Childcare is back in the news, thanks to a new study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a division of the National Institutes of Health. Preliminary results of the study, which has been touted as the “most far-reaching and comprehensive” examination of the effects of childcare to date, were released on April 20, and they appear to contradict earlier studies on the adverse effects of childcare.

The results, as Joan Lunden said on Good Morning America, may surprise you. They shouldn’t. The federal government has a vested interest in maintaining the daycare industry. Daycare centers are a remarkably efficient way to remove children from the influence of their parents, and to substitute government-approved indoctrination for the natural transmission of culture from one generation to the next. Moreover, doubts about daycare might cause some women to reconsider their decision to entrust their children to strangers, and in the process expose the dirty little secret of the American economy; the bulk of the economic growth of the past 20 years—especially during the “family values” era of Reagan and Bush—has been the result of mothers entering the workforce. Indeed, had mothers not entered the workforce in historic numbers, real household income would have declined during the 1980’s.

According to the New York Times, “The new study was designed . . . to address one of the most emotionally charged issues in society today: Does a mother put her child at risk by working outside the home?” But unlike studies which have focused on quantifiable risks of daycare—i.e., middle-ear infections and other measures of health—this study “measured” the “sense of trust” that 15-month-old children felt for their mothers. The 25 researchers on the project concluded that such trust is a function of the “sensitivity and responsiveness” of the mother, and is not affected by particular childcare arrangements.

Most of the media have followed Joan Lunden’s lead, reporting that this study “proves” that childcare poses no risk to children. Who knows, the ballyhooing of the study by the national media may even have influenced the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling that a woman’s decision to place a child in daycare cannot be used against her in a custody battle.

Buried deep in the New York Times article, however, is the admission that “later stages of the study” will examine such quantifiable risks as adverse effects on “cognitive and language skills, physical development, health, [and] behavior.” The fix is in. By releasing these “preliminary” results with great fanfare two or more years before the final results will be in, the researchers have laid the groundwork for dismissing any findings which might not serve the needs of government and big business. Why should it matter if your daughter suffers from recurrent middle-ear infections, has trouble making herself understood, and acts like a barbarian? At least her sense of trust in you is intact. Whether it should be—after what you’ve subjected her to—is another question, one the federally funded researchers won’t touch.

Others have, and the results are clear. Children in daycare are almost seven times as likely to contract pneumonia as children who are eared for at home. They are twice as likely to suffer from acute middle-ear infections, which can confound their language development and even result in hearing loss. By the time they turn ten, five or six years after they left daycare and entered school, they are far more aggressive. have lower grades and poorer study skills, and generally have trouble interacting with their peers.

The term “child care,” rather than the more common “daycare,” is used throughout the study, and a closer look reveals why. As the Times reports, this study “includes more diverse families and more types of child care” than previous ones. The new types included “care by fathers or relatives or in the home by a caregiver,” all of which, not surprisingly, were found to be of better quality than institutional care. The inclusion of these categories may be a deliberate attempt to mask the adverse effects of institutional care.

A friend of mine once stayed home with his children while his wife attended a Tupperware party. The hostess, meeting his wife at the door, asked her if my friend was “babysitting” the children. Taken aback, his wife responded, “Well, you know, they are his kids.” By adopting the hostess’ attitude and not distinguishing care by fathers or other relatives from care by strangers, this study legitimizes institutional care and eases the way for its expansion. Unfortunately, it has already expanded far more than most people realize. A mere three days after this study was released, the Census Bureau reported that more than half of all American children were enrolled in institutional daycare or other nonrelative care.