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The Live-In Nanny and the Wellbeing of Children: Suggestions on Much Needed Societal Level Interventions

Hiring live-in nannies is common among middle to high income Indonesian mothers. Although statistics on Indonesian nannies specifically are not available, the International Labor Organization reports that there are 2,593,000 household workers in Indonesia. This number encompasses nannies as they often do housework in addition to taking care of children. Around 1.4 million of these workers are in Java alone (Lembar Fakta tentang Pekerja Rumah Tangga di Indonesia). Nannies are hired for a variety of reasons. For some couples, the various demands from work and the pressure to gain adequate income led them to hire a nanny. While others may simply seek the comfort of obtaining help to fulfill the demanding duties of parenthood. Hiring nannies is typically a preferred method over other types of childcare services as nannies, especially those who live with the family, typically can supervise children at all times. In certain cases, parents may also send their children to daycare services with the supervision of their child’s personal nanny. 

The world of nannies is not all sunshine and rainbows. Concerns of human rights abuses and the prevalence of underage workers among the household worker demographic are not an unexposed fact and it continues to need growing attention. However, what is less explored but is also important is the two-sided impact of nanny and babysitter care on the development of children. Alongside its benefits, nanny care comes with several concerns. The existing lack of research on the effects of nanny care to children’s development in Indonesia is staggering, given that nanny care is common. This article aims to discuss the currently available research on the roles and effects of hiring a live-in nanny to the development of children, as well as provide future directions on research and practical implications on a societal level.

Benefits to Hiring Nannies According to Existing Research

Hiring a nanny potentially reaps many benefits. A nanny does not only help parents to accomplish tasks such as bathing, feeding, and tutoring children, they can also help children practice social skills. A nanny can improve a child’s language skills. A study conducted in Banyumas State, Indonesia studying 2–3-year-old children found that when nannies have a good relationship with the child, are patient, knowledgeable, sensitive to the child, and cooperative with parents, the presence of a nanny can increase a child’s vocabulary. Live-in nannies particularly provide a language resource for children as they introduce and explain new words in various activities done with the child during the day such as in conversations, play, and storytelling (Wahyuningtyas, 2016). Additionally, as a non-family member, children may learn about different perspectives, backgrounds, and more about the outside world from a nanny. This is especially true for children with nannies who migrated from a different city, an occurrence that is fairly common in Indonesia.

Drawbacks or Commonly Expressed Concerns with Hiring Nannies

While hiring nannies may bring relief to parents, those who hire nannies often express certain concerns. Several cases have been reported on the abuse of children by nannies when under no supervision. Cases have ranged from physical abuse to nannies giving babies sleeping pills to stop them from crying. In a particular case that occurred in December 2019, a nanny repeatedly tortured a seven-year-old child and her older sister when their parents are not home, to “punish” them of their misbehaviors. One of these abusive punishments included tying the child’s hands and legs and covering the child’s face with wallpaper and tape (Ladjar, 2020). In another case reported in October 2019, a nanny repeatedly abused a two-year-old for revenge to the child’s mother for getting angry at her (Lova, 2019).  The circulation of news and stories about child abuse committed by nannies brings concern that such cases too can happen in one’s home if not careful enough. 

Secondly, even if not officially qualified as child abuse, there are still a range of inappropriate ways a nanny may handle a child. This can be in the form of rough handling (e.g., dropping a baby unto a bed, pulling at children’s arms when walking, etc.), neglect (e.g., not attending to the baby’s physical and emotional needs, engaging children with technology for long hours at a time to avoid nanny-child interaction, etc.), or inappropriate ways of discipline (e.g., screaming or hitting children for misbehavior, punishing children for expressing emotions such as crying, etc.). Furthermore, in less extreme cases, parents who work for most hours of the day must consider that their children might potentially spend more time with the hired nanny than with them. As stated by modeling theory, a child inevitably learns and imitates the actions of adults around him/her. As such, it is a concern that a nanny must have good character and similar values with a child’s parents. 

Third of all, hiring a nanny to raise a child may raise several concerns relating to attachment. A study conducted in the 1980s found that any childcare arrangements (center care, family daycare, and nanny care) for more than 20 hours or more hours per week in the beginning of a child’s life were at risk for being classified as having an insecure attachment with their mothers at 12 or 18 months and tend to be more disobedient and aggressive from 3 to 8 years old (Connor & Brink, 1999). This is likely due to the amount of time the child is not spending with his/her mother. Furthermore, as nannies often do not work for a family forever, it may be problematic for a child when his/her nanny chooses to end his/her employment. Nannies often come and go due to various factors such as marriage, parenting responsibilities, and unsuitable job environment. At such a time, children may find it difficult to adapt to his/her new caregiver, whether it be his/her parents, another nanny, or another adult. Research have found that when repeated changes of primary caregivers occur resulting in the inability to form stable attachments, children may be more at risk to developing attachment disorders such as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) or Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED) (American Psychiatric Association, 2017).

A nanny playing with a child
image source:

A Concerning Gap in Research

Despite the common practice of hiring live-in nannies as a child rearing solution for many parents, little research and data collection have been done on the impact of hiring a nanny on children’s development. Without available data and information, little can be done both on an individual level and a societal level to prevent the potential harms of nanny care. Various research done internationally have focused on the greater umbrella of childcare services such as family daycare and care centers in addition to nanny care (Drange & Ronning, 2020; Leach et al., 2006). While they provide insightful information, they are not sufficient in reflecting the quality of nanny care in Indonesia. Several factors make this distinction for Indonesia. These factors include the perception that being a nanny is a low paying job that requires little to no education and the close correlation between housemaids and nannies. Thus nannies tend to come from a demographic that is uneducated and educational services and training tend to be provided by nanny agents who connect nannies to parents and gain profit in that way. Because these agents do not always gain abundant profit, training is often limited. Nannies who undergo training will typically receive a higher income, but the quality is not guaranteed. Furthermore, middle income families who cannot afford a more qualified nanny will typically choose to hire a nanny with less training and qualifications as it is more affordable. 

On a similar note, nanny care and childcare in Indonesia is still largely unregulated. Licensure is not required and though a formally acknowledged standard of childcare does exist, it has not been implemented successfully (Kurikulum Kursus dan Pelatihan Baby Sitter Jenjang 2 2015). The data and information presented in this article cannot be said to provide a complete discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of nanny care in Indonesia. More research is needed on the types, qualities, and outcomes of nanny care in Indonesia in order to guide future interventions towards optimal outcomes with Nanny care. 

Suggestions for Positive Change in a Societal Level

The cases mentioned above demonstrate not only the importance of more research, but also the importance of hiring well-trained nannies with good knowledge, skills, and character appropriate for handling children. However, despite common concerns regarding the quality of childcare one gets from hiring nannies, there are still limited resources to provide information on quality nanny care, prevent abuse cases, and ensure an optimal practice of nanny care. The Canadian human resource development strategic policy has shown that the quality of education and training of a nanny plays a big role in determining whether his/her presence is beneficial or detrimental for a child’s development (Connor & Brink, 1999). While national and international nanny training and certifications are available and many nanny centers do exist to hire and train nannies, training is not required for one to become a nanny (Kurikulum Kursus dan Pelatihan Baby Sitter Jenjang 2 2015). As such, many nannies and babysitters come to work with little to no education or experience in taking care of a child. 

Additionally, the data from the International Labor Organization demonstrate that nannies and babysitters may not only lack education, training, or experience, they may be underaged. Although the data does not describe nannies alone, the International Labor Organization states that 25% of household workers (nannies, housekeeper, and babysitters) are under 15 and 35% are under 17 (Lembar Fakta tentang Pekerja Rumah Tangga di Indonesia). Alongside much needed research done to inform parents and social services of the effects of nanny care in Indonesia, interventions on a national level are needed to develop a formal standard on nanny care education and licensure that can be accountable for parents and the future of Indonesian children of all economic classes. Proper nanny care should not be a luxury, but a guarantee.


American Psychiatric Association. (2017). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: Dsm-5

Connor, S., & Brink, S. (2012). The Impacts of Non-Parental Care on Child Development. IZA, 7039, 1–75. 

Drange, N., & Ronning, M. (2020). Child care center quality and early child development. Journal of Public Economics, 188. 

ILO. Lembar Fakta tentang Pekerja Rumah Tangga di Indonesia. Jakarta; International Labor Organization. 

Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan. (2015). Kurikulum Kursus dan Pelatuhan Baby Sitter Jenjang 2. 

Ladjar, B. M. W. (2020, January 8). ART yang Aniaya Anak Majikan juga Siksa Kakak Korban. 

Leach, P., Barnes, J., Malmberg, L. E., Sylva, K., & Stein, A. (2008). The quality of different types of child care at 10 and 18 months: a comparison between types and factors related to quality. Early Child Development and Care, 178(2), 177–209. 

Lova, C. (2019, October 17). Pengasuh yang Aniaya Bocah Dua Tahun di Depok Sempat Tak Mengaku.

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