The Symptoms of Parent-Withdrawal

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Author Mary Eberstadt recently wrote a book titled Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs and Other Parent Substitutes. In this book Ms. Eberstadt explores the “immediate emotional experience” that day care, divorce and an overabundance of Ritalin cause for children. She says: “It would be better for both children and adults if more American parents were with their kids more of the time.”

Eberstadt’s book confirms what much research has already revealed.

A 2002 National Survey of America’s Families reported that 72.8 percent of families where both parents worked and had children under age five have someone other than the parents care for the children. The feminists have achieved their goal: widely available child care to “free themselves of motherhood.” Millions of families use day care or other methods of child supervision each week, primarily because of the rising number of working mothers.

But what happens when mom and dad drive away? How safe is day care? Is it merely a neutral convenience or are there unsuspected hazards for children?

The reality is well-known among experts. Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, reports, “We’ve known for years that the outcomes are undesirable when children spend too much time in day care. Regrettably, though, the negative findings of the comprehensive studies are buried in the small print while the headlines trumpet messages that make parents feel OK about putting their children in full-time day care.”

Studies have shown that children in daycare centers are more likely to become:

  • sick,1
  • stressed,2
  • passively withdrawn,3
  • aggressive, defiant and disobedient4

Psychologist Dr. Ken Madig also notes that “an increasing number of children suffer a ‘character disturbance’ called Antisocial Personality Disorder (APDP). The symptoms of ADP include “emotional detachment and uncontrollable inner rage, and its origins can be traced to disruptions in parent-infant bonding.”5

Children in day care are not taught social skills or education. Children are often put into “overcrowded or otherwise unloving child care situations in which they have been forced as an infant to fight for attention and form behavior based on the contradictory messages about acceptable behavior that they have received from parents and daytime caregivers.”6

The National Child Care survey estimated that in centers caring for 1-year-olds, the average group size was 10 children, the average ratio of children to staff was seven to one, and older children (ages 2-5) were frequently crowded into groups of 15. Some studies have suggested an average of seven different people a day and 15 a week care for each day care child.7

Author Brian Robertson agrees in his book, There is No Place Like Work, “Day care workers’ tasks are more akin to crowd control than to the formation of young minds.”8

Day care workers even confess that they wouldn’t put their own children in day care.9 At its worst, the hazardous environment of day care has even contributed to some tragic and preventable deaths. Last August, a 6-month-old baby was killed when two unsupervised children piled toys on him as he lay in a crib.10 In June of 2003 a 2-year-old died after his day care providers left him in a van for more than two hours in 100-degree heat.11

But what happens to school-aged kids?

When children are too old for day care, they may become latchkey kids. Up to 12 million children endure the risks of latchkey life, that is, they stay home alone or with siblings and without supervision on a regular basis. The ages of latchkey kids range from six to 13. Studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics have found that latchkey kids exhibit higher levels of fear, stress, loneliness and boredom; miss more days of school; and have lower academic scores. They are also more likely to experiment with sex and drugs than kids who aren’t left by themselves for long periods of time.12

Another problem is that TV is a common babysitter when children remain unsupervised. Half of the nation’s youth spend more than two hours a day watching TV, yet 76 percent said they would choose more time with their parents if they had the option.13

On average parents spend only 17 hours per week with their children.14 Also, a recent survey shows that many students from grades 6-12 had not conversed longer than 10 minutes with their parents in more than one month.

It is obvious that there is a problem with the care that America’s children are receiving. When a son or daughter sees Ms. Jones at day care or Elmo on TV more than their mom or dad, serious implications result for the health of the children and of the family

Instead of asking the typical question of what is best or more convenient for the adults, we must ask the serious question: “What is best for our children?” Dr. Crouse’s answer: The best environment to foster a child’s intellectual development is one in which his or her mother is actively involved on a day-to-day basis; the best environment is the home.15

End Notes
  1. Bell, David M., Gleiber, Dennis W., Mercer, Alice Atkins, “Illness associated with child day care: a study of incidence and cost,” American Journal of Public Health, v. 79 (April 1989), p. 479-84.
  2. “The Negative Effects of Childcare?” July 17, 2003, as found at
  3. Robertson, Brian; There is No Place Like Work (Dallas, Texas: Spence Publishing Company, 2000) p. 26.
  4. Kathryn Hooks, “‘Hands-On’ Love,” Concerned Women for America, 8 July 2003, as found at
  5. Mack, Dana; The Assault on Parenthood (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), p. 182.
  6. Mack, p. 183.
  7. Robertson, p. 26.
  8. Robertson, p. 27.
  9. Robertson, p. 25.
  10. Saul, Stephanie, “Report: Day care checks inadequate,” Newsday, 8 October 2004.
  11. Miller, Bill, “Death sickened day-care workers, attorney says,” Star-Telegram [Dallas/Fort Worth] 6 June 2003.
  12. American Academy of Pediatrics, “Latchkey Kids”, as found at
  13. Robertson, p. 12.
  14. Robertson, p. 9.
  15. Mahaffey, Rachel, and Arlia, Eva, “Career or Family?” Concerned Women for America, 18 October 2004, as found at

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