ERIC Identifier: ED333963
Publication Date: 1991-00-00
Author: Howes, Carollee
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood
Education Urbana IL.
Infant Child Care. ERIC Digest.
Close to half of all mothers of children under one year of age are now
working outside of their homes. Their children are cared for by relatives,
by in-home caregivers, and in family day care homes and centers. Family
day care is the most common out-of-home child care arrangement for infants,
but the proportion of infants in center care is steadily increasing (Hofferth
and Phillips, 1987).
Recent debate has focused on the possibility that children enrolled
in out-of-home child care as infants are at risk for later social and emotional
development (Belsky, 1988; Clarke-Stewart, 1988). This ERIC Digest will
evaluate the evidence concerning infant child care as a risk for children's
social and emotional development.
STUDIES OF MATERNAL EMPLOYMENT
Studies of the effects of maternal employment on the security of the
child's attachment to the mother form the primary research base for the
assertion that infant child care constitutes a risk for children. Security
of attachment is commonly assessed with the Ainsworth Strange Situation
(Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978) when the child is approximately
1 year old. The Strange Situation is a 20-minute laboratory procedure that
involves repeated separations from the mother and the infant's being left
with a friendly stranger.
Sixteen recent studies that used this assessment method showed that
infants of full-time employed mothers were more likely to exhibit an insecure
maternal attachment relationship than infants of part-time employed and
nonemployed mothers (Belsky, 1988; Clarke-Stewart, 1988). It is important
to recognize that even though more infants of full-time employed mothers
were classified as insecure, well over half (Belsky: 59%; Clarke-Stewart:
63%) of the infants of full-time employed mothers have been classified
as securely attached.
On the basis of this research, Belsky (1988) concluded that full-time
infant child care prior to the first birthday puts children at risk for
later development. Alternative interpretations focus on the psychological
meaning of the Strange Situation assessment to the infant who has experienced
child care. The experiences of separation of infants in child care centers
and family day care homes differ from those of infants not enrolled in
child care. We do not know if the former infants find the Strange Situation
less stressful than the latter.
One problem with the research linking maternal attachment security and
maternal employment is that it provides little information about the kind
of alternative care experienced by the infant. We know that infants become
attached to their alternative caregivers (Howes, Rodning, Galluzzo, &
Myers, 1988). We also know that the quality of the child's attachment to
the mother does not predict the quality of the child's attachment to the
alternative caregiver (Howes and others, 1988). A child with an insecure
maternal attachment relationship may have a secure attachment relationship
with an alternative caregiver.
These studies suggest that positive relationships with infant child
care caregivers may compensate for insecure maternal attachments. If future
research supports these conclusions, the stability and characteristics
of the infant child care caregiver will assume great importance.
STUDIES OF CHILD CARE SETTINGS
Mothers who are responsive and sensitive--that is, who respond consistently
and appropriately to their child's social bids and initiate interactions
geared to the child's capacities, intentions, moods, goals, and developmental
level--are most likely to have children with secure maternal attachments
(Belsky, Rovine, and Taylor, 1984). One can assume that this is also true
for alternative caregivers. Some research suggests that in infant child
care, infants and toddlers with more responsive and sensitive caregivers
have higher cognitive and language scores and greater social competence
(Rubenstein & Howes, 1983).
Several features of the child care environment are linked to caregiver
sensitivity and responsiveness. These are: formal training in child development
on the part of the caregiver, few children to care for and many adults
in the room, short hours, decreased responsibility for housework, and environments
designed to be safe and appropriate for children (Howes & Stewart,
1987). As might be expected, caregivers who work in high quality child
care settings can be more responsive and sensitive to the infants in their
care than caregivers with less desirable conditions. Infants and toddlers
in high quality child care are more likely than children in low quality
care to be securely attached to caregivers (Howes and others, 1988), to
engage in competent social interaction with adults and peers (Howes and
Stewart 1987), to self-regulate (Howes and Olenick, 1986), and to have
high language and cognitive scores (Goelman & Pence, 1987).
STUDIES LINKING CHILDREN'S DEVELOPMENT TO FAMILY AND CHILD CARE INFLUENCES
Despite constraints on parental choice of child care, several studies
report that families who provide appropriate care in their homes tend to
select good child care. Parents who are stressed (Howes and Stewart, 1987),
lead complex lives (Howes and Olenick, 1986), lack social supports (Howes
and Stewart, 1987), and lack developmentally appropriate child rearing
practices and values (Howes & Stewart, 1987), are more likely to enroll
their child in low quality than in high quality child care. Mothers whose
infants are classified as insecurely attached enroll their infants in family
day care homes that have a higher than average number of children per caregiver
(Howes and others, 1988).
A few studies have attempted to compare the relative influences of family
and child care on the development of infants in child care. These suggest
that the combination of child care and family influences best predicts
the social development of the infant (Howes & Olenick, 1986; Howes
and Stewart, 1987; Howes, 1988). Infants and toddlers in high quality care
and cared for by families low in stress and high in social support and
developmentally appropriate child rearing values and practices were more
socially competent (Howes and Stewart, 1987). Children with a history of
high quality care inside and outside the family were better able to adjust
to first grade than children with less fortunate care and family histories
Research evidence does not suggest that infant child care per se is
detrimental to the child's future social and emotional development. It
does raise concerns for the child who experiences insensitive care both
at home and in child care.
This digest was adapted from the article, "Research in Review: Infant
Child Care," by Carollee Howes, which appeared in the September, 1989 issue
of YOUNG CHILDREN.
Ainsworth, M.D., Blehar, M., Waters, E., & Wall, S. Patterns of
Attachment: A Psychological Study of the Strange Situation. Hillsdale,
NJ: Erlbaum, 1978.
Belsky, J. "The yEffects' of Infant Day Care Reconsidered." Early Childhood
Research Quarterly, 3 (1988), 235-272.
Belsky, J., Rovine, M., & Taylor, G. "The Pennsylvania Infant and
Family Development Project III: The Origins of Individual Differences in
Infant-Mother Attachment." Child Development, 55 (1984), 718-728.
Clarke-Stewart, A. "yThe EFFECTS of Infant Day Care Reconsidered' Reconsidered."
Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 3 (1988), 293-318.
Goelman, H., & Pence, A. "Some Aspects of the Relationships Between
Family Structure and Child Language Development in Three Types of Daycare."
In D.L. Peters & S. Kontos (Eds.), Continuity and Discontinuity of
Experiences in Child Care (pp. 129-146). Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1987.
Hofferth, S., and Phillips, D.A. "Child Care in the United States, 1970
to 1995." Journal of Marriage and Family, 49 (1987), 559-571.
Howes, C. "Relations between Child Care and Schooling." Developmental
Psychology, 24 (1988), 53-57.
Howes, C. & Olenick, M. "Family and Child Care Influences on Children's
Compliance." Child Development, 57 (1986), 202-216.
Howes, C., Rodning, C., Galluzzo, D.C., & Myers, L. "Attachment
and Child Care: Relationships with Mother and Caregiver." Early Childhood
Research Quarterly, 3 (1988), 403-416.
Howes, C., & Stewart, P. "Child's Play with Adults, Toys, and Peers:
An Examination of Family and Child Care Influences." Developmental Psychology,
23 (1987), 423-430.
Rubenstein, J., & Howes, C. "Social-Emotional Development of Toddlers
in Day Care: The Role of Peers and Individual Differences." In S. Kilmer
(Ed.), Advances in Early Education and Day Care (Vol. 3, pp. 13-45). Greenwich,
CT: JAI Press, 1983.