Stay-home parent, and their children, more likely to be happy!

OECD Economist and social policy analyst Willem Adema will tell the Early Childhood Council’s annual conference today that the children of stay-home mothers are at a higher risk of poverty (NZ Herald 28/4/06).

This flies in the face of copious amounts of research which shows that 2-parent families want one of the parents to parent full-time, and as a result, the kids and the family will be happier and better off. The research also shows that even the best childcare doesn’t beat the love and nurturing of a parent. You can’t replace love with care,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of the Family First Lobby.

 “Economic well-being is not the final measure of best environment. Parents are overwhelming saying no to more work.”

 Research by the Ministry of Social Development of more than 1100 parents published only last weekend found that a third of all working couples say they are unhappy they both have to work. For those couples, their ideal arrangement would be for one partner to stay at home and take responsibility for childcare and housework. Unfortunately, financial constraints didn’t always enable this to happen.

This local research is consistent with all the international research.

 70% of 1,500 women questioned in the Young Women’s Lifestyle Survey of Great Britain 2005, said they did not want to work as hard as their mother’s generation. Once they had children – which most said they wanted to have from age 31 and within marriage – only one in 10 said she wanted to work full time and put their child into nursery care. Almost two-thirds said they expected to have to work part-time because of financial demands. Two-thirds of young women felt a man should be the main provider for his family if possible.

 According to ‘The Daycare Project’ at the University of London, childcare children who went to nurseries before the age of 9 months for more than 20 hours a week showed evidence of distress and negativism at 18 months and performed less well on language tests at 3 years, in spite of having parents with higher status jobs and salaries and more qualifications than other parents.

 In American research, researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Montana surveyed 2000 mothers with at least one child under 18 and found that more than 41% were employed full-time, but only 16% ideally wanted to be. One-third wanted to work part-time and one-third preferred to work for pay from home.

 According to a national poll conducted in 2000 by the Manhattan-based market research firm, Youth Intelligence, 68% of women between the ages of 18 and 34 say they would prefer to stay at home and raise their children to working outside the home. Cosmopolitan magazine, which commissioned the poll, proclaimed this 68% “the new housewife wannabes.”

 In a paper presented at 55th annual convention of the Canadian Psychological Association in 1994, a large scale synthesis from 88 studies concluded that regular non-parental care for more than 20 hours a week had an unmistakably negative effect on socio-emotional development, behaviour and attachment of young children.

They also estimated that regular non-parental care increased the risk of children developing insecure bonds by 66%.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development survey reported inTime Magazine Apr 30 2001 found that children who spend most of their time in childcare were 3x more likely to exhibit behavioural problems as those cared for by mother. There was a direct correlation between time spent in childcare and aggression, defiance, disobedience, and demands having to be met immediately. 17% of kids who spend more than 30 hours a day in daycare have aggressive tendencies by kindergarten.

It is for these reasons that parents are choosing to stay at home, even at the cost of a lower household income,” says Bob McCoskrie. “This is what parents want to do – this is what the government should be supporting.”

 The most telling research is out of Canada who have instigated a policy in 1996 in Quebec, similar to what our government, the Early Childhood Council, and Dr Adema would like. They compared the outcomes for children in Quebec to those of children in other parts of Canada who didn’t have access to the childcare subsidy.

 The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of British Columbia, used data gleaned from the National Longitudinal Study of Children and Youth. The findings revealed that children in daycare were 17 times more hostile than children raised at home, and almost three times more anxious.

 They found that the increased use of childcare was associated with a decrease in their well-being relative to other children. Reported fighting and other measures of aggressive behaviour increased substantially. The results were consistent with evidence from the National Institute of Child Health and Development Early Childcare Research Network (2003), showing that the amount of time through the first 4.5 years of life that a child spends away from his or her mother is a predictor of assertiveness, disobedience, and aggression.

 Just as significant is that they also found that the well-being of parents deteriorated! The survey data showed that mothers of the children in daycare were more depressed, the quality of their parenting practices declined, and there was also a significant deterioration in the quality of their relationship with their partners.

The evidence is already in.

 Jobs, working parents and wealth don’t buy happiness, strong marriages, good parent / child interaction, and loving families. Parents know that. They’re choosing to sacrifice income for nurturing.

 “For solo parents, they shouldn’t be being forced to compromise good parenting because they have to work full-time to survive,” says Bob McCoskrie.

 “Government policy and spending should enable parents to parent “hands-on” – so that the children are raised in the best environment possible.”

 We may not be richer, but we’ll all be happier for it.



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