Thursday, June 27, 2019

Is Day Care Good for Children?

You have heard it over and over again. The solution to a new mother’s problem balancing childcare with work is day care. It’s been around so often that you are probably numb to it. Last week however, Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposed a new bill, called the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act. It proposed a flood of government funded, government regulated day care centers. 

As with all of these programs, it sounds good. It sounds like day care is the solution for women who want to keep working, even though they have very young children. And yet, as Erica Komisar points out in an important Wall Street Journal op-ed, day care is bad for children. It should not be news. We should know all about it by now. And yet, in our ideologically driven age, we ignore it.

Komisar explains the point clearly:

Day care may be cost effective, but it is unhealthy for the emotional well-being of children under 3. Infants are neurologically fragile, and the first thousand days of life are a critical window of social-emotional right-brain development, which depends on the physical and emotional presence of the primary caregiver, usually the mother.

Mothers are biologically important to regulate children’s emotions from moment to moment by soothing them when they are in distress—and also to buffer them from stress. Only after age 3 do children develop the ability to regulate their own emotions and become resilient to stress.

If the mother can’t be with the child for the first three years, a consistent primary caregiver—ideally a relative—is the next-best alternative. If paid child care is necessary, the ratio of children to caregivers should be no greater than 3 to 1. That’s simply not cost-effective in institutionalized day care. Even the most skilled, well-paid and empathic caregiver can’t give sufficient care to more than three children under 3.

How do advocates of early day care rationalize their policy? They declare that toddlers in day care will learn early socialization. Unfortunately, Komisar notes, very young children cannot deal with socialization:

Some day-care advocates cite the benefits of early socialization. But children under 2 aren’t equipped psychologically or emotionally to be social in a group setting. The day-care environment is stressful and overstimulating to an infant, whose nervous system is still developing, and who depends upon the primary caregiver for emotional security and feeling of safety.

As for the research, a study out of Oxford University has shown that group day care for children under the age of 2 produces psychological damage:

A study by Oxford’s Allan Stein and Kathy Sylva found that participation in group day care before age 2 increases a child’s likelihood of developing behavioral and emotional issues later in childhood as a reaction to coping with the fear of abandonment and loss. This can take the form of aggression, anger and difficulty in establishing intimate relationships.

In today’s Senate Warren’s bill is dead on arrival. If she becomes the presidential candidate or even the president, watch out.


sestamibi said...

Well, you know, it takes a village after all . . .

David Foster said...

Highly-educated and/or high-income people tend to like "artisan" things...artisan bread, artisan this, artisan that. If it were remotely possible/practical to buy *cars* that were hand-made in people's homes rather than being made in a factory, they would probably do that.

But when it comes to child-raising, they tend to reject the artisan approach in favor of the kinderfabrik factory.

Or, in some cases, they attempt to preserve some flavor of artisan child-raising by hiring au pairs...but are all in favor of the mass-production approach for those people who are not as well off.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Good points... thank you.