Friday, February 03, 2006

Day Care Denial

It's not even two weeks since the Tories won the election, and they've already been proved right on the question of supporting families with young children versus subsidizing daycare. It was bound to happen, but it's encouraging just how quickly it did happen. The study looked at data from StatsCan's National Longitudinal Study of Children and Youth for Quebec and the rest of Canada both before and after Quebec instituted its massively subsidized daycare programme. The results, according to the authors:
"We uncover striking evidence that children are worse off in a variety of behavioural and health dimensions, ranging from aggression to motor-social skills and illness... Our analysis also suggests that the new child-care program led to more hostile, less consistent parenting, worse parental health and lower-quality parental relationships."

Of course, the daycare flacks are in denial. In the Globe and Mail, they quote Martha Friendly, co-ordinator of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit at the University of Toronto who accuses the authors of making a "real conceptual leap" between daycare and child behaviour. Apparently drawing conclusions based on data is beyond the scope of academic work now. Heaven forbid you link different concepts!

Of course, that's not the only non-sequitor offered. Dr. Friendly also offers this gem: "Do you think anybody would say being in kindergarten makes children more aggressive?" Firstly, the issue isn't kindergarten, it's younger children in daycare. To see the flawed reasoning behind this, let's say Dr. Friendly had said that middle school doesn't make kids more aggressive. Even if this is the case, it is not necessarily the case for all age groups. Even if five-year-olds don't have a problem being separated from their parents for most of the day, that has no bearing on whether two-year-olds would have the same reaction. Secondly, I think there are a fair number of people who would say that for some children, kindergarten does make them more aggressive. Certainly I think that was the case for one younger relative, and most people can probably think of kids they've known for whom kindergarten wasn't a wonderful thing.

Dr. Friendly also offers this gem of wisdom: "From my reading of this study, I don't think there's enough information available to be able to make the assertion that is being made in this study." That's a perfectly vague criticism. I don't even know what it means. Does she mean that the correlation isn't statistically significant? Or does she mean there's an alternative explanation for the correlation? For someone who is a professor at U of T, you'd think she'd know the difference between assertion and argumentation.

You can get the summary of the study here. The study itself is supposed to be here, but I haven't gotten it to work.


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