Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Anti-Social Children?

Via the BBC, we hear of the sort of story that may have informed the recent increase in maternity leave, but which up to that reform, looks to have been flying in the face of the move to get parents back in the work place asap:

"Toddlers who spend three or more days a week in nursery are more likely to become anti-social, worried and upset, government research has found. The evaluation of a £370m scheme to expand children's centres found youngsters were more likely to behave poorly the longer they spent in care. But the report also found 30 hours in care increased children's confidence.

The research comes as teachers warn children are being "institutionalised" by the push to get mothers into work."

Two points here spring to mind here.

First, it would be pretty easy to infer from this that confidence and good behaviour are mutually exclusive, which wouldn't be a particularly nice idea really. Is it the case? Well, it seems that the confidence of the nursery child is of the kind that is achieved through a coercive process. It isn't something that the child freely desired, but something that they gained through a process of being forcibly removed from loved ones. It grows as a defensive reaction to the stress of separation and does not emerge from a genuine sense of rightness and wholeness. When confidence grows from a sense of doing the right thing, from integrity and a sense of congruence as happens when a child can freely choose to separate from his parents, my guess is that it is much less likely to be accompanied by poor behaviour.

Second, so what should we do about enabling the child's attachment figures to get back in the workplace? Options:

Make workplaces more child friendly - more flexi-time and more flexible working hours, and more opportunity to allow and engage children in the work space. (This really may not be nearly as mad as is made out).

We could choose to live less nuclear lives so that infants could develop a number of close attachment figures, so that they don't have to go to unloved childminders or into impersonal nurseries.

Create a culture where it becomes the norm for parents to be out of work following the birth of their children.

Make retirement ages become much more flexible so as to allow parents to work at the other end of their lives.

(more ideas welcome!)

It really would be worth it. The report goes on to say

"The 'tipping point' for daily attendance appears to be relatively low in relation to anti-social behaviour. When compared with children who attended either one or two days per week, children who attended for three days per week or more were significantly more anti-social.

The number of months in day-care also affected behaviour. For the group as a whole, the number of months children had been attending their neighbourhood nursery also had an impact, the study said. The longer they had been attending their neighbourhood nursery, the more anti-social they were.

Further analysis suggested that, when compared with children who had been attending their neighbourhood nursery for less than a year, children who had been attending for 18 months or more were rated as significantly more anti-social. "

The next bit is interesting from a home educators point of view, in that many of our groups are mixed age.

"The study also found young children showed more "worried and upset behaviours" when they attended a mixed-age room with children aged four and over. In mixed groups, they were more likely to frown, shrug, pout or stamp their feet when given an idea for playing or to be worried about not getting enough attention, or access to toys, food or drink. Thus, mixed-aged groups may be better for children in terms of cognitive outcomes, but not in terms of behavioural outcomes."

The thing is, we don't see this as a problem in Home Ed mixed age groups. Perhaps it is the greater freedom to choose with whom one associates. Perhaps it is the greater range of ages involved, with the older ones helping to sort out problems which those with only a small age gap would fail to solve. One way or another, most HEors see the mixed age groups as being a positive boon which does not impact negatively in any way upon behaviour.

One of the next assertions leads one to question the whole basis of the study, even more than one normally would, given the completely pseudo-scientific nature of such things.

"However, the research found the more time children spent each week in day-care, the more confident they were and the more sociable with their peers. "

What could sociability mean in a context where one has already discovered that they are more likely to be "anti-social" - see at least two quoted paragraphs above. Um, well at a guess, it could mean that they are less shy in relation to others, but if this is what they mean, is this necessarily a good thing, given that when they are less shy, they are also then likely to behave badly towards others?

"It also found parents using neighbourhood nurseries were highly satisfied with the quality of care provided. "

Perhaps they should think again.


33, 452 said...

"It grows as a defensive reaction to the stress of separation and does not emerge from a genuine sense of rightness and wholeness."

Then it *isn't* confidence at all. I guess what you're refering to would be a particular type of "assertiveness"... Even that term doesn't quite fit though.

"Second, so what should we do about enabling the child's attachment figures to get back in the workplace?"

Or, even better, what can we do to support the child's attachment figures in staying home and being with their children? ;)

dottyspots said...

Erm, just to pick up - I'm a registered childminder and children certainly don't come unloved to me :0)

That said, I've only ever looked after children (including HE-ed children) p/t (a maximum of 2 days for littlies) and won't look after babies, because at the end of the day I'm a tad prejudiced in my view of what little children need. I also don't accept disposable nappies - so I do rather cut down on the available options work-wise as really I fulfill a very particular niche in the childcare market that there isn't much call for around here :0)

The whole issue of parents of very young children going out to work is something I do think about quite a bit, often re-evaluating my place (as a registered childminder) in the childcare set-up. It's a hard one because part of me supports women having the choice work etc., but another part thinks, well, but then children, then the next bit asks whether it really is always a choice - but then there's the argument that perhaps a rejig of family life or a change in priorities might make a difference. Argh! Who am I to enforce my own beliefs (etc) upon someone else? And so it goes on.

Sometimes I hate my need to minutely take things to pieces, it doesn't lend itself to peaceful nights.

So, at the end of the day, my registration is handy 'cos I get to go on interesting little courses and conferences for free :0) and I like to throw in an alternative viewpoint at meetings - keeps people on their toes :0D and every once in a while someone turns up wanting a minimum of childcare in a home environment and doesn't think we're a bit wierd and is scared off by the prospect of HE (or the dog or the cats) and that's great.

I also think that mixed-age groupings are a positive thing because I think we all have much to learn from all ages (young and old) and believe that the society we live in segregates by age far too readily.

I also query 'confidence' and 'socialbility'. As 33,452 says, really it isn't 'confidence' as I would think of it, rather an enforced independence?

I'm rambling now and really should go and open the back door as my youngest is thumping it to go out.

Carlotta said...

33,452...yes..assertiveness is definitely closer, I think.

You have just reminded me of one of the most confident people I have ever met in my entire life, who had sufficient faith in himself to be completely unassertive or even retiring in social situations, (whilst at the same time being incredibly observant and shrewd) so I can see a huge and important distinction here.

and yes, to your other suggestion...though whether that means one should be stressing the importance of the paternal role, or stressing the importance of community, I am not sure.

Carlotta said...

"I'm a registered childminder and children certainly don't come unloved to me "

Hi Dottyspots,

Yes, I do completely think it is possible to manage this. In fact Dd was very happy from a very young age (despite bfing) to spend time away from me, but it was always with other people she adored and had known for a long time.

I don't think nurseries usually manage this at all, and many childminders also don't give two hoots, so it is great to hear that you do manage it so well and are giving clear consideration to such issues.

33, 452 said...

Hi Carlotta

"and yes, to your other suggestion...though whether that means one should be stressing the importance of the paternal role, or stressing the importance of community, I am not sure."

Personally, I would say it means society should change its attitudes and ideas about the importance of careers. That we should stop making people feel as though their actions are only worth something if they get paid for them. That we should stop pressuring people into the workplace if they don't want to take that path.

That we, as a society, should recognise that there are myriad ways that people can be "productive" members of society, and that a great many of these *don't* involve earning a wage!

Raising children contributes greatly to society and this needs to be recognised/aknowledged. We need to start holding in high esteem those who willingly and commitedly undertake this vital and currently greatly under-estimated and unappreciated role. Especially those who walk off the career path in order to do so.

dottyspots said...

Unfortunately, caring for children isn't something held particularly highly in this society - it is seen in some quarters as somehow 'less' than working outside the home.

Productivity is seen merely in terms of monetary value :-(

33, 452 said...

Hi Dottyspots,

That's exactly what I meant - this is something that needs to change.
I really hope that someday society manages to move past this insane and inhuman "productivity = economic activity" mentality.

dottyspots said...

Yes, hence I believe that there is not truly a choice for women with regards to working either in the home or outside of it, paid or otherwise.

Not that I want to exclude such a choice for men either, but as a woman and as someone who works within the childcare profession, my experience is that it is predominantly mothers who appear to have this dilemna. That is not to say that men do not feel torn over the home/outside work balance, but that societal expectations appear to be weighted more towards women dealing with this.

Anonymous said...

I doubt many would agree that people should be on welfare if they just feel like not earning their own living.

33, 452 said...

"I doubt many would agree that people should be on welfare if they just feel like not earning their own living."

No one mentioned welfare. I was actually thinking more in terms of how couples are not given equal status if one is the breadwinner and the other stays home with the kids. Hence, even in two parent families, children are rarely fortunate enough to have a parent prepared to sacrifice that "staus" to stay home with them.:(

I think that those who *do* prioritise their children over their careers should be applauded for doing so. If those people are single parents (or even couples) on welfare, so what? Are we, as a society, so economically obsessed that we can value someone who gets paid to care for the children of others above someone who cuts out the middleman and cares for their own children?

If so, why? Because the former scenario generates two lots of taxes and the latter may draw on public funds? Is that reasonable? Let's look at it this way...

A state education costs the public purse £6,000 per child, so a home edder with three children saves the public purse £18,000. If they claimed benefits they would probably still cost the goverment less than they would if they worked an average job, paid taxes, yet sent their kids to school. So why is their status less than that of someone who takes the latter path? It can't be to do with cost to the taxpayer, so it's clearly unfounded prejudice.

And our economy is not so fragile that we need to do such ridiculous sums anyway - even if someone contributes nothing to the public purse ever, yet they draw on it greatly, so what? That's what it's there for. Because we, as a society, value the safety, health, and lives of individuals over and above their economic worth - and I, for one, am very proud to live in such a compassionate and civilised society.

I think we are far more civilised here than in America where poor families can't even access medical treatment, and those on welfare are treated with so little dignity as to be left to subsist on food stamps!

Our amazing "welfare state" is what makes me proud to be English.

Oh, the tempatation to stand up and start singing "Land of Hope and Glory" or something now! LOL! Most of our patriotic songs are about the empire though, aren't they? So I don't think I'll bother. Maybe I'll write an up-dated version someday... "Land of hope and glory, And the NHS, Thou offerth money, To the sick and the depressed" Something like that? :D

Yeah. Anyway...

It's not all bad - we are sufficiently evolved as a society to support those who (for whatever reason) need it - so now we just need to change our ideas about "status"...

And don't worry about anyone who assumes that someone on welfare "just feels like not earning their own living" as such people are usually too narrow-minded to be worth giving a second thought to. Nothing is ever that simple, is it?

33, 452 said...

I said:
"A state education costs the public purse £6,000 per child, so a home edder with three children saves the public purse £18,000."

I meant to say "per year". I think that's obvious enough anyway, but I always whinge on about "clarity" so I thought I ought to add some! :D

dottyspots said...

"I doubt many would agree that people should be on welfare if they just feel like not earning their own living. "

Right, so I am a stay-at-home mum because I 'don't feel like' earning my own living.

What utter tosh!

I am at home because my husband and I made a concious decision upon the birth of our 3rd child that our youngest children would be cared for at home rather than going out to nursery (which was the case for my eldest two when I worked full time).

This point illustrates my earlier point perfectly, that caring for children - some of most vulnerable members of our society and surely something that is most precious to families - is not valued by many members in society.

To have one parent (whether they be part of a partnership, or single) staying at home to care for children is not avoiding work.

I do have some *issues* over individuals who do not appear to want to contribute in anyway (and to illustrate with a stereotype, sit at home or down the pub smoking and drinking their benefits away), but a single parent who chooses to stay at home because they believe that that is the best thing for their children is an entirely different matter.

It's not naivety, I live in the real world, in an area classed as 'deprived' with the unemployment rate way above the national average, so I'm under no illusions here, but comments that suggest that a parent who chooses to stay at home "just feel like not earning their own living" makes me shake my head in sorrow at the lack of consideration given to the importance of having a constant and reliable care-giver in the early years (and throughout life really).