Last week, British newspapers reported that a research study had indicated that children raised by their mothers perform better than those who spend time in daycare or other institutional settings.
As The Telegraph [London] reported, Mothers were interviewed when their babies were three months old, and again when they were 10, 18, 36 and 51 months. Children were asked to perform a series of tasks with attention paid to performance and eye contact with adults. The result, according to the co-author Penelope Leach, was that children not raised by their mothers showed higher levels of aggression. “The study does not mean every child in a large nursery will become a monster,” Mrs Leach, the president of the NCA, told The Observer yesterday. “Nevertheless, it shows a small but significant difference in a large group.”
The Times [London] put it this way: It’s official: babies do better with mother. One of the most detailed studies of childcare has concluded that young children who are looked after by their mothers do significantly better in developmental tests than those cared for in nurseries, by childminders or relatives. The six-year study of 1,200 children by the childcare expert Penelope Leach will reignite the controversy over the best way to bring up young children.
Within days, The Telegraph’s “social affairs correspondent” reported, Britain’s Equal Opportunities Commission dismissed the research as “sexist and mistaken.” Jenny Watson, the Commission’s acting chairperson responded: “We are sorry to see the National Childminding Association following the assumptions of decades ago by restricting its research on the needs of children to the role of mothers, ignoring the contribution increasingly played by fathers.”
“Four in five new fathers are happy to stay at home to look after the baby,” she said. Fewer and fewer people believe in the inflexible model of a stay-at-home mother and breadwinner father.”
Four in five fathers are happy to stay at home to look after the baby? Where? Who? On what planet? I just don’t accept that this is true, and I see no evidence to indicate otherwise. Furthermore, are we really supposed to believe that fathers are equal to mothers in terms of ability to care for babies? The vision of feminist utopia collides with reality.
There’s more, however. Consider this statement: Purnima Tanuku, the chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said: “Day nurseries provide an ideal environment for the care and education of children up to five and 78 per cent of working mothers say that a nursery is their ideal child care.” How can anyone make such a statement with a straight face. How many parents are truly ready to classify daycare centers as a “ideal environment” for the care of children?