Friday, April 20, 2001

Children and Time Away from Their Parents

In a recent NHK satellite broadcast of an edition of ABC news, it was reported that a 10-year, 10-city federal study, found that children who spent the most time in day care away from their parents were more likely to be aggressive and exhibit behavioral problems when they got to kindergarten. This same report was taken up in the International Herald Tribune-Asahi Shimbun where I read about it in more detail.

In this study, billed as the largest long-term study of child care ever conducted, over 1300 children in a variety of settings were followed, not only in day care situations, but with baby-sitters and with other care-giving relatives as well. It was found that children in day care scored higher in terms of aggression. The study found the findings held up regardless of family background, i.e. male or female, parents' annual income, etc. The article cautioned, however, that the results of this study do not in any way mean that "education by anyone other than the parent breeds aggression." The children in the study (age 3 months to 4 year olds) spent an average of 26 hours a week away from their parents.

According to this study, children who spend more than 30 hours per week in an environment away from their parents "scored higher on items like 'gets in lots of fights, 'cruelty,' 'explosive behavior,' as well as 'talking too much,' 'argues a lot,' and 'demands a lot of attention.'" So, Dr. Jay Belsky, a principal researcher on the study, commented that, "If it follows that the more time the child spends away from the parent, in various child-rearing settings, the more disorderly he/she becomes, to avoid these possibilities, less time should be spent with non-parental care-givers. Parents should spend more time caring for their children and work part-time."

Problems arise when small children spend significant time away from their parents. I wonder, then, how those in the United States, where there are a countless number of single parent families and families where both parents are working, will deal with this dilemma?

- MT

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