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Day care and Attachment
Day care refers to the provision made by childminders, nurseries or playgroups. The
value of such care in children's development hasn't always been agreed upon by
psychologists who have questions it's social and cognitive benefits. For example,
Bowlby's Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis raises the issue of the potentially
detrimental affects of day care for those separated from the main caregiver before
the age of two and a half. However, a leading figure in work on day care Belsky argues
that the quality of day care is all important with the training of professionals and
stimulating facilities being crucial.
There are, on the other hand, several factors linked to separation from caregivers
which contemporary psychologists have suggested might cause delays in cognitive
development. Evidence to support this is provided by Bowlby who found individuals
who were insecurely attached were less able to explore their environment, a factor
which may hinder their intellectual development. Hozen and Durrett's research lends
further support for this argument, finding that securely attached children are more
independent explorers and innovative problem solvers.
However, difference in the type of care revealed that children looked after by
childminders or at home had lower scores in tests of verbal and mathematical ability
than individuals who had attended a nursery. Mayall and Petri's research found that
the quality of childminder's varied considerably and whilst some children did well
cognitively others from poorer homes failed to make significant progress. In a
Swedish longitudinal study Anderson found no ill effects from day care and those
entering before the age of 1 making the most significant process cognitively.
Summarising findings which appear contradictory, Bee suggests that a day care
setting that provides more enrichment than the child would normally find at home
will result in some beneficial cognitive effects, whilst a less stimulating environment
may well produce a negative outcome.
As far as social development is concerned Clarke-Stuart et al found in opposition
to Bowlby that attachment was not affected by the experiences of separation. They
investigated the time spent in day care and the quality of attachment in a large
sample and found that children who spent over 30 hours a week in day care from 3
months old were equally distressed when separated from their mothers in the
strange situation as those who spent little time in care. NICHD research which
included observations and interviews with mothers showed that infants with
extensive day care did not differ from those without, in terms of stress exhibited
under experimental conditions. Despite this the findings on the social benefits of day
care are contradictory. Some studies reveal that children that attend day care centres
appear more confident, self sufficient, an f popular with peers, whilst others point to
the negatives effects of day care such as higher levels of aggression.
In conclusion most psychologists believe that high quality day care is beneficial for
children's cognitive and social development as a result of exposure to a wider social
world, experience of group skills and greater independence from the family unit.