Child-Care Workers Won't Replace Mom

In British-German study, kids bonded more firmly to mothers

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FRIDAY, May 26, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- There's no need to worry, mom -- your child isn't likely to forge a stronger bond with her day-care provider than with you.

That's the finding from a new study by British and German researchers who analyzed data from 40 studies involving nearly 3,000 children, averaging 2.5 years of age.

They found that while the relationships between a child and parent and child and his care provider do share some important associations, children are much more likely to develop secure attachments to their mothers than to their day-care providers.

The researchers found that:

  • How children feel about their care provider was strongly related to the provider's behavior toward the group of children in day care, rather than any individualized attention.
  • Children were less likely to form secure attachments to their care provider than to their parents.
  • The longer children had been going to a day-care facility, the more likely they were to have secure relationships with their care providers. This underscores the importance of stability of care, the researchers said.
  • Girls were more likely than boys to have positive relationships with care providers. This may be due to the fact that groups of girls attract more positive attention from care providers, who are most likely to be females.

The findings appear in the May/June issue of Child Development.

"Given the growing evidence that relationships with care providers have an important impact on children's development, this study's findings help pinpoint the features of those relationships most likely to affect children's later behavioral and socio-emotional functioning in the most positive ways," lead researcher Lieselotte Ahnert, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Applied Science in Magdeburg-Stendal and Free University of Berlin, said in a prepared statement.

"In contrast to earlier concepts on child-care providers' functions, however, we should not see care providers in public care as mother substitutes, dealing sensitively with individual kids, but understand how they regulate groups of kids while providing a harmonic climate to play and learn," Ahnert said.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers advice on preparing your child for child care.

SOURCE: Society for Research in Child Development, news release, May 17, 2006

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