Monday, November 28, 2005

Parents Wising Up to Needs of Infants

Following on with the theme from last post, Future Pundit also deals with the issues of the effect upon the brain of neglect in early infancy. The study he quotes leaves a couple of rather significant questions hanging, namely are there any other studies out there which look at vasopressin and oxytocin levels of young children in day care? Are the children's levels of these hormones lower and if so, do these have the long term consequences? These really do seem to pretty crucial questions, particularly with the government drive to get mothers of infants back to work.

Oliver James in the Guardian seems to think the question of whether there are long term consequences from early childhood experiences already answered. He writes that the years up to age three are "the crucial time for establishing mental health".

He is also of the opinion that the government agenda does not take this into account: "Sure Start has slithered away from an emphasis on meeting children's needs to getting mothers out to work".

This runs counter to the desires of most mothers of young children:
"Most mothers of under-threes either do not want to do paid work or only want to do a small amount. Despite being accorded a status lower than street-sweeper, only 13 per cent of mothers of under-threes work full-time (40 per cent work part-time, mostly less than 20 hours a week)."

It seems that the decades of believing that parents could have it all are properly on the way out now. We now know for certain how awful and stressful it is for us to leave young infants in the hands of strangers. We are beginning to listen to our instincts again, since these are, in all probability, telling us something pretty important: ie that neglect in one form or another, (and this includes leaving child in the hands of a less attentive carer), is damaging. We can see the immediate damage in the screams of the moment. Perhaps soon we will show that it has long term physiological consequences and whilst this last may be almost too painful to contemplate, it is better we know so that we can attempt to do something about it.

Vasopressin and oxytocin nasal sprays anyone?

HT for Oliver James: Alice (no longer a Libertarian) Bacchini


Becky said...

I'm glad there seems to be a change in the UK, but sadly in North America, the majority of parents aren't wising up to anything. From my own purely anecdotal experience, most mothers of children under three are more than happy to turn over their babies to complete strangers to return to some work -- even if the pay in no way compensates for daycare, that second vehicle, coffees and lunches out, gifts for colleagues, the cost of dry cleaning, etc. Whether they've all bought into the self-esteem bunk, or simply realized that it is in fact easier to go to work outside the house, with regular deadlines and work you can foist off onto someone else, than to remain at home with a young child, I don't know.

Gah, that's pessimistic! Sorry : )

Carlotta said...

Oh No! That is so sad. I understand the situation is similar in France.

Am wondering whether knowledge of the possible damage that going back to work in the first few years might do would make any difference?

Becky said...

It would be nice to think so, but I think it's rather like teenagers who believe themselves to be infallible and immortal. That sort of "it can't happen to me" (or my family) thinking.

We've had all sorts of information in the past few years about how critical the first three years are, even 0-6, but most North American parents take that to mean that you need to find a really good daycare center. Gah again...

Alice said...

Have there been any similar surveys in the US lately?

The point of Oliver James' article was that, when actual research was done about what mothers with preschool children want, the results were quite different from what the government and possibly most other people might expect.

The truth here might also be different than a general impression might give one to believe. No doubt there are studies somewhere, which one could compare to the study mentioned in this article.

Leo said...

"the crucial time for establishing mental health"

Mental health = submission to the prevalent social constructs created by those in power.

"Vasopressin and oxytocin nasal sprays anyone?"

That they analise the level of hormones instead of looking children in the face just shows how fucked up humanity has become and how little hope I have that this kind of research will ever make any positive difference.

Carlotta said...

Talking of results from other studies, I had to laugh at this one, from Alice Thomson, at 8 months into her first pregnancy, still the arch career woman who wrote things like "I cannot understand why there are parent and toddler spaces in supermarket car parks". It seems she has moved somewhat on some issues!