Day Care Study

June 1, 1999

A few months ago a major study on day care was published in Developmental Psychology which supposedly found no difference in the development of "children who mothers were employed versus children whose mothers were not employed." This latest revelation was supposed to make working mothers feel better about their decision to put their child in day care. In fact, the author of the study (Elizabeth Harvey) said, "Working mothers have a lot of guilt. I hope this study will alleviate some of that guilt."

At the time, many (including me) had questions about the study and wondered if the researchers considered all the data. Now a few months later, it appears that those initial concerns were justified.

For example, the study doesn't distinguish between various child-care arrangements, and seems to fly in the face of common sense. As one commentator put it, "Yuppies who believe class size is crucial to learning and that they can increase their children's IQ by playing Mozart in the nursery think leaving newborns with strangers for 8 to 10 hours a day has no negative impact."

Karl Zinsmeister, writing in the American Enterprise, quoted a letter from a mother with a master's degree in social psychology. "What I saw broke my heart. Babies were lined up, six in a row, crying, waiting for their meals. Toddlers were still in their cribs, some with tear-stained cheeks . . . with looks of having given up hope of personal attachment a long time ago."

Significantly, the study also stopped with 12-year-olds, just before the teen years when emotional problems created by early separation from mothers begin to surface. In attempting to alleviate the guilt of working mothers, I believe the study ignored valid concerns about the emotional needs of children placed in day care.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.