THINKING CRITICALLY Does Day Care Harm the Emotional Development of Infants

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THINKING CRITICALLY Does Day Care Harm the Emotional Development of Infants
Chapter 9
Human Development
leaves, but when she returns the child acts angry and rejects the mother’s efforts at contact; when picked up, the child squirms to get down. If the relationship is disorganized,
the infant’s behavior is inconsistent, disturbed, and disturbing; the child may begin to
cry again after the mother has returned and provided comfort, or may reach out for
the mother while looking away from her (Moss et al., 2004).
The nature of a child’s attachment to caregivers can have long-term and far-reaching
effects (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2006b). For example, unless disrupted by the loss of a parent, abuse by a family member, chronic depression in the
mother, or some other severe negative event (Weinfield, Sroufe, & Egeland, 2000), an
infant’s secure attachment continues into young adulthood—and probably throughout
life (Hamilton, 2000; Mattanah, Hancock, & Brand, 2004; Waters et al., 2000). A secure
attachment to the mother is also reflected in relationships with other people. Children
who are securely attached receive more positive reactions from other children when they
are toddlers (Fagot, 1997) and have better relations with peers in middle childhood and
adolescence (Carlson, Sroufe, & Egeland, 2004; Schneider, Atkinson, & Tardif, 2001).
Patterns of child care and attachment vary widely in different parts of the world. In
northern Germany, for example, where parents are quite strict, the proportion of
infants who display avoidant attachments is much higher than in the United States
(Spangler, Fremmer-Bombik, & Grossman, 1996). Kibbutz babies in Israel, who sleep
in infant houses away from their parents, are relatively likely to show insecure attachments and other related problems (Aviezer et al., 1999). In Japan, where mothers are
expected to be completely devoted to their children and are seldom apart from them,
even at night, children develop an attachment relationship that emphasizes harmony
and union (Rothbaum et al., 2000). These attachment patterns differ from the secure
type that is most common in the United States: With their parents’ encouragement,
U.S. children balance closeness and proximity with exploration and autonomy.
ith about 60 percent of mothers of
infants in the United States workDoes Day Care Harm the
ing outside the home, concern has
Emotional Development
been expressed about how daily separations
from their mothers might affect children,
of Infants?
especially infants (Clarke-Stewart & Allhusen,
2005). Some have argued that putting infants
in day care, with a baby sitter or in a day-care center, damages the quality of the motherinfant relationship and increases the babies’ risk for psychological problems later on
(Gallagher, 1998).
■ What am I being asked to believe or accept?
The claim is that daily separations created by day care damage the formation of an attachment between the mother and infant and harm the infant’s emotional development.
■ Is there evidence available to support the claim?
There is clear evidence that separation from the mother is painful for young children.
If separation lasts a week or more, children who have formed an attachment to their
mother tend to protest, then become apathetic and mournful, and finally seem to lose
interest in the missing mother (Robertson & Robertson, 1971). But day care does not
involve such lasting separations. Research has shown that infants who are in day care
do form attachments to their mothers. In fact, they prefer their mothers to their daytime caregivers (Lamb & Ahnert, 2006).
Are these attachments as secure as the attachments formed by infants whose mothers
do not work outside the home? Researchers have examined this question by comparing
how infants react to brief separations from their mothers in the Strange Situation. A
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