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Working Families - Nonmaternal Care

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 8Working Families - School-age Children, Infants And Toddlers, Nonmaternal Care

Nonmaternal Care

When mothers are employed, there are often times when both school-age and preschool children need nonmaternal care. A considerable amount of research has been conducted on the effects of non-maternal care on preschoolers. Previous research on the effects of daycare indicated that although the day-care experience was often associated with higher cognitive competence, it was also associated with less compliance and more assertiveness with peers. The NICHD study, as reported in 1998, found that the major variables predicting children's negativity were the mother's sensitivity and her psychological adjustment. Both higher quality of nonmaternal care and greater experience in groups with other children predicted socially competent behavior. It was also the case, however, that more time in child care and less stable care predicted problematic and noncompliant behavior. On the whole, the results indicated that the home environment is the major influence on child outcomes, but that the quality and stability of the non-maternal care does have an effect.

When children are of school age, working families still have to deal with issues of control and supervision when work hours and school hours do not overlap. An increasing number of schools and community organizations have responded by setting up after-school and before-school programs as well as supervised lunchrooms. Neighbors, relatives, and older siblings often fill in. Some children, however, return from school to an empty house. The effects of such unsupervised care vary widely depending on whether the child stays in the home and is governed by set rules and telephone contact, where the child spends this time if not in the home, and the safety of the neighborhood. For children of all ages, however, the prevalence of working families has brought with it a need for community programs and affordable, stable, high-quality nonparental care—a need that has not yet been met. This is an important social issue that needs to be addressed given that most families today are working families.


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Lois Wladis Hoffman

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