Recently, there’s been some renewed interest in a post from Ph.D. in Parenting’s blog post entitled Dr. Phil Stay-at-home mom vs. working mom show.
Normally, I thoroughly enjoy engaging in these kind of debates on other blogs, and rarely (if ever) do I invite such “lively” discussions into my own online home. If you wish to debate, grab a cup of coffee or beverage of choice, sit back and read the About Me page for the rules to playing nice in my online home. As long as you are respectful, we’ll get along just fine.
I’m not about to re-hash the original stay-at-home vs. working mom debate, or offer more counter arguments to a particular commentator’s response (see comment 52 and 64). I’ve already made my arguments (see comments 57, 65-68).
I’m not here to debate whether or not a woman should have kids or not (I didn’t plan on having any at all myself until I found myself pregnant at 30), or whether mothers (or fathers) should work or should stay at home or whose contribution is more valuable or valid (they are equally valuable and valid). In our home I was the primary breadwinner when my husband was laid off for a year and I supported our family, working as a medical genetics laboratory supervisor. Then, we needed to both work to recover his lost income until we got back on our feet, while my mother-in-law watched our 2 children in our home until my second-born was 9 months old, when I decided to come home and take care of our family.
What I am here to do is provide some research-based resources for promoting attachment parenting practices and that the research supports the parent/infant bonding – not day-care provider/infant bonding.
I found this quotation from Zoey, an Australian working mother with flexible work arrangements) offers a continuation of the intense debate, on her blog post entitled SAHM setting the Women’s Movement Back.
Jay Belsky * (quoted in The Complete Secrets of Happy Children) conducted a study that found young children (under 1) in childcare exhibited attachment problems, heightened aggressiveness, non compliance and social withdrawal. Indeed, it was found that the perceived benefits of childcare, in particular improved social skills, was found to be more likely a coping mechanism to deal with a challenging environment.
* Jay Belsky, BA (Vassar), MS, PhD (Cornell); Professor of Psychology – Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues, University of London – Birkbeck
I researched his name and found his website where he has numerous research articles on the effects of disruption to the attachment process due to day-care providers and other attachment theory research. “His areas of special expertise include the effects of day care, parent-child relations during the infancy and early childhood years, the transition to parenthood, the etiology of child maltreatment, and the evolutionary basis of parent and child functioning.” It sounds like if anyone, he would know what he’s talking about here.
In response to this particular quote, I wrote this response on Zoey’s blog
I do appreciate your references to Jay Belsky’s work. I’ve been looking for some citations to refute the claims that putting infants in day-care have absolutely no ill effects. It goes counter to healthy psychology and healthy human development and simple intuition. You don’t remove a completely dependent infant from a primary caregiver [mother or father or close family member if possible if both parents have to work and don't have flexible work arrangements] and expect them to not have attachment issues. Sure, adaptations are made, but at a very subtle but incredible expense.
I’m convinced that it’s one of the very reasons why there is an incredible lack of basic empathy for others in modern society. Fostering healthy independence doesn’t mean thrusting the infants into strange and chaotic environments that day-care centers are with people who have no vested interest in their proper care and emotional development.
It’s absolutely ludicrous to think that there are no ill-effects from such outsourcing of your responsibility to an institutional setting at a critical time in child development.
Yet…it happens all the time. I cringe every time I hear infants as young as 6 weeks old have to go to day-care. I know…sometimes it’s the only option. But it doesn’t make it right for the child.
There are a couple of key articles I want to cite regarding attachment and anxiety from Ned. Kalin, MD who is the Department Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Biological correlates of attachment bond disruption in humans and nonhuman primates. Kalin NH, Carnes M. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 1984;8(3):459-69.
Separations or disruptions in attachment bonds occur frequently in the social lives of humans and have been linked to the development of psychopathology. Separation of social nonhuman primates has been proposed as a model to study the psychological and biological effects of separation in humans. This paper reviews the biological alterations that occur in nonhuman primates undergoing separation and compares these with changes associated with separation in humans. The data reviewed demonstrate that separation in humans and nonhuman primates can be an event with profound behavioral and physiological sequelae.
And in particular this one (below) too, because it helps to understand the brain-based research on severe social anxieties. Selective mutism would definitely be a maladaptive coping strategy to severe social anxiety. I once had the entire article before it got sent to Pubmed, but apparently I never saved a copy to my hard drive before the full text disappeared.
Nonhuman primate models to study anxiety, emotion regulation, and psychopathology. Kalin NH, Shelton SE. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Dec;1008:189-200.
Here is a part of the abstract for this one on PubMed
This paper demonstrates that the rhesus monkey provides an excellent model to study mechanisms underlying human anxiety and fear and emotion regulation. In previous studies with rhesus monkeys, stable, brain, endocrine, and behavioral characteristics related to individual differences in anxiety were found. It was suggested that, when extreme, these features characterize an anxious endophenotype and that these findings in the monkey are particularly relevant to understanding adaptive and maladaptive anxiety responses in humans. The monkey model is also relevant to understanding the development of human psychopathology. For example, children with extremely inhibited temperament are at increased risk to develop anxiety disorders, and these children have behavioral and biological alterations that are similar to those described in the monkey anxious endophenotype. It is likely that different aspects of the anxious endophenotype are mediated by the interactions of limbic, brain stem, and cortical regions.
The above article, if I remember correctly (or if not, one of his other papers that is similar), is a toughie, because I believe it includes a section on depressed mothers and the effects of “accidental” neglect of the infants needs because the mother is struggling with depression. Don’t feel bad if you struggled with depression. I did, for a long time after the birth of my 3rd child. I feel, in some ways, personally responsible for contributing to my daughter’s selective mutism and for a while, felt an incredible amount of guilt that perhaps I caused her to have these severe anxieties. While there might be a shred of truth to that, I take comfort in the fact that I was the predominant source of setting us both on the right path to reversing the conditions we were battling.
And still yet another that I’m going to look into:
Early Risk Factors and Developmental Pathways to Chronic High Inhibition and Social Anxiety Disorder in Adolescence. Essex MJ, Klein MH, Slattery MJ, Goldsmith HH, Kalin NH. Am J Psychiatry. 2009 Nov 16.
The abstract from Pubmed:
Objective Evidence suggests that chronic high levels of behavioral inhibition are a precursor of social anxiety disorder. The authors sought to identify early risk factors for, and developmental pathways to, chronic high inhibition among school-age children and the association of chronic high inhibition with social anxiety disorder by adolescence. Method A community sample of 238 children was followed from birth to grade 9. Mothers, teachers, and children reported on the children’s behavioral inhibition from grades 1 to 9. Lifetime history of psychiatric disorders was available for the subset of 60 (25%) children who participated in an intensive laboratory assessment at grade 9. Four early risk factors were assessed: female gender; exposure to maternal stress during infancy and the preschool period; and at age 4.5 years, early manifestation of behavioral inhibition and elevated afternoon salivary cortisol levels. Results All four risk factors predicted greater and more chronic inhibition from grades 1 to 9, and together they defined two developmental pathways. The first pathway, in girls, was partially mediated by early evidence of behavioral inhibition and elevated cortisol levels at age 4.5 years. The second pathway began with exposure to early maternal stress and was also partially mediated by childhood cortisol levels. By grade 9, chronic high inhibition was associated with a lifetime history of social anxiety disorder. Conclusions Chronic high levels of behavioral inhibition are associated with social anxiety disorder by adolescence. The identification of two developmental pathways suggests the potential importance of considering both sets of risk factors in developing preventive interventions for social anxiety disorder.
A large part of my blog is devoted to the severe social anxiety and selective mutism of my middle daughter and how attachment parenting, emotion coaching and SPD therapies she’s done at home, and support from staff at school reversed her maladaptive coping strategy of selective mutism.
Another large part of my blog is devoted to my recovering from my own attachment disorders I inherited as a child. No, I didn’t turn into someone with severe pathologies (could possibly have – I had some really dark days), but it did impact my ability to nurture my child. Everything my child needed – close physical and emotional contact was everything I was struggling to provide in my overwhelmed state of mind.
I have been in contact with many highly sensitive, gifted and talented adults who are suffering from childhood wounds resulting from some pretty severe pain caused from detached, neglectful and sometimes abusive parents from 30, 40 years ago. These things never leave a sensitive child without life-long scars. I personally know there are more than a few of us highly sensitive, highly gifted adults are walking through our adult lives wounded because they were abandoned/abused by their primary care-givers because they didn’t believe in or didn’t know about promoting healthy attachment to their children, particularly if they were “challenging” as children, which many gifted children are perceived as when their unique qualities aren’t understood.
If one would ever question the validity of attachment theory, one really ought to take a look at the fact-based evidence in support of it.
In answer to the question of “how much” is enough? Enough is dependent on the child. Some need less, some need more, some need even more than that. Your child will show signs of enough – he or she will start sleeping better at night, and during the day will start separating from you for short periods of time, then longer and longer periods of time, until one day you wake up and wonder why your child doesn’t need you at all that it leaves you slightly melancholic that they are secure enough without you.