Childcare Research

There is a wealth of research that supports FTM’s assertions about the importance of loving and consistent care in a child’s earliest years – and the family structure that best delivers this:

Couple Penalty

Click here for annual reviews from CARE, a charity looking at public policy and practical caring initiatives. This shows how the taxation system still favours single parents.

Next Steps for early learning and childcare

Section 8 Annexe A: Evidence in this government report (p 70 of report, p 72 of the PDF file)- outlines evidence about benefits on child development/cognitive ability etc of parental care and also parents’ preferences to do the caring themselves.

The government’s latest research is pointing out that a substantial number of parents do not use childcare and that it’s not just affordability that holds them back – but rather their own gut instinct about what constitutes the best care for their children.The picture is definitely shifting.

£18.5m a-day non-parental childcare subsidy

The UK government’s minister for equality said, “The Government are providing substantial help, totalling £18.5 million a day, for working families through the working tax credit. We provide £3 million a day to help working families with 80 per cent. of their child care costs. A lot is being done and we hope to do a lot more.”

FTM Comment: And how does the government help a mother who forfeits a salary to stay at home and provide in-house childcare? This is the most costly option of all for parents who do their best to get by on just ONE income which has to stretch to support two adults and children – but the government will not help.

Nursery children arrive at school with bad attitude – and it rubs off

Click here for a summary of recent research, as reported in The Times.

Breakthrough Britain – Family Breakdown

This 2007 report to the Conservative Party’s Social Justice Policy Group cites an FTM submission (p 74) calling for ‘parenting as a full time choice to be made more acceptable socially and less damaging financially.

Click here for FTM submissions.

An unexpected tragedy

Evidence for the connection between working hours and family breakdown in Australia. Click here for more.


Presentation by Prof. Gordon Neufeld in Frankfurt in May 2007. Click here for the professor’s website.

Improving Head Start for America’s Children

February 2007 ‘testimony to the house committee’ in the US.

This emphasizes the importance of parental child attachment and full involvement of the parent in the learning/ socialising process (instead of concentrating on maternal employment).

New research emphasizes that concentrating on early brain development (early education/language skills/socialising ) works less well if parents are not present. So the UK’s Children’s Centres/ Sure Start schemes turning into nursery provision and job centres are not the answer

Family Network calculates true daycare needs

100,000, not 500,000 additional daycare places would be sufficient if there were true freedom of choice.

Click here for this March 2007 report from the Family Network, Germany.

Early Child Care and Youth Development

March 2007 research by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in America. Click here for the Telegraph’s take on this report.

Child Poverty in Perspective

Click here for this Unicef report, published in February 2007.

Family Breakdown in the UK

‘Official policy to abolish “marital status” and disregard marriage in government-sponsored research is incompatible with the claim that every child matters, according to a new study by BCFT’s Harry Benson.’ Click here for the research.

It is impossible to be an FTM without income. A new mother is, generally, dependent on either the child’s father or the state. And the best outcomes are where she is married to her baby’s father.

Children now less able

Prof Michael Shayer researched the cognitive skills of 11-12-year-olds, and has found they are on average 2-3 years behind their peers of 15 years ago. He cites a lack of ‘experiential play’ as a probable cause. Click here for a Guardian report on this.

FTM belieces this might well be linked to the decline of parents at home, the more risk-averse, ‘indoor’ approach of childminders and nurseries, and the ‘home alone’ syndrome for older children, who are enjoined to stay at home in order to be physically safe.

Maternity and Paternity Rights and Benefits

Survey of Parents 2005 Employment Relations Research Series No 50 – Published by Dept of Trade and Industry March 2006

The most common reason for mothers not returning to work after childbirth is the desire to care for their children. Between 2002 and 2005 the proportion of non returners who cited that they had a preference to care for the children on a full time basis, rose from 61% to 79%. At the same time there was a decline in the proportion of mothers who stayed at home because they couldn’t find a job with the right hours or couldn’t earn enough to pay for childcare.

‘Parents and Carers in Britain today’ – Equal Opportunities Commission – March 2004

This fact sheet says that unpaid childcare provided by parents (mostly mums) is valued at a £220 billion. But the cumulative effect of time spent caring for children, or working part-time, means women are less likely to build up a pension. A woman’s retirement pension is on average only 57% of a man’s and they are much more likely to experience poverty in old age.

FTM Comment: Society should recognise the contribution and needs of carers who are mostly mothers? FTM believes that improving in employment legislation (flexible working rights etc) is not enough to protect the parent who is actively engaged in the care of young children. So, instead of directing more funding towards the development of daycare, and encouraging mothers back into work, the government must also recognise the value (economic and social) of unpaid care. In other words it must ensure that ‘care’ is rewarded through improved pension rights, higher child benefit rates, much longer maternity leave and more substantial extended career breaks.

So-called ‘Family-friendly’ practices are often ‘Family- UNfriendly’, encouraging parents to return to work, long before they and their children are ready to make the break.

Children under three are clearly better off being cared for by their mothers.

Click here for a full account of Penelope Leach’s ‘Families children and Childcare’ research.

Daycare increases maternal employment but not family income

Research by Public Health Intervention Research Unit,
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Reported in the BMJ (British
Medical Journal) October 2003

The aim was to assess the effects of providing daycare
facilities for young children on the health and welfare of disadvantaged

The hope was that providing better access to daycare facilities
might enable poor parents to take up paid work, thus increasing family

The study was carried out on two groups of parents. The
‘intervention group’ were offered ‘high quality daycare’ for their children
at the Early Years Centre in Hackney. the ‘control group’ used childcare
provision they secured for themselves, which consisted of part time places
at nursery schools, childminders, family or friends.

Conclusion. While the provision of daycare increased maternal
employment it did not increase family income. Children in the ‘intervention
group’ were more likely to have evidence of middle ear infection in one
or both ears.

Mothers going back to work early leads to slower
emotional development in their children

From a summary of an article ‘Parental Employment
and Children’s Welfare’ by John Ermisch and Marco Francesconi, to be published
by OUP in a forthcoming book: Labour Market Participation of Women and
Fertlity: The effect of social policy.’ Nov 2003

The study suggests that the short term effects of early
maternal employment leads to slower emotional development and weaker cognitive
outcomes, measured when children are between 4 and 12. In the longer term
it manifests in lower educational attainments for children in their late
teens and twenties. There is also evidence of worse performance in the
labour market, higher unemployment and a greater risk of early child bearing.

The impact of pre-school education: parental involvement is key

Institute of Education at London University, ‘The Effective Provision of Pre-school Education’ (EPPE), Kathy Sylva, Edward Melhuish

This major study, widely quoted in government circles, focused pre-dominantly on the impact of pre-school education on three and four years olds. It found that children with experience of pre-school education fared better at school than those without – as long as the quality of teaching and care provided by the pre-school provided good verbal interaction on a one-to-one basis. But full-time attendance leads to no better gains for children than part-time provision.

The best pre-school experiences were clearly those with a high level of parental involvement at home. According to the Guardian, the EPPE study acknowledes that ‘high levels of group care before the age of three (and particularly before the age of two) were associated with higher levels of anti-social behaviour at age three’.

Professor Ted Melhuish, who worked on the EPPE study, said in an interview with the Guardian in 2004 that ‘The quantity of daycare under the age of two affects some aspects of social development – there’s a slight risk of increased disruptive, anti-social behaviour and children less likely to obey rules and be less cooperative,’ he says to Madeleine Bunting. ‘You start to see it once children are spending 20-25 hours in daycare and the risks increase when they are spending more than 40 hours in daycare, which is not atypical if the woman is in full-time employment with two commutes.’

He pointed to the case of Sweden as evidence of what parents might want if they had real choice about childcare: ‘The Swedish case is very revealing – there was high-quality infant care available to all and heavily subsidised. It was widely used in the 70’s and 80’s, but in the early 90’s, parental leave was increased and now there is remarkably little use of childcare under 18 months. Parents voted with their feet.’

Continuing evidence that childcare can be harmful to child’s development

Belsky, J. ‘Infant daycare: A cause for concern’ Zero to Three. Bulletin of National Centre for Clinical Infant Studies 6 1986 pp 1-7

Reported on a steady trickle of evidence contradicting the view that childcare was not harmful to a child’s development, as research relating to ordinary children/typical daycare came in. Also assessed the number of hours away from the parents.

Children in daycare from infancy are less compliant, more aggressive and more likely to have behavioural problems.

*Belsky, J. new report ‘Development Risk (Still) Associated with Early Childcare’ 2001.

New reports that show that more than just 10 hrs per week of non-maternal care in the 1st year of life could adversely affect mother-infant security.

Also children in day-care from infancy are less compliant, more aggressive, less popular and more likely to have behavioural problems than peers whose mothers were at home.

Long periods in non-maternal care, particularly in the case of boys, have a negative impact on the son/ father relationship.

Away from mother’s care between 1-5 increase chances of problems later in life

Professor John Ermisch, Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Essex. ‘The Effect of Parents’ Employment on outcomes for children’ (Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2001

Longer periods of fulltime employment by mothers when their children were aged 1-5 tended to:

  • reduce the child’s chances of obtaining A-level qualifications.
  • increase the child’s risk of unemployment and other
    economic activity in early adulthood.
  • increase the child’s risk of experiencing psychological
    distress as a young adult.

Less affection and verbal communication for children away from maternal care

Melhuish, E.C. ‘Research on Daycare for Young Children in the United Kingdom’ in Melhuish, E.C. and Moss, P. (eds.), Daycare for Young Children: International Perspectives, London: Tavistock/Routledge,
1991 pp.152-153

‘There were significant differences between the childcare groups, with mothers and relatives showing higher levels of affection toward the study child than childminders who were in turn more affectionate than nursery workers.

Moreover, children in the home, relative and child minder groups received significantly more vocal communication than children in the nursery group and …the home group received significantly more
than the childminder group.

Also p 158 suggested that the number of staff and turnover in nurseries could produce instability of caregivers, known to be detrimental to an infant’s development.

Frequent changes in care setting detrimental to cognitive and linguistic development

Brannen, J. et al., Employment and Family Life: A Review of Research in the UK (1980-1994), Centre for Research on Family life and Employment, Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, Employment Department Research Series No.41, 1994.

Children who had experienced frequent changes of care setting were significantly slower in both cognitive and linguistic development. In the published and unpublished part of the research, this was, again, present when the children were six.

‘Quality childcare’ necessitates few changes in staff, however evidence shows that this is not common

Hennessy, E., Martin, S., Moss, P., Melhuish, E., Children and Daycare: Lessons from Research, London; Paul Publishing Company, 1992

According to the National Childcare Staffing Study, in a one-year period, four out of ten US nursery workers left their jobs. Over half of all child minders leave work every year and there is evidence
of similar high turnover in Britain.

Sending babies to nurseries can cause them distress and hinders their language development

Melhuish, E. & Moss, P. ‘The Daycare Project’ Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. undated.

Childcare children who went to nurseries before the age of nine months for more than 20 hours a week showed evidence of distress and negativism at 18 months and performed less well on language tests
at 3 years, in spite of having parents with higher status jobs and salaries and more qualifications than other parents. Research by Colin Trevarthon et al: babies learn to make sounds from the melodic and harmonious speech patterns of their mothers.

Sending infants earlier for longer periods of childcare can result in them managing less well socially and at school.

Vandell, D.L. & Corasaniti, M.A, ‘Childcare and the Family: Complex: Contributors to Child Development’ in McCartney, K., Childcare and Maternal Employment, San Francisco: Josey-Bass inc., 1990

Children who had received the most extensive and earliest childcare (begun during their first year of life) received the poorest teacher and parental ratings for peer relationships, compliance, work
habits and emotional health at the age of eight.

Away from parental care can effect young children emotionally

Violata, C. & Russell, C., ‘Effects of Non-maternal Care on Child Development: A Meta-analysis of Published Research.’ Paper presented at 55th annual convention of the Canadian Psychological Association, Penticton, British Columbia 1994.

A large scale synthesis from 88 studies concluded that regular non-parental care for more than 20hours a week had an unmistakably negative effect on socio-emotional development, behaviour and attachment of young children.

They also estimated that regular non-parental care increased the risk of children developing insecure bonds by 66%. They noted that if this increase were related to disease due to environmental factors,
it would be considered extremely serious and result in public health initiatives.

Egeland, B. & Hiester, M., ‘The Long-Term Consequences of Infant Daycare and Mother/Infant Attachments,’ Child Development, Vol.66,

The securely attached infants who had attended daycare before 12 months were more negative and poorly adjusted compared to those who had remained at home.

‘The daycare children, regardless of attachment classification…… had high behaviour problem scores.’

Child away from home more likely to be withdrawn and fearful.

*Cassidy , J. & Berlin, L.J., ‘The Insecure/Ambivalent Pattern of Attachment: Theory and Research.’ Child Development, Vol. 65 1994 pp971-91

When the mother/child bond is insecure or ambivalent, the child is less willing to explore the environment, more inclined to be fearful and more likely to withdraw from social activity.

Quiet and inhibited children tend to receive less attention in daycare situations

Fein, G.G., ‘Infants in Group Care: Patterns of Despair and Detachment,’ Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Vol.10, 1995 pp261-75.

Some children, particularly the quiet and inhibited who are ‘no trouble’, may be easy to ignore even in a high-quality centre and can end up neglected compared with their more demanding peers. Observationsof children entering daycare show how expressive children receive more and different forms of attention from staff. Infants whose distress at entry tends towards despair – like immobility and withdrawal, receive less attention and, six months afterwards, are more socially detached.

Undesirable effects of early childcare don’t go away.

Report to the government of Ontario Reversing the Real Brain Drain: The Early Years Study April 1999.

New findings from studies of the Early Child Care Research Network of the US National Institute of Child Health confirm the undesirable socio-emotional effects in children of non-maternal care, with poorer mother-child relationships and increased aggressiveness and disobedience at age six both at school and at home.

A Final Word from FTM

This above is just some of the research showing the effects on young children in non-maternal care. The younger the child and the longer time spent in childcare can also make a difference. FTM does not
reject the idea of mothers looking outside the home for childcare, but seeks to provide them with clear information and greater appreciation of the risks involved so that decisions can be made with fuller understanding.

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