A right-wing think-tank that advised mothers to stay at home for the sake of their children's development ignored research showing that day care can have beneficial long-term effects, psychology academics said this week.
The report, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, suggests that day care can cause aggression and depression.
But Manchester University psychology lecturer Clifford Davies said: "The evidence from worldwide research overwhelmingly seems to say that quality day care does not harm children."
A study by Petri Rahman, a PhD student in Dr Davies's department, suggest that six quality day-care centres in inner-city Manchester are responsible for significant cognitive improvements in children's development.
Dr Davies said: "There was no evidence that these children were paying an emotional price. They tend to be socially more confident, with a greater willingness to stick up for themselves."
Patricia Morgan, author of the IEA study, said: "I am afraid that parent-child attachments are suffering."
But research at Staffordshire University suggests that quality day care poses no threat to parent-child relationships. Psychology lecturer Elizabeth Means concludes that so long as children are put into creches after secure parental bonds have been established at around the age of eight months, there is no threat. "In fact, we have found that children securely attached at 12 months are better later on at interacting with other people at a mental level after having day care," she said.