Child Care and Relationships: Understanding Relationships and Relationship Interventions

By Biringen, Zeynep; Easterbrooks, Ann | Journal of Early Childhood and Infant Psychology, Annual 2008 | Go to article overview

Child Care and Relationships: Understanding Relationships and Relationship Interventions


Biringen, Zeynep, Easterbrooks, Ann, Journal of Early Childhood and Infant Psychology


For millions of children and families, child care is an integral component of their developmental contexts. With large numbers of children experiencing non-maternal child care, issues as well as concerns about children's outcomes are being vigorously discussed in the literature. For example, using the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) data set, Belsky et al. (2007) reported that although parenting was a stronger predictor of children's development than was child care, early child care quantity, quality, and type also were consistent predictors of child outcomes. The papers in this mini-series focus mainly on non-parental child care and the relationships among those involved in child care. Several of the articles use the Emotional Availability (EA) Scales (Biringen, Robinson, & Emde, 1998), as a focal point in their examination of relationships. Additionally, some of the articles highlight interventions aimed at enhancing relationships in child care.

These papers focus on child care and relationships including relationships between parents and their children who are in child care, relationships between children and their child care providers, and relationships between child care providers and parents of children in their care. Where the care takes place (e.g., child care center, family child care home) and the characteristics of the care and care providers may vary. What remains constant is that relationships are a central component of all child care arrangements, whether these relationships are between children and providers, child peers in child care, families and providers, or providers themselves. To paraphrase Winnicott's (1962/1987) statement "there is no such thing as a baby, there is a baby and someone" (p. 88), we might state "there is no such thing as a child in child care," as children are embedded in a network of relationships among at least three people (i.e., child, provider, family member). This series of papers examines questions about relationships in child care. For example, do relationships between child care providers and very young children predict development at a later date and in another context? Can provider-child relationships be measured using methods developed to assess mother-child relationships? If so, how are home-based assessments applied to child care settings and what are the caveats? Finally, if relationships in child care are integral to children's development, how might they be supported and enhanced?

The first paper, by Howes and Hong examines the relationship between U.S. families of Mexican heritage, child care, and later school adjustment. Using an early version of the EA Scales, 2nd edition, originally developed with dominant culture families, they demonstrate that both the construct of emotional availability, and the EA Scales, appear applicable for this population. The authors highlight the apparent generalizability of several dimensions of mother-child relationships as relevant to non-maternal child care providers. They assert that dimensions of non-maternal care may predict later social competence in children outside of the family setting. Furthermore, they recommend the use of the EA Scales for understanding relationships between child care providers and children.

In the next paper Shivers has done just that, arguing that emotional availability is a core component of relationships between non-parental child care providers and children. Shivers extends the use of the EA Scales by examining the emotional availability of providers in home-based care for infants and young children. In this situation, one provider is caring for multiple children in the home setting. …

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