IMFC 12 September 2015
Please click here to read the first half. This is the conclusion to Jonas Himmelstrand’s assessment of social outcomes and daycare in Sweden.
Sweden has youth with poor psychological health and poor school results, and stressed parents with weak parenting skills. Why?
Is there a causal relationship between the negative outcomes and the introduction of public affordable daycare initiated 40 years ago?
If so, there would be every reason to warn other nations contemplating the model until a more comprehensive understanding of the Swedish developments has been reached.
The Swedish government will go far to refute any causal claims. This is understandable. If causality was true it would be a near political disaster.
Typically, loyal government experts say that the poor psychological wellbeing is due to too many choices for young people today,1 that school results and behaviour are due to lack of demands on the students, and that Swedish parents have never been more interested in their children (which may actually be an indicator that they have lost their parenting instincts).
They go on: Women on sick-leave is caused by men not helping enough at home. The gender-segregated labour market simply shows that child care and parental leave need to be even more regulated. A top political issue in Sweden today is different ways to force the sharing of parental leave between parents, forcing them to take a third to a half each or lose their leave.
While there may be some truth in these official explanations, they do not tell the whole story. It is also not right to consider every angle, to plumb every possible cause of the poor outcomes, except the daycare system.
Most developmental psychologists agree these children and youth need a stronger adult presence in their lives.
The problem is that Swedish parents have lost trust in themselves. They have been informed by the medical profession, government agencies, media debate and modern Swedish culture in the erroneous belief that every child needs daycare from age one to develop and flourish.
No one can prove the Swedish daycare scheme has been good for children, youth, parents or gender equality. Neither can it be denied that evidence suggests, even if it does not prove, that there may be long-term detrimental effects of the early separation between children and parents on a mass scale without real parental choice.
No modern western nation has yet fully solved the issue of child care, women employment and gender equality. As was stated in a 2014 Canadian CBC documentary called The Motherlode, feminism forgot the children. A strong political force speaking for the needs of children is yet to come.
Ultimately, child care must be a parental decision based on the needs of the individual child – unlike in Sweden, where it has become a political decision based on other factors like gender equality and other ideologies.