Long day-care 'form of child abuse': Expert
A RESPECTED pediatrician and vice-president of the leading advocacy body for prevention of child abuse and neglect says leaving babies in long-day care can be a form of child abuse.
Dr Sue Packer, Canberra's 2013 Citizen of the Year, also believes lack of communication between parents and their children when young could be a contributing factor to Australia's alarming rate of depression and suicide in youths.
"There is a looming risk for children brought up in an untested environment (long-day care)," she said.
"They are a social experiment now. We will see how much alternative care they than cope with without compromising development.''
Dr Packer was a contributor to pamphlets on display at Nambour General Hospital last week titled Alternatives to Smacking Children.
While Dr Packer does not support smacking a child, even a controlled smack, she said what was more damaging was the lack of attention children got.
"More than anything that is changing in Australia is the connected time parents spend with their children," she said. "It is plummeting.
"Which is more damaging, the occasional smack or level of attention? I would say the level of attention."
Dr Packer questioned why parents were having children when they did not want them and enjoy them.
Her sharpest criticism was levelled at parents who put their children in long-day care when they were less than a year old.
WHAT'S MAKING NEWS TODAY:
- Injured Ironman cyclist in '15 minute wait for help'
- Train toilets too threatening for Brisbane's CBD
- 'Poor communication' results in loss of licence
- New photos: Kanye West, Kim Kardashian at Australia Zoo
"Babies in care from six weeks of age we are learning - and there is amazing research - how this affects the development of the right side of the brain," she said.
Dr Packer referred to the work of Professor Allan Shore, a leading neuroscientist at the University of California, who has done research into how parent-child interaction plays a key role in shaping the right side of infants' brains.
Dr Packer said a lack of parent-child interaction was more harmful than the occasional slap on the wrist with a hand.
"There is enormous pressure on women to work (in Australia).
"Finland is doing better. They have three years of paid-parental leave and virtually no babies in alternate care for the first year of life.
"Early in the second year, children enjoy being with others.
"But it should be for short periods, they should predominantly be with their mother."
Dr Packer said some children were different and enjoyed being with others.
But for others, it could be traumatic. "It is called child abuse if it is traumatic and it can be very traumatic," she said.
Dr Packer said the days we were living in were difficult.
"We are bringing our children up in a different world.
"Every child is different, but in general every effort should be made by parents to keep their baby home in the first year."