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Traditionally, in most cultures women have been charged with caring for young children, first in their own families and extended families, and later in organized, collective groups. Early childhood development theorists such as Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and Friedrich Froebel recognized the important role of mothers in helping nurture and educate young children. In much of the 20th and 21st centuries, theories and research on the adult influence on young children has focused on mothers, such as Mary Ainsworth’s strange situation experiment, and on the assumed natural role of women in caring for young children. Thus, anything to do with young children has focused on mothers and women caregivers.

As early childhood programs became popular in the 1960s, both to provide child care while women worked (partly ...

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