A recent study conducted by Public Agenda looks at parents with young children and their views on childcare. Seventy percent of parents surveyed believe it is ideal for at least one parent to be at home during a child's early years in life.
Steve Farkas, Director of Research at Public Agenda, a nonpartisan, nonprofit public opinion research and citizen education organization based in New York City, was the principal researcher and author of this study.
The survey found that more and more women are staying home. It also found that nearly 80% of young mothers (ages 18-29) would prefer to stay home. These women are the children of the generation of women told they should be out working.
Researchers questioned 800 parents of preschool-aged children. It covered a wide-range of topics related to the parents' views on raising children and childcare, who is responsible, the impact of the employer on providing good child care, fears about day care, government aid for day care costs, etc.
The reality is that only 47% of families have one parent remaining at home. About 28% fall into the "other" category when asked about day care and 25% employ professional day care for their child. More than six out of ten parents say they are concerned about abuse and neglect in day care centers.
WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT FINDING OF THIS STUDY?
When it comes to childcare, the parents say overwhelmingly that the best thing is to have a parent at home. More than half of the parents actually followed through and did not use childcare in the early years. The study is focused on parents with young children at home. Young Moms felt particularly strong that someone should be home with the children, 80% felt the best option was to have a parent at home.
WHAT REASONS DID PARENTS GIVE FOR NOT STAYING HOME?
Income. Money. In the survey, most families where both parents are working say it's because they have to make ends meet. For some people it's simply where they want to be. If a woman or man has prepared for a career, they don't want to give it up. And there's a real understanding of that from all sides of the issue. People aren't looked down on for wanting to work or the other way around.
HAVE ANY OF THE PREDOMINANT VIEWPOINTS CHANGED IN RECENT YEARS?
There's the sense that there was a time in the 40's and 50's where it was expected that you stay home. Then women were liberated and told they should be out working and defining their roles beyond motherhood. I think what has happened now, it's up to the woman to make her own choice. Increasingly, even men are given this freedom. It's a respectable option. If you can do it most parents think you should for reason of bonding and love. We heard over and over again, "no one can do it as well as you."
THE STUDY ADDRESSES PARENTS' FEARS OF PUTTING THEIR KIDS IN DAY CARE. WHAT DID THEY TELL YOU ABOUT THESE FEARS?
There are a lot of concerns about day care. For one, there is a paralyzing fear of stangers caring for their kids. Abuse or neglect was of concern even though they recognize it's extremely rare. For many, that presents an unacceptable risk.
Quality of childcare was of particular concern to low-income parents because the childcare they see in their neighborhoods may be of lower quality.
I always speak with people face-to-face and I'm driven by their agenda in the research, the questions follow up on their lead so the focus of this study really reflects what people are talking about, I think.
There was a sense for many parents that they had no choice. Overwhelmingly, the focus groups felt if a woman wasn't happy at home, she should go out and work. There was a sensibility and thoughtful approach to their answers. There was no sense that if you were a single mom, you made a mistake and now you need to pay for it.
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