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Childcare decisions more complex with safety net

A study across societies has found that while a range of factors influence mothers’ decisions to engage in childcare in industrialised societies, this is not the case in smaller-scale civilisations.

Conducted by anthropologist Dr Geoff Kushnick from the Australian National University, this international study found women made different decisions with regards to childcare when their society was industrialised and had safety nets. Comparatively, he found that mothers’ decisions in pre-industrial society largely hinged on feeding their children.

“In industrialised societies, women benefit from institutionalised safety nets such as paid maternity leave and food assistance, so their childcare decisions are made in response to other important factors,” Kushnick said. “In small-scale societies, decisions hinge mostly on a mother’s ability to put food on the table.”

This research was conducted with 274 women from six countries – Indonesia, South Korea, India, Dominica, Italy and Hungary – and comes as Australia debates cost and access to childcare and paid maternity leave.

Kushnick said he believes this research suggests that industrialisation and infrastructure investment may have led to a turning point in maternal behaviour, as industrialisation gave mothers’ a greater range of options in accessing childcare. The study was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.


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