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Pros and Cons of Day Care

Updated on June 15, 2015

Day Care

Psychological researchers estimate approximately 85% of the adult personality is formed by the time a person is six years old. Clearly, those first six years of life are decidedly crucial.

The way we train our children during those years, together with the influences we expose them to any environment we place them in, have a huge impact on character, emotional development, and mental health.

We live in an era when parental choices are becoming increasingly difficult. Many find being a two income family isn't an option in today's economy. It's a necessity. Reluctantly, many are leaving their children in day care centers during these first six crucial years. Are they harming their children by placing them in day care facilities? Certain self-proclaimed “experts,” on daytime TV talk shows, have claimed children actually benefit from the daycare experience because they are supported with learning experiences not available in a home atmosphere. But is this true?

Certainly, some day care centers are adequately staffed with competent compassionate people. But these centers tend to be so costly it hardly pays for the mother to work.

One quality a child needs most to experience during their formative years is attention. And for a child to receive such attention, there should be at least one, caring, staff member for every three or four toddlers. Day care centers maintaining such a high staff-to-child ratio are rare.

Numerous studies reveal emotional damages children often experience at day care installations. However, studies and statistical surveys are one thing. Personal experiences quite another. Some have experienced day care centers that haven't lived up to their expectations.

One wife had hours of shopping to do and was unable to get a babysitter. As a last resort she took her two-year-old son to a neighborhood day care center. This facility had a good reputation and was highly recommended.

She signed her son in, gave him a big hug, and left him in the hands of a gracious, friendly woman, who took charge of him.

When she returned hours later, she and the staff couldn't locate him. Eventually they did find him, sitting in a parking lot across the street where cars drove back and forth within a few feet of him. It's apparent daycare workers, however well trained, can't replace the home in terms of love, and individualized attention.

What Harm Can It Do?

Most Day care centers pay workers little more than minimum wage, which means it's hard to attract and keep a highly well trained, staff. The majority of staff in day care facilities have little instruction in child development or education. Most facilities have a low adult-to-child ratio, which means few receive little or no individualized attention.

Children don't have one adult assigned to them as a teacher and caregiver. Although there are many caregivers, there is also a high volume of turnover. One staff member leaves, another arrives.

During this critical time, when personality and ability to trust are being formed, children should be able to bond with constant caregivers, mother, father, grandparents, or older siblings. Children should learn these individuals can be trusted and won't abandon them.

However, in a day care center a child sees sees a lot of anonymous caregivers. Many come, they stay a while, and then leave. This fosters a distrust that interferes with a child's early development and could later hinder relationships.

Does this mean children raised in a day care environment automatically mature into emotionally damaged and impaired? No. Many raised under extremely adverse circumstances grow up to be surprisingly well adjusted.

On the other hand, many raised in relatively normal circumstances, develop depression related issues, phobias, schizophrenia, and other emotional problems. The human brain is a complicated instrument, and it's assaulted by an array of influences.

However, those clinically examined find definite trends. Children who are “farmed out” for a large part of the early childhood tend to be likelier candidates for emotional problems in adulthood than “homegrown” children.


Some really need to work, and have carefully considered they are working for the right reasons. They can truly say, their paycheck is desperately needed. This isn't about buying new boats or big screen TVs.

It's about paying the electric bill and putting food on the table. If you are in such a position, no one has to tell you how hard it is. You are in a sink or swim situation, and your children's welfare depends on your ability to bring home a paycheck.

Still, there may be other alternatives for you and your children besides traditional day care options. Some possibilities for you to consider:

  • Seek out a one person, small-scale, in-home nursery. Often called a home-based day care facility, this alternative allows your child to experience a steady one-on-one relationship with another adult able to respond to your child's unique personality and needs. It's also usually less expensive than group therapy. To find such a place, place a notice in your church newsletter. Ask friends for referrals, and contact your local social service agency to find out which home-based facilities are licensed to operate in your area. However, don't assume a licensed facility can guarantee the safety of your child. Only you can determine by conscientious checking and interviewing. Talk to home facility operators, being candid about concerns you may have. Ensure the home-based facility takes in no more than three or four children. Inspect the home for safety features, such as “childproofing” and smoke detectors.

  • Search your motivations. If you feel you need a vacation from 24 hour a day parenting, then you could probably benefit from an occasional break. Staying home day after day, doing all the household work while taking care of several small children is a tough job. So, instead of sending your kids to daycare five days a week, make a commitment to occasionally take a few days off. Find a qualified person to take over while you catch some rest and relaxation. The children may also benefit from this break, learning to be less dependent and discovering they are distinct individuals.

What about Guilt?

It's common to experience guilt feelings when first going to work leaving your children in a day care center. If you have honestly examined your reasons for working, and are sure this is something you need to do as a matter of economic survival, then you have no reason to feel guilty. However, it's possible you are feeling some false guilt. You may also experience feelings of frustration, anger, and resentment toward others who seem to have it easier than you do.

If you have trouble dealing with emotions about putting your children in a day care environment, here are some tips to help resolve them:

  1. Find support group parents with a similar situation where you can be supported and accepted.

  2. Learn to separate authentic guilt from false guilt. Authentic guilt alerts you to unhealthy or sinful behavior in your life. It's advising you need to change some aspect of your life. If you have chosen to go to work and leave your children in day care in order to find more excitement and fulfillment in life, or earn some extra spending money, then any guilt feelings are probably real.

  3. But if, after carefully examining your motives, you feel you have made the best decision possible, then these guilt feelings are false. The source of your feelings may come from expectations derived from your own childhood, or unconscious comparisons you make between yourself and other mom's.

  4. They can also be from criticism received from those who don't understand your situation. Whatever the source, it's helpful to sort through. Seek creative ways to spend time with your child. Can you work staggered hours?

  5. Seek to make constructive changes in your life. If you feel trapped by low-paying, long hours and inflexible scheduling right, recognize that change is possible. While keeping that job, searched want ads and stay in a “networking” mode until you find a better suited, “child friendly” lifestyle you want.

Daycare is clearly a depressing compromise. But there are options to help nullify the negative effects of daycare.


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