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The Ecology of Collaborative Child Rearing: A Systems Approach to Child Care on the Kibbutz

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Abstract

Collective child rearing on the Israeli kibbutz serves as a model for articulating changes in patterns of familial and nonfamilial child rearing associated with cultural change. Kibbutz children, like other children with working parents, are cared for by multiple caregivers in multiple settings. Historically, kibbutz child care has been communally run in keeping with the collective beliefs and organization of the setting. As collective practices have been relaxed, the contemporary kibbutz children's house has been likened to other day care arrangements. In this article, we examine the process of change in collective childcare arrangements on kibbutz as a dynamic system involving patterns of reciprocal relations among parts of a collaborativechild- care system. Influences of the views of developmental experts and economic forces impact reciprocal relations among the physical and social setting, changing practices, and beliefs of kibbutz members. A system dynamics approach turns our focus to feedback loops among parts of the eco-cultural child-care niche rather than developmental outcomes resultingfrom static features of kibbutz and other child-care arrangements. Contrasting different feedback systems points to cultural conditions under which some stability in demand for collective child care may be maintained, as compared with conditions that might lead to the demise of collective child care.

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