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Views of Panelists
Problems on Infant Child Care
- Infants Should be Raised by Their Mothers -

Toshimichi Matsumoto
Permanent Trustee, Japan Society for Well-being of Nursery-schoolers, Pediatrician

Accompanying the women's advancement into society, the demand for infant child care has recently increased in number as a method to support working mothers. The Ministry of Welfare, in its new Angel Plan, has started to expand the limits of accepting young children into child care centers, and their position of positively promoting infant child care can be seen. Today, we are in a time where economic activities cannot be carried out without women labor, and infant child care is an important method in supporting working women. However, doesn't providing group child care to the infants that need mother-child attachment such as breast-feeding and to those that are around six months of age (after the mothers have concluded their child care leave) effect the children's mental development and good quality sensibility? In Japan, researches that look ahead on group child care for these infants and especially on the effects of mind development has yet to be implemented.

The fact that the results of the researches on infant child care was presented by NICHD of the United States and that the results were evidence-based, influenced our ways of thinking about the future infant child care in Japan. When we consider the amount of impact this possesses, I would like to highly praise these results as very epoch-making. The main point was that on the investigation of the three year olds, the mother-child relationship, the problem behavior of the children, unstableness of attachment between the mother and infant could be seen - although insignificantly - by the quality of child care and the length of time of child care. However, rather than these elements of child care, it was stated that the characteristics of the family and the quality of the mother-child relationship had a stronger relevance in the development of the child.1) On the other hand, we, the Fukuoka City Medical Association presented that there was not a significant difference on the 30 points such as physical and mental development, the frequency of getting sick and mental problems based on 380 cases of children in 2 groups whom we pursued examination from when they were 7 month of age to three years. The groups were whether the child care during the day time was mainly provided by the mothers or by the child care center the child attended. However, when we analyzed the results between the 2 groups at the time of the three year old examination, we found out that there were negative results in the areas of children behavior, the frequency of getting sick and getting into accidents in the group where the main child care was provided by the child care center.

From these results, I think that we cannot acknowledge the influence of infant child care until the age of three. Rather, I would like to focus on the quality of the mother-child relationship, which the NICHD points out that has a strong relationship in child development. The infant stage is centered around breast-feeding child care, and through continuous and frequent personal contact, the child perceives the warmth of the mother which provides stableness to the child's mind. The main flow of the developmental psychology today thinks that there is no room for objections regarding the necessity of mother-child attachment at this age for a rich mind. It is said that the basic trust based on mother-child attachment is indispensable for the starting point of developing autonomy and sympathy. Therefore, I would like to state that the opportunities for mother-child contact should be increased and that group child care be avoided at least for the first six months or for the first year if possible. From carrying out sick child health care, there is the reality that it is difficult for the mothers to provide child care and work at the same time if the child is an infant from the age of zero to 12 months, and as a result must compensate one or the other. For the child's mind to mature, I would like to propose making child care leave and abundant child care benefit obligatory in order for the mothers to be able to enjoy child care with stability.2) I think it is important in the future for the society as a whole to have a framework that can appreciate child care on the premise that child care is special. Also, for the mothers who feel isolated, a public support system should be provided and if mothers and fathers need to take time off from their offices for a while, it should be made into a general consensus that it is necessary for the future of Japan.3)

1) Noboru Kobayashi "Child Care in the 21st Century-Learning from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care" Pediatric Consultation 63:1078, 2000
2) Toshimitsu Matsumoto "Infant Child Care" Journal of the Japan Medical Association, 116:585, 1996
3) Noriyuki Takayama "Providing a Third Pillar for the Society Decreasing Children" Journal of the Japan Medical Association 123:1561, 2000

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