Mar 6, 2019 in Research

Social Cultural Issues in Early Childhood: A UAE Perspective


One of the most difficult tasks for parents is to make a choice between bringing up their children and living them under the care of a nanny. Particularly, most mothers are left with the dilemma over the total time they should spend with their children and the time they should be with baby-sitter. According to studies, children under the care of nannies have disparities in early childhood development in comparison to those, whose parents take care of them. Doctor Lindsey Heller states that nanny home care affects the early childhood development due to the attachment formed between the child and the baby-sitter. Childhood development theories show that quality care provided by qualified nannies result in positive effects and vice versa is true. For this reason, employment of qualified nannies by working mothers is valuable due to the positive effects it has on early childhood development.

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In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the use of nannies is a common exercise for families. They have an opportunity to choose between qualified and unqualified ‘maids’ to take care of their children. Studies show that approximately ninety-four percent of families in UAE are using the services of ‘housemaids’. The popular practice with unqualified maids for child home care is a cheaper and convenient option for many parents. However, most of these maids do not have any qualification in child care. In addition, most of them come from foreign developing countries in search of greener pastures. Not only do the housemaids lack basic child care knowledge, they also do not have any cultural relationship with the families. Therefore, when families in UAE employ foreign unqualified maids to nurture their children, they put them at risk of developing significant cognitive, social, emotional and behavioral problems.

Overview of the Topic

The last decade has witnessed an increased interest in the significance of early childhood development across the world after it was described as the most important stage in human evolution. In 2002, the Dakar Framework for Action made it global agenda of improving the quality of early childhood care and education. The United Nations General Assembly followed suit by reaffirming the value of early childhood development services in training of basic social, behavioral, and education skills. For this reason, UAE has not been left behind in sensitizing the need for quality early childhood care services by reviewing major laws to protect the rights of the children and providing funds to develop quality child care services.

According to the UAE Ministry of Health and Health Authority, approximately two hundred and eighty thousands of the total number of children at the age of four and below was of UAE nationality. Presently, the data shows that the births in 2012 are nearly eighty-nine thousands, thus requiring creation of better quality childcare laws. Even though the UAE government is continuously ejecting funds to childcare programs, poor quality control measures and policies still exist.

Like any other parents across the world, it is the obligation of those in UAE to take care of their children. Since the parents have to go to work, they employ maids who spend thirty to seventy hours caring for children. According to the article Early Childhood Education and Care in Dubai, parents use the maids’ services because of UAE national culture of extended families and homecare services. In addition, the availability of cheap unqualified maids is in abundance. It is worth noting that most of these families are wealthy availing all the resources needed for the care of their children where maids are considered as one of them.

In this case, they can employ expensive nannies with the basic knowledge of childcare, or cheap abundant maids who do not have any childcare qualification. Studies show that children, who are provided with quality care by trained nannies, show positive cognitive development skills, but poor social skills. However, researchers are quick to elaborate that the latter are not significant and they vary with the environmental setting for childcare. Therefore, those families in UAE who employ qualified nannies do not put their children at risk of developing poor cognitive, social, and behavioral development.

On the other hand, ninety four percent of parents who employ foreign unqualified maids to take care of their children expose their children to poor development. The first effect these maids have on the children is development poor language skills. According to Hala Roumani, employment of unqualified maids is economical, but the children will have fewer advantages. In most cases, the maids use their native language to communicate with the children while the parents use Arabic. At the age of three, the children start attending school where they are introduced to English. As a result, these children start experiencing language difficulties when they are growing up.

Secondly, the maids affect the social, cultural and behavioral development of these children. Doctor Fekreya Arjamand notes that children raised by foreign maids risk suffering a variety of behavioral and psychological problems by being neglected. The author supports this claim with an example where she saw a child who was climbing the slides in the opposite direction the other children.  Around the slides, she noticed that there were several maids, but none of them was supervising the children. Therefore, if this continues, UAE will develop a society full of behavioral and psychological problems.

Relationship of Nanny Care and Child Development Theories

Based on studies, cognitive, behavioral and psychological early childhood development theories shed light on how unqualified maids affect childhood development in UAE. In psychological theories, Erik Erikson and Sigmund Freud developed eight stages of analyzing the social and emotional development. The first three ones (birth to 5 years) shows that maids play a crucial role in affecting the emotional and social development of children. For example, the neglect of childcare by unqualified maids causes the children experience trust issues, shame, guilt, doubt and lack of initiative social skills. Since the children depend on observing, the maids disregard the child special care like offering security, resulting in trusts problems. 

In cognitive theory, Jean Piaget created four stages that deal with the development of analytical skills necessary for making logical conclusions. Unlike adults, Piaget states that children lack the necessary experience to interpret information. For this reason, children in the first two stages depended on senses and pretend play in the environment to learn about objects and develop intellectual skills. In the case of this study, the maids affect early childhood evolution with their native languages and cultures. For example, school data shows that children develop poor language, social and cultural skills of learning due to the use of native language and cultures of the maids.

Finally, in behavioral theories, children form behaviors in relation to what they learn from the environment. As part of the latter, caregivers play a crucial role in determining the future behavior of their children by applying mechanisms such as a reward system. In this case employing maids in UAE, the parents create rules that limit their responsibility of nurturing good behavior in children. On the other hands, the parents create a situation that allows children to act and receive what they desire. Although parents do this out of good intentions, they create a behavior guidance vacuum contributing to the development of negative ones.


Thus, in order to solve these problems, the government needs to create awareness using the media and mosques to educate parents on the negative effects unqualified maids have on their children. Secondly, the authority should also create laws that make recruitment of unqualified maids by parents and agents unlawful. Thirdly, the government should partner with the related foreign counterparts to ensure maids receive childcare training before migrating to UAE. Since this cannot be changed immediately, the government should an ultimatum for these laws to become effective to provide time for the existing maids to have proper childcare training. Moreover, the authority should create control measure and policies to regulate and standardize quality childcare in UAE. As a result, these solutions will enhance quality childcare and promote cordial diplomatic relations leading to a win-win situation for the relevant parties. The UAE government should follow the footsteps of Singapore who had instituted a policy of employing qualified immigrant workers in their country preventing an influx of unqualified maids in it.


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