Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The nanny state knows best

New research, The Telegraph tells us, reveals that children in formal child care at 9 months old are less likely to have problems than those who are looked after by their mother, father or grandparents.

The research, funded by the government, was based on previous research and consisted of asking the parents 25 questions and then adding up the scores. The higher the score the more problems the child had.

Prof Shirley Dex of the Institute, who studied the effects of nursery education and formal child care on children involved in the Cohort Survey, said: "We measured developmental problems - such as emotional symptoms, hyperactivity, peer problems, and social problems - when children were three.

By the time they were three?

"Children in this study are a nationally representative sample of those born around the millennium. By the age of three those who went to formal child care at nine or 10 months were less likely to show development problems compared to children who were looked after in other ways, for example by their grandmothers, by fathers where the mother worked, or by mothers who stayed at home.

All sounds very good and plausible, eh? After all, it's proper research isn't it? It does indeed sound very convincing, but before we all start rushing off to dump our kids into the state baby farms let me add a little healthy scepticism.

There are a few problems I have with this study. First of all, there is no way you can generalise like this - and the liberals are always keen to make that point when discussing single mothers. Some kids will do better in child care, but my bet is that the vast majority of them - if they had any say in the matter - would prefer to be with mum or dad.

Secondly, a large proportion of kids in formal child care tend to come from middle class families and those families tend to be wealthier, more stable and better balanced than, for example, your average sink estate single mum family of five.

Thirdly, how would they know? The parents that is. They asked the parents a series of questions, but those parents are out at work most of the time and hardly see their kids except at weekends. How would they know if they are having peer issues, social problems or emotional turmoil. The kids are three years old for goodness sake! Do they sit down and have a heart to heart with them?

Next - why three? What about at 5, 15, 25, 45? Perhaps it's because, at three years old, they are supposed to be pushed into the next stage of the state child management machine?

But the main problem I have with this research is that, personally, I believe it is nothing more than liberal propaganda. Why? Because the research was published by none other than the Equal Opportunities Commission. Does anyone believe that the EOC would fund research that demonstrated that kids develop best if they are looked after by their mum?

4 comments:

xoggoth said...

Dunno Stan. You should have spent time with my grandmother, the loathsome old witch. It beats me why I am not a psychotic mass murderer.

Stan said...

Mine was pretty scary, too - at least she used to terrify the life out of me when I was 5.

amanda said...

I think its not who or how are children are cared for its about having a good balance. Yes as even someone without children could tell you all children would love to be with both mum and dad during the day but people have to go out and work.
Fantastic formal child care can be good for our children helping them build on social and emotional skills developing strong foundations needed to strive in that next stage of state education.

Stan said...

Hello Amanda,

I'm not disputing that good child care can help a child's development. What I am disputing is the motivation behind the study and the way it is being used to promote a particular agenda.

As I said in the post, the Equal Opportunities Commission would never have risked funding this if there was a possibility that the finding would be that children are better off staying with their mum.

That is the very last thing the EOC would want so the whole study would have to have been designed to demonsrate the predetermined outcome.

It's not new and it's not hard to do, but our newspapers and media - who used to have a reputation for challenging these things - have developed a lazy habit of just accepting what they are told without challenge.