July 17th 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Indonesian elections ... and Australia

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Latham affair lifts election temperature

AGRICULTURE: Rural unrest spreads

QUARANTINE BREACH: Exotic disease outbreak threatens Qld citrus industry

INDUSTRY: Singapore recovers on back of manufacturing

FAMILY: Child care - in whose interests?

ARTS & MEDIA: 'The next program contains...'

FILM: AFA calls for ban on 'arthouse smut'

MIDDLE EAST: Can Iraq's interim government end the insurgency?

NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Terrorism marks the end of deterrence

UNITED STATES: Curtains on Camelot

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Skimming administrative fat / What about Uganda? / 17 years of war

Premier Beattie's ethanol 'mania' (letter)

Sugar Package (letter)

Mondragon (letter)

Journalists and Iraq (letter)

BOOKS: George Santayana, by Noël O'Sullivan

BOOKS: Tilting the Playing Field, by Jessica Gavora

OPINION: Time to act on North Korean tyranny

Books promotion page

Child care - in whose interests?

by Bill Muehlenberg

News Weekly, July 17, 2004
DAY CARE DECEPTION, by Brian C. Robertson
Encounter Books, Rec price: $33.00

We are currently witnessing a grand social experiment, the results of which are not fully in as yet. But the social science evidence so far is not good. We are allowing an entire generation of babies and young children to be raised by strangers. While adults might benefit from such arrangements, the well-being of children is being put at risk.

That is the sobering conclusion of a new volume, Day Care Deception*, by a research fellow at the Washington-based Family Research Council. With extensive documentation, Brian Robertson demonstrates how extended periods of day care are harming our children.


Brian Robertson shows how feminist ideology, coupled with a sympathetic media and academia, have managed to convince many that parenting is too important to be left to parents, that bureaucrats know better than mum and dad, and that day-care centres are in fact good for children.

All three assertions are incorrect. But the growth of the day-care industry is hard to counter. In the US, federal subsidies to the child-care market rocketed from US$2 billion in 1965 to $15 billion in 2000. And as more and more mothers enter the paid workforce (most because of economic necessity, not personal preference) the day-care juggernaut races onwards.

These social trends have resulted in a devaluing of motherhood, a weakening of the family unit, and most importantly, negative outcomes for our children. The harmful effects of extended periods of day care include higher rates of illness, greater chance of sexual abuse, higher rates of aggression, and greater risk of antisocial personality disorders.

The emotional, psychological and physical harm to children who spend lengthy amounts of time in day care has been well documented for some decades now. Yet the social science evidence is often attacked, covered up or ignored.

Those who try to present the evidence are personally abused and vilified. It is just not politically correct to tell the truth on this issue.

Furiously opposed

The story of researcher Jay Belsky is a case in point. An early proponent of day care, he was the darling of feminists and academia. But his research caused him to have a change of heart, and when he started to publish data showing negative consequences, he was furiously opposed.

Although he sought to be as cautious and restrained as possible, the child-care establishment and its supporters distorted his findings and blackballed his research. He quickly became persona non grata in the eyes of many. Robertson carefully chronicles this and similar episodes in the day-care wars.

Robertson reviews the studies which show how early day-care harms the mother-infant bond which is so important in a child's development. Of course, defenders of day-care put a different spin on the findings. Children in day-care are not more aggressive, simply more "independent". And they even try to say that if such aggression exists, it is a virtue, not a vice.

Moreover, they argue that children do better socially and educationally when in day-care. But, as Robertson shows, solid research on these matters points in the other direction.

Media role

He also notes that when a study does come out which suggests that children do well, even better, in day care, it is always front-page news. But when the more numerous and reliable studies come along, warning of the negative consequences, they are buried in the back pages of the press, if they appear at all.

Instead of putting more money into day-care, we should be restructuring our economic policies so that those families who choose to let their infants stay at home in the early years can do so.

But much of the modern corporate world is in league with feminist ideology here. Both identify women's interests with "independence from husbands and family, and a corresponding greater dependence on corporation and government".

Earlier feminists recognised the importance of the home and of motherhood. Modern feminists do not, and much of the free market is happy to side with the new version of things.

Thus Robertson calls for an overhaul of both government and corporate practices, to reflect the desire of most mothers to be at home with their babies. His concluding chapter offers suggestions on how parents can reclaim parenting. Social and taxation policies must be reworked to allow for genuine parental choice. Those parents who wish to look after their own children should be given the financial incentives to do so.

  • Bill Muehlenberg is national vice-president of the Australian Family Association

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