PARENTAL CHILDCARE: UNPAID AND UNDERVALUED!

The survey launched by the Duchess of Cambridge has been designed to provide evidence on how the nation thinks about early years and to what extent early brain development is understood by the general public. A similar, albeit much smaller opinion survey undertaken by What About The Children? in 2018, found that public understanding about brain development in the early years, despite the raft of research about this period of brain development, does not reflect what the science tells us; that babies need and thrive when they receive sensitive, constant loving care.

There is irrefutable evidence from research that the quality of care during the period of development from conception to age three holds the key for future physical and mental health, indeed babies who experience sensitive, consistent, responsive loving care and have a secure infant parent attachment are more likely to thrive and much less likely to develop mental and physical ill health later in life. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that mental illnesses cost the UK economy £94bn per year. There is a strong link between the quality of early care and the absence of secure attachment and the enduring and widespread effect on both mental and physical health throughout the life span. Research, published in November 2019 by Bachman C J et al ‘The cost of love: financial consequences of insecure attachment in antisocial youth’ argues that society should take a public health approach to promoting good quality, constant, sensitive care giving babies need. This is more likely to improve the wellbeing of children and young people and therefore a more cost effective means of reducing levels of anti social behaviour and adult mental and physical ill-health.

Over recent years government childcare policy has been focused on the provision of ‘affordable childcare’ available to parents who return to paid work, putting pressure on them to return to work as soon as possible after the birth of their babies. The implied message to parents is that being in paid work, leaving the care of their very young children to others, is being a ‘good parent’. Childcare funding is not available to parents to enable them have the time to be with their baby during the important period of development, from birth to 3. Science tells us, secure attachment is the key protective factor for future health and wellbeing.

With the growing public concern about poor mental health it’s time government policies promote and value consistent responsive loving parental care by providing financial and social support to parents to enable them to have the time and opportunity to build secure attachment with their babies. With this paradigm shift to fiscal and social policy it is more likely that society will enjoy the benefits of a growing and successful economy.