In March 1970, twenty-six percent of mothers with children under two years of age were in the labor force. By the same month in 1984, that figure was 46.8 percent (U.S. Department of Labor, 1984). In the present day, that number is even higher and the children under five years of age who need daycare assistance reached ten million (Bureau of Census, 1995).
This strong increase of demand for external caregivers brought to the creation of many specialized centers and the growth of the sector of non-professional assistance like part-time babysitters. Unfortunately, the most part of these offerings are incompetent and low quality. As the average age in which children are placed in extra-parental hands is decreasing, the risk of later behavioral consequences increases, so the choice of the right solution becomes always more critical. At this time, over half of the children under one year need this kind of assistance and approximately sixteen percent of them belong to families very close to the poverty line (NAP chap.1). The problem is accentuated by the widening of the gap between rich and poor, that can be translated in this matter as an increase of difficulty for low-income families to have access to the much more expensive high quality day care options.
There are several aspects that built such a controversial situation and the most important are certainly the cultural and economical ones. The huge growth in womens independence and professional ambition, in addition to importance, of the last decades, caused the fall of the cultural basis that have always taken for granted the responsibility of the mother as the full-time caregiver (Chisholm 38). Now women are more willing to gain a successful and respectable place in society, and this can be achieved almost exclusively through hard work and full immersion in their jobs. Simultaneously, the economical situation of our society caused many families to depend on two incomes to satisfy the basic needs. In fact, the increase in the cost of living not sufficiently balanced by a relatively smaller rise in wages, and a greater attitude toward materialism and conspicuous consumption, have given women the same financial responsibility as men (Chilman 451). This aspect can be fully applied only on families with an average income or better, because professional daycare programs are pretty expensive and in some cases can reach prices higher than the minimum wage.
Those factors combined, have made the external daycare for many couples an absolutely indispensable help to create a family without frustrating sacrifices. But this service is not the easy resolution to every problem, because it can be practical for the parents as well as dangerous for the infant. The advantage that most commonly encourage parents to enroll a child in a daycare program is the freedom for both of them to pursuit their objectives. In fact, some of those programs allow the parents to keep on working full-time, with the benefit of the same income level of before and give, especially to the mother, the possibility to keep a personal life not exclusively concentrated on the infant (Chilman 451). Moreover, this opportunity avoids the scheduling of different work shifts for the two parents that could potentially bring to a loss of closeness in the relationship. For the child there is basically one advantage: the high quality services offer the right settings to .