Researcher gives children a voice in debate on child care; Quality of parental time outweighs the quantity


In the national debate about cost, quantity and quality of child care, the voices rarely heard are those of children themselves.

Seeking to fill that void, Ellen Galinsky, president of the New York-based Families and Work Institute, surveyed 1,000 children across the country to hear what they had to say about working parents.

Among her findings: Only about 10 percent of children in grades three through 12 wish they spent more time with their mothers -- regardless of whether she scoops them up minutes after the school bell rings or a bus ferries them to an after-school program.

"I can tell very quickly when kids feel child care is working if they talk about it as if it were family," Galinsky said. "The first thing kids want is someone who feels connected to them in a real way, who cares about them as an individual or a person."

They didn't use such fancy words to express themselves, but Southern California children from diverse family situations agreed with the researcher's conclusions.

Often dogged by guilt, parents judge their child-care arrangements more critically than children do, said Galinsky, author of the soon-to-be-published book "Ask the Children: What America's Children Really Think About Working Parents." Children in her study consistently gave child care higher marks than parents did.

More than 90 percent of the 13- to 18-year-olds Galinsky surveyed said that nonparental child care positively or somewhat positively affected their development. Among parents of children those ages, 70 percent gave child care such high marks. The parents and children surveyed did not come from the same families.

Many experts and children concur that the quality of time parents spend with their children outweighs the quantity.

Asked what their top four wishes were for their mothers, 23 percent of children in grades three through 12 hoped for better-paid mothers, and 20 percent wished that their mother was less stressed. Only 10 percent wanted more time with their mother.

The desire for additional time together was more evident when children were asked their top four wishes for their fathers. An identical 23 percent wished their father would make more money, but 15.5 percent wanted more time with him.

Pub Date: 9/06/99

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