Other Influences on Parenting
Parenting needs to be examined and analyzed in the context of culture and community. Numerous variables affect family life and may be external factors of community and environment as well as internal factors of cultural background, family demographics, and economics.
With extended work schedules for most American families, a huge number of parents now must cope daily with requirements for temporary care of their children. At one time, when many mothers were homemakers, child care was merged with running the household. Mothers attended their preschool-age children, welcomed their older children home from school, and supervised most at-home activities.
At the present time, however, the situation is far different: Welfare reform has increased the number of parents in the workforce, single-parent and dual-income families grow every year, and fewer extended family members are available to care for children. More than 65% of mothers with children under six are in the workforce (Children’s Defense Fund, 2001). This means that a huge number of young children are in some type of child-care arrangement for part of every workday. These arrangements include center-based and family child care as well as less formal situations, such as babysitters or care by slightly older siblings.
Infant, toddler, and preschool child care and after-school care for older children are now facts of life for most communities. As more families, formerly on welfare, enter the workforce, the demands for quality care for children will intensify. Many child-care programs have waiting lists for children who need this service, and added requests will intensify the problem. Although a number of schools now operate their own after-school care programs, the need for care outstrips availability. Furthermore, the quality and costs of care are quite variable- adding another dimension to the problem for parents seeking care for their children.
Good child care, once found, solves many problems for parents. Supportive caregivers become an extension of the family and often develop strong affectional ties to the child and parents. These caregivers know the child well and can offer parents advice and reassurance as issues and concerns arise. This can be especially helpful to single parents. Child care also fosters connections between parents and other families with children, allowing them to develop a larger support network. Knowing their child is well cared for relieves parents of stress and anxiety and allows them to do their jobs. Child care offers benefits to both children and parents.
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