Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Familial Factors Associated with the Use of Multiple Child-Care Arrangements

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Familial Factors Associated with the Use of Multiple Child-Care Arrangements

Article excerpt

This study examined the use of multiple, concurrent, nonparental child-care arrangements among children under 5 with employed mothers in the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (N = 759). Older children, those primarily cared for in informal child care, those living in cohabitating or single-parent households, and those whose mothers were employed for 40 or fewer hours per week were likely to be in multiple arrangements. Higher quality primary child-care and lower maternal satisfaction with primary care predicted the subsequent use of multiple arrangements. Little support for income differences in selection into multiple arrangements was found. Findings highlight the importance of child-care characteristics and structure in child-care choice. Policy implications are discussed.

Key Words: child-care arrangements, child-related family policy, longitudinal methods, selection effects, socioeconomic status.

Increasing maternal labor force participation over the last few decades has dramatically changed where young children spend their time. Today, approximately two thirds of children in the United States under age 5 experience some type of nonparental child care on a regular basis (Johnson, 2005). National studies indicate that between one and two fifths of these children experience a "patchwork" of multiple (i.e., concurrent) child-care arrangements during a typical week, with many of these children experiencing a combination of formal (center, preschool, or regulated family child care) and informal (relative, nanny, or babysitter) care (Capizzano & Adams, 2000; Johnson).

Despite the prevalence of multiple child-care arrangements, much remains unknown about what kinds of families combine several arrangements and why. Parents may prefer to expose their children to several different settings, multiple arrangements may be necessary to cover parents' hours of employment, or the use of multiple arrangements may be driven by a lack of high-quality, full-time child-care options. These reasons may vary with family income; higher-income families have the financial flexibility to base their child-care decisions on preferences for quality and child enrichment, whereas low-income families may need to patch together low-cost arrangements to meet their employment demands. Understanding the motivations behind child-care choice has important implications for families, policy, and research. From a child's perspective, purposeful child-care patchworks can provide supportive environments and meet their developmental needs; in contrast, disorganized or haphazard combinations created to meet employment demands may be unstable, inconsistent, and stressful, leading to poorer child outcomes (de Schipper, Tavecchio, van Ijzendoom, & van Zeijl, 2004). Furthermore, coordinating schedules and transportation among arrangements may contribute to parents' workfamily stress and employment instability (Chaudry, 2004; Hofferth, 1995; Scott, London, & Hurst, 2005). These issues are particularly poignant given the recent growth in part-day prekindergarten programs and the emphasis on economic independence and full-time employment in the era after welfare reform (Morrissey & Warner, 2007).

Investigating the family and child-care characteristics associated with the selection of two or more concurrent child-care arrangements is one method for approximating families' motivations for using multiple arrangements. This study uses longitudinal data from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development's Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (NICHD SECCYD) to examine the family and child-care factors associated with the use of multiple, concurrent child-care arrangements before children enter elementary school, and whether these factors vary with family income. Findings have implications for designing early childhood policies that support both children's development and parental employment. …

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