Bowlby found the existence of the following stages with regards to infant-mother relationships:
- Up to 3 months of age – Indiscriminate attachments. The newborn is predisposed to attach to any human. Most babies respond equally to any caregiver.
- After 4 months – Preference for certain people. Infants they learn to distinguish primary and secondary caregivers but accept care from anyone.
- After 7 months – Special preference for a single attachment figure. The baby looks to particular people for security, comfort and protection. It shows fear of strangers (stranger fear) and unhappiness when separated from a special person (separation anxiety). Some babies show stranger fear and separation anxiety much more frequently and intensely than others, but nevertheless they are seen as evidence that the baby has formed an attachment. This has usually developed by one year of age.
- After 9 months – Multiple attachments. The baby becomes increasingly independent and forms several attachments.
The results of the study indicated that attachments were most likely to form with those who responded accurately to the baby’s signals, not the person they spent most time with. Schaffer and Emerson called this sensitive responsiveness.
Many of the babies had several attachments by 10 months old, including attachments to mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings and neighbors. The mother was the main attachment figure for about half of the children at 18 months old and the father for most of the others. The most important fact in forming attachments is not who feeds and changes the child but who plays and communicates with him or her.
- Multiple studies have found that, after statistically adjusting for the effects of social class and other potential confounders, kids enrolled in high quality child care given by nonrelatives develop slightly better cognitive and language skills—as measured at various points in their lives, all the way up through age 15—than do kids in low-quality care. These beneficial effects are more pronounced for low-income kids than children from more affluent families and for kids in center-based care than other types of care.
- A study also compared children in child care to children who stayed at home with their mothers for the first three years of their lives, and the ones at home fared somewhere in the middle: They scored better on verbal comprehension tests at age 3 than did kids in low-quality care.
- Separation-derived stress hormones may have positive benefits on children, including optimal development of brain circuits and emotional resilience.
- Children who are socialised outside the home are exposed to more infections and end up with better immune systems as a result.
- Social interaction – It improves a child’s ability to make relationships and attachments, and play with other children. Children are taught how to share; not to hit, push, or bite; and how to take turns.
- The set routine of a day care centre can prepare a child for beginning school, allowing a greater ability to concentrate and perform better once at school
- , A study compared children in child care to children who stayed at home with their mothers for the first three years of their lives, and the ones at home fared somewhere in the middle: they scored worse on language tests at age 2 than kids in medium- and high-quality care.
- A correlation between time spent in day care and behavioural problems reported by teachers has been found by various studies – poorer academic ability in the third grade and being more impulsive at 15 years old
- The set routine of day care centres: “Staff have to stick to a routine in order to survive day-in, day-out with a rotating set of children. The trouble is, children don’t work this way. They are all different, with their different characteristics and needs” (Cavendish, 2011)
- Using the Strange Situation Test (designed to measure attachment) psychiatrists have found that infants raised at home who are insecurely attached to their mothers are at higher risk of future psychological problems than are securely attached infants
- Infants subjected routinely to more than twenty hours a week of nonmaternal care are more likely to show insecure attachment when tested. This insecure attachment is associated with traits such as heightened aggressiveness, noncompliance, and withdrawal in the preschool and early school years.
Despite the many studies arguing that day care is bad for children, the probabilities found are very low and, of course, cannot be applied to every child or situation. As long as a good-quality day care centre is used with a set structure and not too much ‘TV time’, the benefits of social interaction and relationships outweigh the negatives.
Moyer (2013): http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/the_kids/2013/08/day_care_in_the_united_states_is_it_good_or_bad_for_kids.2.html
Cavendish (2011): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/8758117/Does-day-care-damage-your-baby-One-mothers-view….html
Lambert (2011): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/8758078/Does-day-care-damage-your-baby-The-debate-rages-on….html
Shell (1988): http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/88aug/babe.htm