There has been ongoing research to decide which is “better” or more beneficial, parental care or day care, in terms of child rearing. Day care is care for a child, or children, that is provided by trained or untrained caregivers in a specific day care center setting. Parental care is more informal and takes place in the home by the mother or father of the child. In regards to socio-emotional development of the child, there are both positive and negative effects of mother care and day care during childhood, but which is better? Socio-emotional development during early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence depends on the quality of care, the type of care, and the amount of time spent in care.
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Socio-emotional development includes relationships, social skills, work habits, and behavioral problems, but it also includes peer pressure, emotions, and personality. Development is “the pattern of change that begins at conception and continues through the lifespan” (Santrock, 2008, p.5). This is important to consider when raising children. Education is key to making informed decisions about what type of care the child should be introduced to. With the amount of parents, both mothers and fathers, working full-time jobs, the amount of children in day care is rising. Parents need to know just what to expect when sending their children to day care, such as behavioral problems and a low work ethic, but also the emphasis on social skills and relationships. They need to understand the importance of the quality of care their children are being provided with, as well as the importance of education in day care. People who do not have kids, for whatever reason, will still be affected as it is the first step in education for the up and coming generation. They might be future co-workers, or even the person taking care of them in a nursing home one day.
Early childhood is a time period from the end of infancy to about five or six years of age in which “children learn to become more self-sufficient and care for themselves, develop school readiness skills (following instructions, identifying letters, etc), and spend hours in play with peers” (Santrock, 2008, p.17). A more concrete example would be the typical preschool child. Middle childhood is a period of age from about six to eleven years old. In this age period, children learn “fundamental skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, they are exposed to a larger world and its culture, and achievement becomes a central theme while self-control increases” (Santrock, 2008, p.17). This would typically be seen in elementary school children. Adolescence is broad and ranges from ten to twelve through eighteen to twenty-one which is the transition from being a child to an early adult. Within this range, there are “rapid physical changes, a pursuit of independence and identity prominence, logical, abstract, and idealistic thought, and more time spent away from the family” (Santrock, 2008, p.17). Quality, type, and amount of time spent in care all play a role in the benefits of child care. Behavior, social skills, relationships, and work habits are affected by the quality, type, and amount of time in child care.
In terms of research there are many mixed opinions on how child care affects behavior. For the most part, the consensus is that the more time spent in day care facilities during early childhood, the more aggressive and disobedient the child was to become. This can lead to future problems related to schoolwork, or even legal issues down the road. If the child learns these acts now, they might continue them in the future and get themselves in major trouble. Some studies showed that the effects of daycare, such as disruptiveness and aggression, had vanished by kindergarten (McMartney, 2004) (Carey, 2007) or third grade (Jacobsen, 2005), and others found the problems lasting until fifth or sixth grade (MSNBC, 2007). Even though some studies did show problematic behavior, all the studies concluded that its effects did not last further than the sixth grade. Lalli (2010) argued that the quality of care made the decision to whether or not the students behaved badly, but one study in particular showed that “Even high quality care did not reduce the number of behavior problems among those in childcare” (Marano, 2007). Overall, the more time children spend in non-parental care arrangements up until early childhood, the more problematic behavior and conflict with adults they had around the age of kindergarten (McMartney, 2004). There is also the opposition that states “aggression, impulsivity, and egocentrism may reflect the American values that are often prompted or approved of by teachers and day care providers” (Lalli, 2010). This could be for any such reason, such as lack of training or time to address the behavior. “Environmental factors such as cultural expectations, adult and peer pressure, and social agents that award aggression have been proposed to account for aggression that is mainly physical in boys and mainly verbal in girls” (Santrock, 2008, p.365). Overall, there is more research to defend that child care in a day care setting contributes to more behavioral problems than does parental care. “Every year spent in [child care] centers for at least ten hours per week was associated with a one percent higher score on a standardized assessment of problem behaviors” (Carey, 2007). Most of these results are studied and observed in early and middle childhood, but it can leave lasting effects on the child and can lead to behavioral problems in the future such as delinquency. This may be truer for those who are awarded for aggression and might be trying to prove themselves in their community or uphold a naughty reputation such as in a gang.
Relationships and attachment are also affected from the type, quality, and amount of child care. Again, the consensus was that the more time spent in day care, the more reports of conflicts between child and parents or teachers in all ages, especially adolescence. Regarding attachments, some, like Lalli (2010), say that there is a fear that separating the child from the mother can cause emotional harm and disrupt the bond, but it largely depends on the child and the attachment already formed between the mother and child. Attachment can be measured on a scale and tested by “Strange Situation.” This is when the mother and child go through a series of separations and reunions and the behavior of the child is studied to decide which type of attachment the child has with the mother. This is often researched in infants, but the types of attachments can serve as a prediction for future relationships. One study proved that “children who were considered to have secure attachments to their mothers experienced negative effects from day care, while insecurely attached children appeared to benefit from the out of home care” (Lalli, 2010). This could be due to a variety of reasons and can largely depend on the home situation. The mother child relationship is an important one as it serves as a boundary for future relationships. If the mother is neglectful towards the child, the child might seek someone who actually does care for him or her, which can, in turn, make the child to be extremely dependant. This will also make relationships with peers difficult. The child can become so attached and dependent on friends that the child could fall prey to their every wish and command, or the child can have the complete opposite effect and will not trust anyone and find it hard to form any type of relationship at all. If the attachment is secure, the child can form healthy relationships with peers during early and middle childhood, and healthy relationships during dating in the adolescent time range. It’s not just the quantity of time parents spend with their children that is important in forming relationships and child development, but the quality of parenting is important as well (McMartney, 2004). The relationships and attachments formed in infancy are important in adolescent relationships with parents. “Attached adolescents were less likely than those who were insecurely attached to engage in problem behaviors, such as juvenile delinquency and drug abuse” (Santrock, 2008, 430). During adolescence there is expected conflict between the child and the parents, but is there a correlation to child care?
Social skills are the ability of the child to actively communicate with peers and adults, which thus includes forming relationships. Social skills can also stem from how actively involved the child is in a hobby or extracurricular activity. Ultimately, it is making the child open up to new experiences and “get outside the box.” There is evidence noting that “time spent in high quality day care was positively related to the number of peers the child had in grade school and the number of extracurricular activities they were involved in” (Lalli, 2010). In childhood, the focus of peer relations is to be liked by classmates and ultimately to be included. Friends are important in shaping the development of children and adolescents. Being overlooked or rejected can have damaging effects on the child. “Adolescents say they depend more on friends than parents to satisfy the need for companionship, reassurance of worth, and intimacy” (Santrock, 2008, 434). Not having friends may or may not be linked to suicide attempts in adolescence. Regarding social skills in the classroom environment, one study in particular believed “children who experience high-quality [day] care show better social skills and fewer behavioral problems” (McMartney, 2004), but others claim that day care centers merely encourage social interaction, between peers and adults, which builds their social skills, but the behavior problems still exist.
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There was not much research on the child’s work habits, but for the most part, according to Marano (2007), independence is taught more in a home, parental care setting than in day care. In day care, they encourage group work and peer relations and that is why “the more time spent in [day] care, the more the child did not work independently, did not use their time wisely, and didn’t complete their work promptly in grade school” (Marano, 2007). This also has to do with the quality of the care. If the day care is one with complete organization and high educational value, of course the child will perfect these simple tasks. That covers early childhood, but in terms of middle childhood and adolescence, this could be related not only to procrastination, work ethic, and motivation later on in life, but also the drop-out rate in adolescence and what types of education and jobs they receive.
There is no definitive answer to which is more beneficial. Day care has a positive effect on both relationships and social skills, but a negative effect on behavior and work habits. Even though this might be true, day care still gives the child an idea of what he or she is going to experience in the future, such as relationships and education. Although day care does not benefit behavior and work habits, those are both things that a parent could work on as well. Unless neglected, there are many opportunities for a parent and child to interact and build a strong work ethic and work on obedience. Since some day care centers are not of high-quality with no organization and educational value, they may be more detrimental to child development as they could expose the child to behaviors and such that are not disciplined or cared for by the caregiver. In quality centers, caregivers are sensitive and responsive to the needs of the children and most offer an enriching and educational environment that promotes development and encourages children to be pro-social. It is understandable that every situation is different and that everyone has their own opinions and views that they are welcome to. “Attention from the parent is far more important than the type, quality, or amount of care the child receives” (MSNBC, 2007). The effects of childcare are complex. “Family factors (maternal sensitivity, quality of environment, income) are more consistent predictors of children’s socio-emotional outcomes than any aspects of early nonmaternal care experiences, but the quality of the child care can be significant for children who do not receive care at home” (Child Day Care Center, 2009). Overall it seems that certain types of children benefit more than others from day care, such as those with secure attachments, and those coming from disadvantaged homes where they would otherwise experience impoverished and unstimulating environments. Day care promotes socio-emotional development more so than parental care in regards to behavior, social skills, relationships, and work habits.
According to the multiple studies reviewed, relationships, social skills, education, and group work are prompted in quality care settings and problematic behavior is promoted generally in day care. Both in-home care and day care have positive effects on socio-emotional development of children that carry on positively throughout the years, but day care seems to have a better and more educational value for the child, especially if the day care is of high quality and/or the child is from a neglectful home. It largely seems to depend on each child as an individual to determine the “best.”
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