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.