The Effects of Daycare on Parent & Child Attachments

Many parents seem to be just as anxious or more so than their child -- and perhaps a little guilt ridden -- when their little one enters the foreign world of daycare. Parents may worry that leaving their child in the care of someone else may weaken the connection with their child. Spending too much time in daycare may negatively impact parent and child attachments, at least temporarily. Making the most of the time you have with your child can help offset any hint of detachment.


Children who spend time in a top-notch childcare setting are less likely to experience long-term effects from being separated from their mother for extended periods of time, according to a report published by the University of New Hampshire Sociology Department 2. Fortunately, low-quality day cares should, at least theoretically, be few and far between since childcare centers must meet certain standards. Parents are encouraged to visit a potential day care before enrolling their little one to make sure it's of high quality and meets state standards.

Expert Insight

Interactions between mother and child are "less harmonious" when kids spend more than 10 hours per week in childcare, according to research conducted by Jay Belsky, PhD, a professor of human development at Pennsylvania State University. A study of 1,000 children and their families discovered mothers whose young children receive extensive day care tend to be slightly less sensitive and a little more negative when caring for their child. The study, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, also found that by age 3, the children studied were less positive when interacting with their parents. Belsky told WedMD that parents and children alike may be wiped out at the end of the day when they finally have a little time together.

Making the Most of Your Time Together

You and your child may not be bursting with energy at the end of a long day but do your best to spend quality time together. You don't have to play hide-and-seek or run around the backyard. It's fine to keep things calm and peaceful. Relaxing and cuddling with your child helps reinforce your attachment as you both wind down from the day. Bedtime rituals might include a warm bath, bedtime story and a little quiet time to talk while tucking your child in bed with a hug and kiss goodnight.


Separation anxiety in young tots typically develops between 18 months and 2 1/2 years of age, according to KidsHealth 1. Most toddlers are afraid or hesitant of strangers and prefer their mom and dad. Your young child's reluctance to leave you is a good indicator that solid attachments are intact. If you have serious concerns that sending your child to daycare will hurt your attachment, consider recording an audiotape of yourself reading books or singing songs for your child to listen to at day care -- assuming the facility will allow it. Also, place a photo of you and other family members in her backpack.