No, universal daycare doesn't destroy the national character

The Brit papers have been full of news about the Swedish daycare expert brought in to address Conservative MPs about the iron-clad, data-driven link between Sweden's universal daycare and the rise of teen mental health issues there. Jonas Himmelstrand was there to warn Britain that sending mothers to work and kids to daycare was bad for the family and the nation. Only one problem: he has no formal qualifications to speak on the subject, and the scientist whose research he cited says he got it all wrong.


  1. I am Swedish, I think Swedish daycare is fantastic for the children, and Jonas Himmelstrand, who is definately not a known authority on the subject, seems to be a fool.

    1.  What are *your* qualifications, apart from being Swedish?  Do you base this on anything except the advantages of childcare for you?  do you have children and are they old enough for you to know if there are any negative effects from childcare at a young age?  The negative effects that were noted in the Tizard and Hughes study that I quoted in my comment below, were that children, particularly male children, tended to restrict their communications in nursery to the practical:  can I have those scissors?  May I go outside? and the staff were unable to explain things in a context that made sense to the child.  Parents or adults who love and know the history of a child can make the world make sense to them by using their knowledge of what the child has experienced and understands, or using examples from their life.  No nursery teacher faced with 20 children can do that to the same degree, however good they are. I didn’t find that either of my sons was ready for nursery at four, although I was persuaded by some government propaganda that it would be better for their future schooling if they went.  When I later investigated the study which they quoted, it compared groups of children at 14 and their behaviour in school and related it to whether they had attended nursery or not.  It did not look at their academic progress or their behaviour in the real world at all.  I’d say it’s true that many children learn to be quiet and compliant at nursery and that isn’t necessarily beneficial to their future life.

      1. Wow.  It sounds like somebody really really hates daycare. And paragraphs.

        A friend of mine who is a schoolteacher said that teachers can tell which kids had preschool daycare, because they’re better socialized. To my surprise, she said she personally could tell the difference…  in middle school. I know that’s anecdotal, but she’s somebody I trust.

        1. You are right, I do hate it.  I deliberately spent a lot of time in my children’s nursery because I was sending them against my better judgement (and I do regret it).  I disliked the idea that four year olds (and now three year olds, routinely, in the UK) were being expected to sit quietl;y and colour around letter shapes *if* they weren’ happy to do that.  I didn’t like the fact that the teachers labelled the children as “good girl” or “naughty boy” when I had read all the books that told me to label the action, and not the child.  I didn’t like the fact that four year olds were told they couldn’t leave to go to the loo because teacher was talking and wasn’t going to let them talk.  The sort of socialization I fear your friend is talking about is what I was talking about – the sort that keeps a child from expressing what they want or need, and makes them keep quiet because it isn’t the time for questions/drinking/visiting the loo.  That sort of socialisation is appropriate in school/the army/prison/possible a call centre, but not n the real world.  Research in the States, Canada and the UK has found children not subjected to school discipline are consistently rated better socialised in the real world.  Within the constraints of the school system I have no problem accepting that a child who has been schooled from 3 to obey injunctions to sit still and keep quiet will be better at it.

          1. Makes sense for a nursery with 1 to 20 ratio nursery teacher to children. I just moved to Norway and it is 1 to 4(max 5 by law). Our kid gets all the attention he wants and kids to play with. He is only 11 months old but his communications and motor skills have increased considerably in the 3 weeks hes been there (anecdotal I know). 

            I would say that it varies with children and nurseries.  My 3y daughter is packed and ready to go and resists coming home. Other kids and nursery nursery combinations might not be as good. 

            At the end of the day, nursery isn’t the same as nursery. 

  2.  You know, if I was asked to find a keynote speaker for a Commons event I’d begin by reading the established body of academic literature on the subject, and not typing in “universal childcare bad” on Google and contacting the first loon that comes up.

  3. He has the best qualification for the job, which is telling people what they want to hear.  

  4. I have no qualifications either… but I have noticed an increasing number of teenagers with mental health and drug issues in this country too, and hardly any of them are from the breastfeeding, attachment-parenting, unschooling crowd I frequent and have contact with (who generally disapprove of paid childcare).  If there is an interest in real science instead of knee jerk reactions on BOTH sides of the argument (people generally feel passionate and defensive about the choices they have made for their own children – who wants to hear they may be screwing with their children’s future happiness and mental health?) then there ought to be rigorous and scientific study of the problem to discern whether this is rubbish anecdotal tosh or a real phenomenon.  It should be noted that when psychologists went into nurseries expecting to prove that children were better off and did better academically due to their attendance at nursery, they had to eat their predictions with a large sprinkling of wrong.  Despite the protestations of those who rely on day nurseries and believe they will give their children a better start in life, Tizard and Hughes found that children did better on every level with a dedicated adult carer and not in nursery.  You can read their conclusions in “Young Children Learning” which is available on Amazon.

    1.  What I’ve noticed is that children who grow up with parents who put their own needs first most if not all of the time are the ones most likely to be dealing with drug and behavioral issues in school…whether primary, middle, or high school.

      Having a job is not the same thing as being selfish.  Just because there is overlap between parents who have jobs and those who are not attentive to their children doesn’t mean the job is the crux of the problem.

    2.  I’m the child of a single mother and spent a lot of my time as a child in paid childcare as a result.  (And I did rather well academically.)  Could you please STFU about the institutions that made my family possible in the first place?

    1. To be fair, the people that did the research he’s citing are saying he’s full of shit. If you give someone a reference, and that reference calls bullshit, there’s a problem.

    2.   True that. But if the people who brought him to the UK and arranged for him to testify are touting him as more than just some dude with an opinion, then it becomes a test of their credibility if, in fact, he is just some dude with an opinion.

    3.  You can become quite knowledgeable on a subject if you read a lot of books about it and understand them, without having written one yourself, but it looks like if he Did read the papers/books he cited, he didn’t understand them, intentionally or unintentionally.

  5. So it sounds like International Daycare, Health, Education, Jobs and Society is a complex enough topic that it’s difficult to conclude anything about anything – except the Swedes have very reasonable daycare rates. When my wife and I worried about this it seemed that the kids that went to daycare were more socially sophisticated than the kids who didn’t.

    Does this mean the Tories want to cut funding for daycare using the pretext it’s bad for kids? Would this imply that children raised in poverty by parents with zero options is good for kids?

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