Before You Place Your Child In Day Care...

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"I want my mommy"

The first six years are most important. Stay at home! Quit your job! Pre-school day cares should be considered only in desperate circumstances.

Never mind who is going to fund the increasing need for child-care facilities. Has anyone investigated the harm of dropping off a child on the way to work in the morning & then picking him up after work? Two seemingly unrelated news items in the newspaper caught my eye. One was on a 15 year old in Deham, Mass. who is being tried for the baseball-bat bludgeoning death of a 14 yr old classmate. When interviewed by detectives, "He was very calm, almost bored. Sort of like,' Don't bother me.' He grinned when I asked him if he knew where Shaun was. " The boy's accusers are his friends who turned him in after the teenager had shown them his classmate's body" ("Teen on trial denies knowledge of death," AP, 3/4/88 )

The other articles were on the editorial page. "Day Care: What now?" headlined the editorial." Child-care coordination essential," Caryl Stewart, Burlington's Ecumenical Action Ministry chairperson wrote in a Vermont Perspective.

There are no simple solutions to any of the complex problems which confront our community, but I would like the brethren to meditate on some information brought together by those who must deal with the fruit of the current child-care situation. The debate in the community has mostly centered on funding issues: who should pay? Ms. Stewart states her hew of the problem, "Child care is a classes example of the cultural lag that occurs when society has not caught up with a fundamental change it has created." Though I believe Ms. Stewart probably had financial & coordination issues in mind, her observation is correct when it comes to the "cultural lag" produced by fundamental changes in child care.

Child development expert Edward F. Zigler of Yale University warned, "young children placed in day-care centers may be harmed by the trauma of separation from their mothers, comparable to psychological thalidomide. " Statistically, the highest increase in the rate of labor force participation has been among women with children 3 years & younger. With the explosion of mothers in the work-place, the supply of child-care cannot possibly keep up with the demand. According to the National Commission on Working Women, there are currently 5 million child-care providers, 3 million working full-time. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but the majority of them have little or no training. The work is ill-paid ($2,200 - $12,500 annual average). Yet, more than half of all women in households with children work. The number is put -around 30 million women employed full-time in the U.S. The percentage of working hardly "high-quality", as most caregivers & parents realize. Some of it is no more than "child warehousing": children parked in front of a TV or left lying in a crib.

A research project by Dr. R. Moskins in 1985 investigated primary school age children who had been reared in an extremely high-quality day care center at the University of North Carolina. They were found, " more likely to use aggressive acts of hitting, kicking, & pushing than children in the control group...more likely to swear, threaten, & argue...teachers were more likely to rate these children as being seriously deficit in social behavior...less apt to use strategies of walking away, discussion, or compromise to avoid or extract themselves from ...aggression." Dr. Belsky, citing this research & other similar reports, wrote, "the risk of insecure infant-mother ate attachment under conditions of extensive nonmaterial care ( as it is routinely experienced in this country) increases when infants from relatively well-functioning, two-parent families are reared in these particular circumstances."

So, what harm can come if a child is not "attached" to his mother? Plenty, according to experts. From Dr. Ken Magid's book, High Risk, the rapid statistical increase of kids who kill is linked to a lack of parent-child bonding in these young murderers. Examination of adult psychopaths reveals a common denominator: parental neglect between the ages of6 months & 5 years. Consider only one news-story which is similar to thousands of others. "Prosecutors & detectives met in the case of another child killer in March 1986. At issue was whether to bring criminal charges against a 5 year-old boy from Miami Beach who pushed his 3 year-old playmate off an apartment house balcony to his death. Asst. State's attorney Abe Laeser said,' He confessed to pushing the 3 year-old off the balcony, even as the child hung on for dear life. The confession was made as the smiling five year-old ate pizza & Coke." Michael Rutter, in his book, Maternal Deprivation Reassessed, Says the absence of attachment leads to "affectionless phychopathy...beginning with an initial phase of clinging, dependant behavior followed by attention-seeking, uninhibited, indiscriminate friendliness & finally, a personality characterized by lack of guilt, an inability to keep rules & an inability to form lasting relationships." Obviously, not all of these neglected children become Mansons or Bundys, but all suffer some form of psychological damage. Not all A.P.D. (affectionless phychopathy dependant) personalities commit crimes or behave so bizarrely as to be noticed. Some estimates put the number of psychopathic personalities in the U.S. as high as 5% of the population, 13 million. The majority of patients in prison or mental institutions are suffering from varying degrees of psychopathy, & according to one mental health specialist, "Only the unlucky or unsuccessful psychopaths ever allow themselves to be placed in a controlled environment, such as prison or an institution."

Space does not allow a full treatment of the problem, but I would like to suggest that the solution is not going to be fundamentally financial or organizational, Though enlightened support of the financially strapped family or single parent household is a place to start. The real solution is personal & relational. Children need the full-time love & care of their parents. Nothing can take the place of the strong bond formed between parents & their children.

God designed the human condition to work in a manner consistent with His design. Just as a houseplant will die without water, or a goldfish turns belly up without a clean tank, conscience & character are not self-creating. These qualities will not form in a child who is not closely nurtured in the first five years of life. Research shows that neglect for even relatively short periods in a child's life (due to patient illness, death, moving, etc. ) can damage the child's character. Some Christians believe they are "caring" for their child so long as they assume they have an adult or teenager baby-sitting them. I have counseled many parents who could not understand their child's lack of affection, caution, & conscience. These parents assume that because the child never articulated their abandonment for the parent that the feeling did not exist. They fail to understand that their behavior will always be "normal " to the child because the child has no basis upon which to judge the appropriateness of their parents. One of the characteristics of abused children is that they will still choose to be with an abusive parent than a loving stranger. Children of alcoholic parents develop easily recognizable & common symptoms as adults: unfocused guilt, inability to form lasting close relationships, self-control abnormalities, & always an abiding conviction that their life & relationships as a child were "normal."

Those who believe the current myth that child-care facilities are the answer to our culture's economic & social dislocation of the family deny the clear plan of God. The tragedy is that the cost of the mgh does not fall upon those who make the choice, rather that young lives are wasted by parental ignorance & greediness.

(Jeffery Kingery - Gospel anchor)


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