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Feminist pioneer's rethink: 'a woman's place is in the home'

Erin Pizzey claims freedom of choice doesn�t work

She is one of feminism's pioneers and founder of the UK's first refuge for victims of domestic violence, but after decades of fighting for women's rights Erin Pizzey has come to a startling conclusion: women should stay at home and look after the children while men go out to work.

Her revelations don't stop there. Pizzey also believes that with mothers away from home working, their child's development will be harmed. Her views are supported by new research conducted by Birbeck College in London, which suggests that the longer children are in childcare, as opposed to with parents, the more aggressive they become.

Pizzey's remarks are part of new BBC2 documentary The Trouble With Working Women, which explores why men still dominate the top jobs and earn on average £369,000 more in the course of a lifetime than women. It will be screened tomorrow night.

In the programme, she says: "I think the traditional way the family was run has been going for thousands of years and it works. What I see now is men disenfranchised from their roles. Women are lost because they now have to work full-time. They don't have a choice. There is no proper child care, there's nobody home when the children come home."

In 1971 Pizzey opened a refuge for women suffering from domestic violence. It soon attracted public funding and became Women's Aid.

A noted contrarian, Pizzey has rarely been predictable in her views on feminism. She has previously suggested that some women were attracted to abusive relationships, drawing harsh criticism from other feminists.

In the documentary she says she now considers the idea of women having it all - a family and a career - to be a myth.

She adds: "I don't think anybody foresaw what that freedom of choice would do. It's imprisoned many women. They don't have a choice - they have to work hard and I just see an exhausted generation of women trying to do it all."

According to ongoing research by Jay Belsky, a professor of psychology at Birbeck College, Pizzey's fears are being borne out.

Research done in America as part of the college's Families, Children and Child Care study of 1200 children claims to show that the more time young children spend in care in their early years, the more aggressive and disobedient they will be by the time they reach primary school.

Belsky said the quality of the care did not change his findings.

"I don't want to catastrophise and make it sound like we're developing axe murderers: there's no evidence of that. What is important, though, is that these effects in the American data emerged even when the quality of care was good."

He added: "I think there is some reason to question full-time childcare beginning very early in life."

The study is currently following the effect on children of daycare through primary school, but will continue to monitor case studies in secondary school too.

Belsky, however, does cautiously suggest that women can still combine successful careers with childcare. Parents just need to be careful.

He said: "One of the theoretical foundations of this would be that parents or even grandparents have stakes or investments or commitments to children that, literally and figuratively, money can't buy."

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