Monday, April 02, 2007

How NICHD Researchers Think About Dads

There has been a good deal of discussion out there on the latest data dump from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (which the government modestly calls "the largest, longest running, and most comprehensive study of child care in the United States"). It has been well-documented that the study defines child-care as including fathercare, which is -- for a number of reasons -- asinine.

So I was excited last week when I hear via the Wall Street Journal that this edition of the study included dads. But the press release seemed to contradict that. I was forced to actually pull the text of the study. And here is the scoop, as best I can tell ...

... the primary analysis of the study data lumps dads in as childcare. Those are the "rules" of the study, dumb though they might be. But in 2004, some guy named Marinus van IJzendoorn analyzed all the data and found that -- to the extent to which there are problems with childcare -- it's problems with nonrelative care. So the SECCYD researchers figured they'd run the numbers that way, too, to make confirm that care by dads (and grandma/grandpa/etc.) is somehow different than day care. That "secondary analysis" that separates "relative care" from "nonrelative care" is progress, I suppose.

Though I don't want to get caught in the trap of using the data to demonize certain choices, you can all rest assured that care by relatives (even dads!) isn't linked to screwed-up kids. Of course, no care choices are really linked to screwed up kids, but that doesn't make for very good headlines, does it?

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