On July 9, 2000 (Sun.) a symposium entitled "The Child Care Paradox: Choices in Children's Development-Support for Working Mothers by Learning from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care," hosted by CRN, was held in the Main Hall (13F), Tokyo Head Office of Benesse Corporation. The international symposium welcomed Dr. Sarah L. Friedman, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in the United States.
In his opening address, Dr. Kobayashi (Director, CRN) stated that child care in the twenty-first century will be a group effort of the father, mother, and child care provider, and that child care is a common to all humankind so support for parents is essential. With the increasing number of working women in modern societies, the support of child care providers is becoming indispensable. The symposium would explain how this effects child development and the type of relationship that mothers can have with child care providers.
In the morning session, Dr. Sarah L. Friedman talked about "Research on Early Child Care" followed by Ms. Yuko Takaki of Koriyama Women's University on the "Present Situation and Conscious of Working Mothers in Japan." In the afternoon session, a panel discussion was held among Dr. Sarah L. Friedman, Dr. Toshimichi Matsumoto, M.D. (Permanent Trustee, Japan Society for Well-being of Nursery-schoolers, Pediatrician), Dr. Nobuko Uchida, Ph.D. (Professor, Ochanomizu University, Developmental Psychology), Ms. Kazuko Imai (Professor, Tokyo Seitoku Junior College, Nursery Science), and Ms. Eiko Makita (free-lance writer on child rearing) as the moderator.
Introduction of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care
Dr. Friedman presented research on how the diversity of child care is related to child development. NICHD's ground-breaking research which followed infants in various child care environments is more extensive than the previous study that followed infants from birth to the age of three. The seven-year research project gathered detailed information on home environment, child care and child care settings, children's development, physical growth and health. Research began in 1991 and covered a total of 1,364 children and their families of various economic and ethnic backgrounds from all over the United States. The sampling reflected the demographic and class characteristics of the population in terms of ethnicity, education, and social status.
|Keynote Address 1: Is Parenting Diminished by Child Care? Relations Between Family Characteristics, Young Children's Experiences in Child Care and Children's Developmental Outcomes
In her opening statement, Dr. Friedman stated, "Japan is not the United States. The United States is not Japan." emphasizing that NICHD's research focuses on the child care situation in the United States.
In the United States, 62% of mothers with children under six years of age work outside the home, and many others return to work three to five months after childbirth. The number of single mothers is also high. As such, the child care situation in the United States, where child care for infants is common, differs greatly from that of Japan.
Child care in the United States varies widely by child care providers. In Japan, child care is usually provided by grandparents or either licensed or unlicensed child care centers. However, in addition to these in the United States, child care is also provided at the home of a child care provider, at the child's homes by a visiting child care provider, or by the father.
Child care also varies widely in quality. The United States does not have a public child care system like in Japan, and not everyone can receive high quality child care. Only 39% of the child care provided is considered to be high quality, that is, provided by a child care provider who actively engages the children. The quality of the child care selected depends on circumstances of the particular household.
In Japan, it is common for mothers to provide exclusive care for their children, but in the United States, only 35% of the infants six months of age are cared for exclusively by their mothers. Most infants have experienced two or more kinds of child care settings. The research findings indicate that child care in the United States is characterized by a high dependency on infant child care and early commencement of child care.
|Dr. Friedman started her report with the simple proposition that children who are in child care have families. This fact seems to be forgotten in discussions of child care.
Providing child care to children is one form of child care, and it is not unrelated to the family characteristics. Logically speaking, there is no reason to assume that poverty implies a lower quality of child care, but there is a very close relationship. Family income, the mother's education, the mental state of the mother, and life attitudes are all related to the kind of child care environment selected, degree of responsiveness to the child, and choices made by the parents regarding how many hours of child care are provided, and from what age.
This research confirmed that the family characteristics and the quality of the mother-child relationship have a greater effect on children's development rather than aspects of child care. Therefore, it can be said that the developmental environment of the children depends on the total quality of child care and child rearing, which are decided by family characteristics. There is no dramatic impact on child development in groups with similar characteristics even if the child is in exclusive maternal care (under 10 hours/week of non-maternal child care) or whether the child is placed in extensive child care (over 30 hours/week of non-maternal care).
The research revealed that there is a significant statistical relationship, albeit small, between the quality and quantity of the child care and mother-child interaction. There was a slight decline in intimacy and close interaction between the mother and the child that corresponded to an increase in the number of hours the child spent in child care. At the age of three, the longer the child was placed in child care during the first six months, the less sensitively the mother was observed to read her child's emotions and the less positive her involvement with the child. However, more than the child's experience in child care, family characteristics such as income, education of the mother, whether both parents were living with the child, maternal anxiety at being separated from her child, and depression, seem to have a more important effect on mother-child interaction.
While family characteristics are significant, it cannot be said that the quality and experience of child care does not effect child development at all. The research found only a slight effect on child development, but this effect has both positive and negative aspects and is not something that can be ignored.
What became clear in Dr. Friedman's presentation was that the family characteristics influenced the developmental environment the most, and that child care, depending on the quality and quantity, can have a synergistic effect in either a slightly negative or positive way. Not only does placing a child under the age of one in child care not have a negative developmental effect, but studies show that if the mother-child relationship at home is good and if quality child care can be provided, the child has an advantage in cognitive and linguistic development over children in exclusive maternal care (except when the child is placed in child care for an extremely long period of time or when two or more child care centers are used).
The research shows that if working mothers can maintain a good, loving relationship with their children, making use of child care does not have a negative effect and it provides important scientific evidence in support of working mothers. At the same time, since mothers clearly play a significant role in children's development, it is necessary to see families and family support as crucial issues in relieving poverty, marital strife, and emotional instability of the mother.
|Keynote Address 2: Findings from "Questionnaire on the Daily Life of Young Children" and "Questionnaire by the Participants"
Following Dr. Friedman's presentation, Ms. Yuko Takaki of Koriyama Women's University presented data from "Basic Investigation on Child Care","Questionnaire on Daily Life of Children" (Benesse Educational Research Center) and also provided views of the working mothers based on participant questionnaires.
While most mothers continue working after giving birth in the United States, it is said that Japanese mothers tend to temporarily leave work after childbirth. When plotted on a graph, their working life creates an M-shaped pattern. While this may be the case, approximately 25% of the mothers who have infants to two-year olds and over 40% with a child three or older continue working in one way or another. From this, we can see that working mothers are not as unusual in Japan as they were in the past.
Looking at the child care awareness of these mothers, the first thing that must be noticed is that those who work full-time enjoy raising their children even though they are busy. When working mothers are divided into three groups, full-time workers, part-timers, and full-time housewives, the percentage of mothers that felt child care was enjoyable was the highest among those who work full-time. These mothers receive a greater sense of fulfillment from child care than from work. Even so, working mothers all felt that they did not have enough time to spend with their child or that they were not capable of giving enough attention to their child so their expectations of child care providers were very high.
The report on the United States did not touch on the subject of fathers. However, Ms. Takaki's questionnaire asked about the relationship between working mothers and fathers. These fathers ranged from the so-called ideal partner who, according to one wife mentioned, did more than she did and fulfilled every expectation, to the dependent type who was not able to do anything on his own and was no longer even expected to help with the children.
Also from the CRN Japanese forum, there were heartwarming child care episodes about the child care providers who support working mothers.
The presentation concluded with two key concepts for the working mothers and children of the twenty-first century: "raising children together" and "child care by the society."