Early Day Care Hurts Mother-Child Bond

Article excerpt


Q: My son is just over a year old. I quit my job when he was born, believing it was the right thing to do, but our finances have been so tight lately that I'm seriously considering going back to work. What are your feelings about putting a child of this age in day care?

A: Let me begin by saying that I understand the struggle you're facing. When our firstborn was 2 years old, I was finishing my doctoral work at the University of Southern California. Every available dollar was needed to pay my tuition and related expenses.

Although we didn't want Shirley to work when Danae was young, we felt we had no alternative. Shirley taught school, and our little girl was taken to a day care center each morning. One day when we arrived at the facility, Danae began to cry uncontrollably. "No. No. No, Daddy," she said to me. She had a look of terror in her eyes, and I suspected she had been very upset the last time she had been there. I could only imagine what had happened. I turned and walked back to the car carrying my precious daughter. When we were alone, I said, "Danae, I promise that you will never have to stay there again." And she never did.

I share this to underscore the point that though I'm sympathetic with your financial anxieties, I still would advise you to avoid the day care option if at all possible. My opinion on this subject is based on hard data.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has conducted the most comprehensive study of this issue to date. More than 1,100 mothers and children and 10 premier child care sites across the United States were evaluated when the children were 6, 15, 24 and 36 months of age. Preliminary findings confirm that leaving a very young child in a day care facility is associated with less sensitive mothering and child engagement. The child also tends to react less positively to the mother. In other words, the bond between mother and child is affected somewhat negatively by early day care experience, especially if the mother tends by nature to be insensitive.

Q: Do you have any practical suggestions for couples who are serious about making the effort to live on one income? …