Current child care debate must be placed in larger societal context

08/19/04

New theoretical perspective on the current child care controversy prioritizes role of government policy, family and workplace.

The last 50 years have brought about many changes in families, dramatically altering the way in which many children are raised. One major shift that has prompted a great deal of study and controversy is families who place their young children in child care settings so that mothers can return to work. This has led to a large body of research on the impact of the quality of early childcare on children's development. Much of the early research focused solely on the effects of child care in isolation from all other aspects of the children's lives, condemning both the working moms and the child care facilities for neglecting the children.

An article by Nancy L. Marshall in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science takes another look at the issues surrounding child care. Using ecological systems theory – in which the child's experience is nested within interconnected systems -- as a framework, she focuses on the links between the quality of child care and the children's development.

"A full understanding of the role of the quality of early child care requires consideration of the interplay among childcare, family, workplace, and society," asserts Marshall, Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College.

By placing what we know about the quality of early child care and children's development – higher quality care produces healthier development -- in this larger ecological context, the author is able to see past the blame and suggest directions for future research and practice: "we must integrate our societal goals of supporting healthy families, economic self-sufficiency, and women's employment with our goals of supporting healthy development and school readiness for children," Marshall concludes.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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