Child Care Research: A Case for Canadian National Standards

Article excerpt

Abstract

Recent research on child care is reviewed with respect to the effects of (a) licensing/regulation and (b) teacher education on the provision of high quality care for young children and developmental outcomes. A model is proposed indicating direct and indirect links between licensing and regulation, teacher education, the quality of child care and child development outcomes. Discussion focusses on critical differences in American and Canadian demographics and attitudes (i.e., cultural, social, linguistic, economic, political) and how this influences interpretation of research findings. Using the characteristics of the Canadian context as a guiding framework, recommendations are made for national standards for (a) licensing and regulation of child care and, (b) teacher education.

Recent child care research is reviewed with respect to the effects of (a) licensing/regulation and (b) teacher education on the quality of care provided for young children and child development outcomes. A model is presented indicating direct and indirect links between licensing and regulation, teacher training, the quality of child care and child development outcomes. Much of the current child care research emanates from the United States, however, given differences in demographics and attitudes (i.e., cultural, social, linguistic, economic, political), Canadian-based research is advocated as the basis for child care policy. Finally, policy recommendations are advanced for national standards for (a) licensing and regulation of child care, and (b) teacher education.

The child care literature has expanded greatly since the 1970's and is characterized by thematic waves (Clarke-Stewart, 1989; Pence, 1989; Scarr, Phillips, & McCartney, 1989). Early studies focussed on whether group child care compared to maternal care was detrimental to children's development. Subsequently, researchers examined how differences in quality of group care were related to differential child outcomes. More recently, investigators have considered how family variables, child care quality, and individual child characteristics (e.g., personality) interact to affect children's development. Recently, Silverstein (1991) argued that since the majority of mothers are now employed (see Hoffman, 1989 for a review), the focus of research should shift from the negative effects of maternal employment and day care to the effects of not providing high quality, affordable child care. By necessity, the present literature review is not exhaustive, but will highlight recent research patterns concerning children younger than age six who attend day care centers. Readers interested in the current literature on school-aged child care are directed to Seligson (1986), Vandell and Corasaniti (1988), Vandell and Ramanan (1991), and Jacobs, White, Baillargeon, and Betsalel-Presser (in press).

A MODEL OF CHILD CARE

In the following sections, we argue that the licensing and regulation of child care and the training of teachers has a direct impact on the quality of care, which in turn facilitates child development outcomes. The Canadian context serves as a framework for the discussion of pertinent issues since specific cultural, economic, social, linguistic and political attitudes influence the translation of research findings into policy recommendations. We propose the following model (see Figure 1) as a guide for our arguments. First, licensing/regulation and teacher education factors are of equal and parallel importance and the solid arrow indicates that the former has a direct impact on the latter. The dotted arrow between the two variables indicates an indirect influence, that is, better qualified teachers are more likely advocates of stringent standards than poorly qualified teachers, because they understand the impact of the quality of the environment on children's behaviour and development. Second, as clearly documented, licensing/regulation and teacher education both have a direct impact on the quality of care. …