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The impact of child-rearing by maids on mother–child attachment
Introduction. The objective of this study was to assess the perceived negative impact on mother–child attachment of raising children with the help of foreign maids, as practised in Arab Gulf countries.
Materials and methods. A descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted. A convenience sample was recruited from June 2010 to December 2010 from three tertiary hospitals and shopping centres. Five hundred questionnaires were distributed. Of these, 336 with complete data sets were analysed. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the King Fahad Medical City. The analysed data were tabulated in the form of descriptive statistics.
Results. Eighty per cent of households had a maid, but only 50% of mothers had careers. The proportion of babies who were not bottle-fed was 31.6%, with 15.7% exclusively breast-fed. Of the 52.8% of babies who were both breast- and bottle-fed, most were usually bottle-fed. The proportions of participants who reported high and low levels of mother–child attachment were 61.9% and 15.6% respectively. Although 22.6% declined to comment on this, questioning revealed a low level of mother–child attachment in this group, and therefore low mother–child attachment totalled 38.2% (15.6% + 22.6%). In 45.2% of cases, mothers stated that bonding was not affected by the maid, whereas 30% stated that bonding was affected. Although 24.2% declined to express their view, further questioning confirmed their discomfort in answering this question; this suggested that they did perceive a lack of bonding, and therefore that this affected a total of 54.2% (24.2% + 30%) of households.
Discussion. Although only half of the mothers had careers, a larger proportion of households had maids, indicating an overdependence of mothers on domestic aides. The very low proportion of babies who were exclusively breast-fed would suggest that mother–child bonding was affected in a large proportion of households that bottle-fed. However, about two-thirds of the mothers claimed high levels of mother–child bonding, whereas only one-sixth felt that bonding was adversely affected. The remainder were reluctant to discuss this point, suggesting that the problem of low levels of mother–child bonding exists. The study found that almost half of mother–child bonding relationships could be impaired by the presence of maids.
Conclusion. This study indicates that mother–child attachment is adversely affected by the presence of maids, which could prove detrimental to the psychosocial development of affected children and the population of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in the long term. Family-friendly work policies for mothers and education on responsible parenting are recommended.