General News, Child Care in Europe - progress, regression and "false awareness", 10.08.2014

Child Care in Europe - progress, regression and "false awareness"


Government and the opposition, employers and trade unions, the media and the "economy" agree that mothers should invest less time in educating their children, instead they should be gainfully employed and their children left in the hands of "professionals". Sociologists refer to this as a farewell to maternalism and lobbyists of the OECD and the EU sell it as shock treatment to recover weakening welfare states. Their antidote is institutional full-day child care, which supposedly helps against various evils at the same time - from poor single mothers to skill shortages to educational deficits(1). Social therapists see an obstacle with the "false awareness" of parents who want to educate their children themselves (2). They are targeted by a "communication policy", which seeks to change "grown behaviors" - the youngest family report calls this "habit formation"(3).

A part of their mantra is that by "International Comparison", the (Western) German backwardness is apparently responsible for this "Mothers’ Myth". As proof, they use the word “Rabenmutter” (raven mother) for working women, this exists nowhere else in Europe (4). Empirical studies show, however, a different picture: West Germans assess compatibility more skeptically than northern Europeans but are they are at the same time less different to the Dutch, British or French. Unusually, however, are the attitudes of East Germans. Of all Europeans, they doubt the least that the employment of mothers is compatible with the education of young children (5). Only the Danes have a similar attitude. Reality and consciousness form as a unit here. East Germany along with Sweden, Slovenia and Portugal is behind Denmark among the countries with the most comprehensive institutional child care. According to official EU statistics a lot of children there spend all day in "formal childcare" up to their third birthday, which is so far quite rare in West Germany and the Netherlands (6). Are the Netherlands more backward than East Germany, Slovenia and Portugal, because mothers often reduce their paid working hours to educate their children? The "rapporteurs" of the OECD, the EU and even the federal government and local media never ask such an obvious question. Instead they incessantly praise Sweden and Denmark, to lead the way for the rest of the world (7).

For decades, social engineers have been using these small and homogeneous countries as a blueprint for their "new" society. Populous, industrialized countries like the United States or the Federal Republic will always be "backward" when measured by OECD standards. Federalism, regional heterogeneity and the diversity of lifestyles and worldviews are nerving. However, this pluralism entails that many people have other views on family and parenting than a political advisor: They doubt the promise of "early support" in institutions, distrust foreign assistance and want to educate their children primarily at home. This “maternalism” is particularly widespread among religious believers, who are therefore also skeptical towards the full-time employment of both parents (8). Convinced advocates of an "institutional childhood" can dismiss this skepticism only as an expression of an outdated "patriarchal" family concept. Empirical analyzes show, however, that the "roles" of the sexes for religious people are rather secondary. It is more important to them that a parent, mother or father, has time to care for the child (9). Their motive is concern for the child's welfare, as with those pediatricians who warn against the risks of early institutional care (10). Among politicians and the "mainstream media", their concerns fall on deaf ears, their opinion leaders have decided to simply ignore relevant findings of brain and hormone research and child psychology (11). At the same time they fervently preach their creed of "early support" to justify unilateral subsidies for Kindergartens. At the same time they attack a modest "care allowance" for parents with all the means of "communication policy". "Propaganda", if one puts it benevolently, with less goodwill it could be called "manipulation".



(1) This sociopolitical paradigm shift has been analyzed by the sociologist Ilona Ostner from Göttingen a decade ago: Ilona Ostner: Am Kind vorbei - Ideen und Interessen in der jüngeren Familienpolitik, pp.247-266, in: Zeitschrift für Soziologie der Erziehung und Sozialisation, 22. Jg., Heft 3/2002
(2) See I. Ostner: “For her child, the "familiaristic" woman interrupt s her career to switch from full-time to part-time and even claim to be quite satisfied with this decision [...]. Therefore, they also appreciate the parental leave, may want to spend only an improved care allowance. [...] Obviously, this is a "false consciousness", disregard of the objective situation, so far the concern of the OECD [...]." Ibid., pp.254-256
(3) See: BMFSFJ (Hrsg.): Zeit für Familie. Familienzeitpolitik als Chance einer nachhaltigen Familienpolitik (Achter Familienbericht), Berlin 2012, p.17
(4) Prototypical for this view: Uta Meier-Gräwe: Was ist Familie? Warum es einer begrifflichen Neujustierung bedarf, pp. 4-15, in: Archiv für Wissenschaft und Praxis der sozialen Arbeit - Vierteljahresschrift zur Förderung von Sozial-, Jugend- und Gesundheitshilfe, 39. Jg., Nr. 1/2009, p.10
(5) See: Angelika Dittmann/Jörg Scheuer: Berufstätigkeit von Müttern bleibt kontrovers, Einstellungen zur Vereinbarkeit von Familie und Beruf in Deutschland und Europa, pp.1-5, in: Informationsdienst Soziale Indikatoren, Ausgabe 38, Juli 2007, p.2 (Grafik 2)
(6) See: „Ganztagsbetreuung von Kleinkindern in Europa" (figure below)
(7) Regarding the underexposed cultural differences from this perspective noticed by I. Ostner: „By the Federal Republic on the protection of privacy of the individual - even worse experience - holds, she shares the values ??of liberalism, not conservatism, with the certainly modern, much more individualized United States, with Britain and the Netherlands, which is also connected to the tradition of liberalism are. The direct intervention into the privacy of citizens, however, has a very long tradition in Sweden." Ilona Ostner: Am Kind vorbei, a.a.O., p.253, p.253
(8) This is clearly proven empirically, at least for Germany. See: „Kleinkinder, Erwerbspräferenzen und Religiosität" (figure below)
(9) See.: Stefan Fuchs: Religion und Demographie. Erkenntnisse aus der empirischen Sozialforschung, pp.348-361, in: DIE NEUE ORDNUNG, 63. Jahrgang, Heft 5/2009, pp.356-357
(10) Rainer Böhm: Die dunkle Seite der Kindheit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 4. April 2012, p.7
(11) This, too, has shown I. Ostner aptly: