Violent Youth and Child Care

January 9, 2006

Kids First Parent Association of Canada
604-291-0088

Youth violence, particularly the explosion of gun violence in Toronto, is an important issue in the election campaign. In response, politicians are promising prison, police, and programs. These are supposed to address “root causes.” But what really are the root causes of increasing rates of youth violence?

Another top election issue is daycare. A national program has long been pushed with promises that it will reduce youth crime and drug abuse and improve social cohesion and inclusion.

Is there any basis for such promises? Or is there a negative connection between daycare and youth violence? Research strongly suggests that there is.

Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that children in daycare have significantly higher levels of aggression and non-compliance at school entry. Kids in long hours in institutional daycare centres—the child care type most heavily supported by government—are the most affected, with observed aggression levels up to 19 per cent above norms. Imagine the outcry if a prescription drug caused this.

The recent, sole study of outcomes of the Quebec daycare system by Michael Baker (University of Toronto), Jonathan Gruber (MIT) and Kevin Milligan (University of British Columbia) found “striking evidence that children are worse off in a variety of behavioral and health dimensions, ranging from aggression to motor-social skills to illness. Our analysis also suggests that the new childcare program led to more hostile, less consistent parenting, worse parental health, and lower-quality parental relationships….The consistency of the results suggests that more access to childcare is bad for these children.”

The US National Institute for Child Health and Human Development studying thousands of children from birth has repeatedly come to the same conclusion. A huge Stanford and Berkeley study found that all kindergarten children who had attended preschool or daycare at least 15 hours a week displayed more negative social behaviors than their peers. A Partnership for Children researcher stated, “we’re talking about children—a 3-year-old in one instance—who will take a fork and stab another child in the forehead.”

Does daycare cause youth violence? Do high levels of aggressive and non-compliant behaviour at age 5 mean higher levels of violent behaviour at age 12, 15, 20? Do we really want to wait for the studies to statistically prove the results?

Rather than launch a social experiment with our children as laboratory mice, a far more sound strategy would be to increase support for those practices that are proven to be effective, such as encouraging greater parent-child connectedness. This requires time together. As Ken Dryden himself once said, “quality time is a crock.”

The $25 million US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health involving over 90,000 adolescents examined risk behaviours including violence and involvement with guns and drugs. It found that, “across all the health outcomes examined, the results point to the importance of family and the home environment for protecting children from harm. What emerges most consistently is the teenager’s feeling of connectedness with parents and family.” This held true despite poverty, single parent status, race, and class.

Seventy-five percent of men in prison have absent fathers.

Parents matter. Love matters.

As it is, these findings are heavily suppressed. Why? Because “attachment” to the Labour Force is deemed to be more important than parent-child attachment.

The elite—corporations, unions and their approved feminists—create policy that penalizes parents, especially mothers, for making their children their first priority. They want all parents in—or seeking—full-time jobs or “training”, with the children in daycare 10 hours a day from birth to age 12. Government regulation is supposed to assure us that “the kids are alright” so we can concentrate on the McJob, free from anxiety about our young.

Preferentially funding daycare is an explicit part of policy imported from the OECD. Policies which provided welfare and other direct financial support to families are dubbed “maternalist” and “familialist,” to be dumped in favour of the “reconciliation of family and work,” writes (approvingly) daycare lobby researcher, Carleton sociology professor, Dr Rianne Mahon, in her paper “The OECD and the Reconciliation Agenda: Competing Blueprints.” These ideologues do not seem to understand that family care IS work, and their policies reflect their willful ignorance.

Daycare lobbyists claim that daycare provides better “nurturing high quality care” and will therefore improve socialization and reduce crime and related costs by up to $7 for every $1 “invested” in daycare. But the evidence contradicts their claims.

Developmental psychologist Dr Gordon Neufeld and co-author Dr Gabor Mate make clear in their landmark book, “Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Matter”, where children derive their social skills—from the adults they are attached to, especially parents. Kids do not civilize other kids. In the absence of attachment to parents, peers fill the void. PEER ATTACHMENT IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF VIOLENT YOUTH GANGS.

Social policy that reduces the time babies and children spend with their parents is a recipe for the “Lord of the Flies”. In the long run, only parents, not the police or prisons, can reverse the growing tragedy of alienated and violent children. The state must recognize this and support parents, not replace or insult us.