OTTAWA, October 8, 2013 ( – While an Institute of Marriage and Family Canada poll released earlier this year shows that 76% of Canadians believe it is best for children under six to be cared for at home by a parent, an analysis released on October 7 examining how the poll results are affected by education level found that support for parental care drops at higher education levels, with women's attitudes changing more than men's.

Daycare Desires, Part III: How education affects attitudes toward daycare” is based on a national childcare poll in which Canadians were asked what type of care is best for a child under six.

The poll of 2,022 Canadians from across the country was conducted for the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) by Abingdon Research between January 25 and 28, 2013.


It found that, regardless of income, gender or working arrangements, a large majority of Canadians (76%) believe a child is better off at home with a parent rather than with a competent caregiver.

However, support for parental care dips to an average of 68% for Canadians with a university degree, and only 62% of those with a post-graduate degree choose parental care.

The effect is more pronounced among women.

The report reveals that among Canadians with high school degrees, equal numbers of men and women (78%) believe a child is best off at home with a parent.

The number diverges for Canadians with a university degree: 72% of men choose parental care while 65% of women do. Among those with post-graduate degrees, the gender disparity is greater, with 69% of men and only 54% of women preferring parental care for children under six.

When asked what is best for children under six, a parent or a competent caregiver, the highest percentage to say they don’t know are women with a university degree at 12%.

The greatest support for parental care was found among Canadians with technical degrees (79%) and those with some university experience but not a complete degree (80%).

The IMFC says the findings raise questions as to why educated Canadians are less likely to prefer parental care.

“Though we didn’t poll on this, we did ask educated mothers for their thoughts,” said report author Andrea Mrozek, Executive Director of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. “They expressed a desire to stay home with small children, but a simultaneous fear that it would be hard to re-enter the workforce if they were home for longer than a year’s maternity leave.”

“Each educated Canadian family had their own story, which speaks to the diversity of childcare arrangements across the country,” said Mrozek.

A personal anecdote that is published in the report is that of Dr. Anne-Lise Holahan, a clinical psychologist in Ottawa who has three children and works part-time outside the home.

“It is possible that a portion of those parents with higher education who choose to continue working (for fear of losing their high-paying job) actually desire to be at home with their young child, and actually believe that they should,” Dr. Holahan said. “But because they themselves have chosen to work instead of stay at home, it is too uncomfortable to acknowledge in a poll that in their minds, their child would have been better off at home than with a competent caregiver.

“So they attempt to rationalize their own actions and answer the poll by saying that children are not necessarily better off being at home, and they feel more at peace inside. That is cognitive dissonance for you.”

The poll found that when parents are unable to be at home with their children, Canadians choose options that most closely replicate the home environment. Canadians believe that after a parent, a relative is the next best option, followed by a neighborhood home daycare.

Daycare centre based care was the last choice. Only 11% of respondents in B.C. considered centre-based care a good alternative for parents who are unable to stay at home. Western Canada is the region that most strongly believes home care is best.

On funding, Canadians take issue with the government funding of daycares instead of parents.

When asked, “If government should spend money to look after children, how should they do so,” a total of 61% of Canadians believe funding should go directly to parents. This would be in the form of cash payments, a child tax deduction (available regardless of whether children are cared for in or out of the home), or reduced taxes to all Canadians.

Only 12% believe the government should provide subsidies to child care centers to improve quality or create more spaces. A mere 10% would expand the public school system to include child care.

By region, Alberta has the strongest preference for child funding to go directly to parents, at 70%.

Surprisingly, Quebec follows Alberta, where 65% of Quebeckers are in favor of direct payments to parents. This is in sharp contrast to the state-funded daycare system they currently have.

“This poll shows that the policy push in various provinces today stands in contrast to the desires of Canadians, who prefer to see funding go directly to them rather than into school bureaucracies or institutional care,” Mrozek observed.

For this reason, the IMFC report advocates for public policy that would mirror Canadians’ desires, which is currently not the case.

The IMFC points out that currently, taxpayer dollars preferentially fund institutional daycare, which the majority of Canadians rank as their bottom choice. The report calls for an end to this discriminatory use of public funds.

“Pouring public funds into one system, that then parents ‘choose’ because there are no other options, is a real failure of public policy to truly help Canadian families,” said Mrozek.

“This poll shows full-time daycare is not what a majority of women in general, and educated women in particular, prefer,” Mrozek concluded.

The methodology and questions asked in the IMFC poll are available here.

The report titled “Canadian Daycare Desires” can be found on the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada website here.


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