticism and denials, once again common sense wins out. Have you ever looked into the face of an infant when its mother comes into view? He or she lights up whenever that beloved person comes near. Now, Daddy and others are special, but mothers they adore. When this natural relationship doesn't exist, children develop an underlying anger. At what, they may not know, but the bitterness they feel comes out later in behavior problems, and in the sense that something is wrong. Researchers explored many possible causes for these results: overworked parents, poorly trained day care workers, and more. But they neglected the most important reason. God put it into the heart of mothers and children to spend their hours together as much as possible. Now, let me be quick to say that there are some parents (like single moms) who have no other choice than day care. Many single moms, in my eyes, are heroines for the way in which they handle difficult situations. But even as they do it, we must not fail to grasp what we know to be true and what this new study affirms: that where there is a choice, moms need to spend quality and quantity time with their kids. There is simply no substitute for the mother- child bond. As Christians, we know why. It's a relationship designed by God, and nothing -- nothing -- can replace it. For further reference: Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. "Link Found Between Behavioral Problems and Time in Child Care." New York Times Online, 19 April 2001.


Chuck Colson


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