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What Leads to Satisfaction for Child Care Providers and Parents?

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Preston A. Britner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of Family Studies
University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT

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What leads to parents’ and providers’ satisfaction with child
care? Britner and Phillips (1995) studied the issue. We attempted
to improve upon existing research by distinguishing the specific
dimensions of care that are associated with satisfaction, including
assessments of parent and provider attitudes, and studying satisfaction
over time using a short-term longitudinal design. We focused on
four functional dimensions of continuity as possible predictors
of satisfaction for parents and providers: (1) child care as a
social support to parents; (2) parent involvement in care; (3)
parent-provider agreement on child-rearing beliefs; and (4) parent-provider
agreement on the importance of specific dimensions of care, which
were valued by parents in their choice of care and by providers
in their definition of good quality care. Ratings of satisfaction
were obtained from 27 center- and home-based child day care providers
and 90 parents whose children were in their care.

High Overall Satisfaction

Consistent with other research (e.g., Bogat & Gensheimer
1986; Erdwins, Casper, & Buffardi, 1998; Shinn et al., 1991),
overall satisfaction with care was high for all groups. Parents
are generally satisfied, but it is unclear whether this satisfaction
stems from high quality settings or, alternatively, parents’ attempts
to overcome frustrations and perceptions of limited care options
(Shpancer, 1998) or lingering biases regarding non-parental child
care (Shpancer & Britner, 1995). Despite high satisfaction,
26% of parents in the National Child Care Survey said they wanted
to change their child day care arrangements (Hofferth et al.,
1991). Single working parents living in poverty wanted to change
their arrangements at even higher rates than did two-parent families.
On the basis of most research to date, little is known, for example,
about what leads to parental satisfaction with care and whether
these correlates of satisfaction vary by type of care.

In our study, center parents and providers and family day care
(FDC) parents and providers were all equally satisfied on the
dimensions of the care settings’ structural quality (e.g., group
size) and the quality of interactions between providers and children
(e.g., attention to children). Contrary to the hypothesis that
provider training and experience and group size would predict
satisfaction with care, these variables were significantly associated
with satisfaction only for center providers. The importance of
functional (e.g., parent-provider interaction) rather than structural
(e.g., provider training) markers in predicting satisfaction with
care in all groups in this study is in line with previous findings
about what dimensions of care are important to parents’ satisfaction
(Shinn et al., 1991). The traditional “quality” variables
of academic research and licensing standards simply were not associated
with parents’ satisfaction with care.

What Predicts Satisfaction for Parents?

Parents and providers viewed different aspects of care to be
important, depending on the type of care. These dimensions of
importance are presented separately for parents and providers
involved in FDC (Table 1) and center-based care (Table 2). Satisfaction
was then assessed for those aspects of care that were deemed important
for quality care. Different predictors of satisfaction with care
characteristics emerged for center parents, FDC parents, center
providers, and FDC providers.

For parents using centers, self-reports of social support and
reported frequency of parent involvement were the only significant
predictors of parents’ satisfaction with the care arrangement.
Parents were more satisfied with the center-based care arrangement
if they viewed it as a source of social support and reported high
frequencies of involvement in the center.

For parents using family child day care arrangements, social
support emerged as the only significant predictor of parents’
satisfaction with care. Like center parents, FDC parents who viewed
their child day care as a source of social support reported greater
satisfaction with aspects of the care arrangement.

What Predicts Satisfaction for Child Care Providers?

Job satisfaction for child care providers is related to training
and love of the work (Manlove & Guzell, 1997) and, negatively,
to job stress and turnover (Todd & Deery-Schmitt, 1996). In
our study, satisfaction with the quality of care provided was
related to different aspects of care for FDC and center providers.

Center providers were the only group for which satisfaction
with care was significantly predicted by any of the demographic
variables. The statistical interaction of the child’s age and
the provider’s status as certified in child day care or early
childhood education was significantly associated with center providers’
reports of satisfaction with aspects of the child day care arrangement.
Certification was more important to center providers’ satisfaction
with care characteristics for those in charge of older children
than for those who cared for younger children. Greater agreement
between the parents’ important characteristics when selecting
care and the providers’ important characteristics when rating
“good care” was related to relatively higher levels
of satisfaction with care for center providers.

For FDC providers, the only significant predictor of satisfaction
with care characteristics was parent-provider concordance on traditional
child-rearing beliefs, which accounted for half of the variance
in satisfaction. High levels of agreement between parents and
providers about traditional child-rearing values were associated
with satisfaction with characteristics of the child care arrangement
for FDC providers.

Social Support

Child care has been compared to an extended family because
of its potential as a means of social support, especially when
parent involvement is common and communication is multidirectional
(Honig, 1979). By giving emotional support in addition to information
and services, care care providers can have a role in the psychological
well-being of employed parents. Bronfenbrenner (1979) hypothesized
that each environment’s developmental potential for the child
could be maximized when compatibility existed between the goals
of the settings. Continuity across child care and home environments
may reflect similarities or differences in the physical or social
environment; behavior toward the child; beliefs about child development,
rearing, or education; or perceptions of the child (Long et al.,
1985).

Most parents using both types of care in the sample viewed
their child day care arrangements as a source of extensive informational
and emotional support. As a result of feeling supported, parents
may experience less stress and be more satisfied with care than
those who feel less supported (Schumacher & DeMeis 1992).
As such, child care may be more usefully viewed as a social support,
rather than a replacement, for the family (Garbarino, 1992).

Continuity

Child-rearing attitudes of parents and providers represent
another area of potential continuity or discontinuity across environments
that may influence satisfaction. Pence and Goelman (1987) suggested
that differences in parents using FDC and center-based arrangements
were defined more by caregiving philosophies and values than by
socioeconomic factors. Because parents using family day care choose
a particular provider, it may be the case that they select providers
who have more similar child-rearing attitudes than do parents
using center care.

Agreement between parents and providers on the importance of
care characteristics that parents have cited as instrumental in
their choice of care may also lead to satisfaction with specific
aspects of care for parents and providers. To the extent that
parents and providers value the same structural and functional
care characteristics of the arrangement, the continuity of goals
across the settings may translate into favorable child outcomes
and satisfaction for parents and providers (Bronfenbrenner, 1979).

Parents seek out care providers and settings that espouse similar
value systems, priorities, and expectations of what is important
to their children (Kontos, 1993; Powell, 1989). Concordance may
lead to providers’ satisfaction due to more favorable social outcomes
for children as a result of the agreement on goals and role demands
across the settings.

Conclusion

On the basis of our work (Britner & Phillips, 1995), I
have emphasized the need to look at home and child care environments
as interconnected settings. Child-rearing is, in fact, a collaborative
effort between parents and child day care professionals. Rather
than comparing “home” and “child care” influences
on child outcomes or ratings of satisfaction, it is important
to look at the joint effects and interactions between these environments.
Satisfaction with the child day care arrangement, if not the “quality”
of the care, resides in the intersection of the two systems in
which children are functioning, learning, and developing.

________________________________
For more information on this topic, please see:
Britner, P. A., & Phillips, D. A. (1995). Predictors of parent
and provider satisfaction with child day care dimensions: A comparison
of center-based and family child day care. Child Welfare, 74
(6), 1135-1168.
_______________________________
Recommended web sites on child care quality, access, and choice
include:

NICHD
Study of Early Child Care: Findings (1999)
http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/early_child_care.htm
The
Future of Children
: Financing Child Care (1996)
http://www.futureofchildren.org/fin/index.htm
The
Future of Children
: Long-Term Outcomes of Early Childhood
Programs (1995)
http://www.futureofchildren.org/lto/index.htm
Carnegie
Corporation: Quality Child Care Choices (1994)
http://www.futureofchildren.org/lto/index.htm

References

Bogat, G. A., & Gensheimer, L. K. (1986). Discrepancies
between the attitudes and actions of parents choosing day care.
Child Care Quarterly, 15, 159-169.

Britner, P. A., & Phillips, D. A. (1995). Predictors of parent
and provider satisfaction with child day care dimensions: A comparison
of center-based and family child day care. Child Welfare, 74
(6), 1135-1168.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments
by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Erdwins, C. J., Casper, W. J., & Buffardi, L. C. (1998).
Child care satisfaction: The effects of parental gender and type
of care used. Child and Youth Care Forum, 27 (2), 111-123.

Garbarino, J. (1992). Children and families in the social environment.
New York: Aldine.

Hofferth, S. L., Brayfield, A., Deich, S., & Holcomb, P. (1991).
The national child care survey, 1990. Washington, DC: Urban Institute
Press.

Honig, A. S. (1979). Parent involvement in early childhood education
(Rev. Ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education
of Young Children.

Kontos, S. (1993, March). The ecology of family day care. Paper
presented at the meeting of the Society for Research in Child
Development, New Orleans, LA.

Long, F., Peter, D. L., & Garduque, L. (1985). Continuity
between home and day care: A model for defining relevant dimensions
of child care. Advances in Applied Developmental Psychology, 1,
131-170.

Manlove, E. E., & Guzell, J. R. (1997). Intention to leave,
anticipated reasons for leaving, and 12-month turnover of child
care center staff. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 12 (2),
145-167.

Pence, A. R., & Goelman, H. (1987). Silent partners: Parents
of children in three types of day care. Early Childhood Research
Quarterly, 2, 103-118.

Powell, D. R. (1989). Families and early childhood programs. Washington,
DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Schumacher, J., & DeMeis, D. K. (1992). Child care as a social
support system for employed mothers (Unpublished manuscript).

Shinn, M., Phillips, D., Howes, C., Galinsky, E., & Whitebook,
M. (1991). Correspondence between mothers’ perceptions and observer
ratings of quality in child care centers (Unpublished manuscript).

Shpancer, N. (1998). Caregiver-parent relationships in daycare:
A review and re-examination of the data and their implications.
Early Education and Development, 9 (3), 239-259.

Todd, C. M., & Deery-Schmitt, D. (1996). Factors affecting
turnover among family child care providers: A longitudinal study.
Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 11 (3), 351-376.

Table 1
Dimensions of Care Deemed “Important” by Family
Day Care Parents and Providers

Dimensions Items

Structural Quality Physical facility
Health and safety
Group size
Security precautions
Provider-child ratio
Space for children

Interactive Quality Opportunity to learn
Parent visiting welcome
Warmth of the provider
Day to day activities
Attention child receives
Discipline

Convenience Cost
Hours program open
Flexibility to come late
Location
Rules of the setting

_____
NOTE: Each dimension has a coefficient alpha over .75, indicating
adequate internal consistency.

Table 2
Dimensions of Care Deemed “Important” by Center
Parents and Providers

Dimensions Items

Structural Quality Physical facility
Health and safety
Group size
Security precautions
Provider-child ratio
Space for children
Compliance with state standards

Interactive Quality Opportunity to learn
Parent visiting welcome
Warmth of the provider
Day to day activities
Attention child receives
Discipline
Appropriate toys and equipment

Communication Verbal communication
Written communication
Parent-provider conferences

Involvement Volunteer, in setting
Fund-raising
Attend social functions
Select staff
Review budget
Choose activities
Volunteer, outside setting
Attend workshop
_____
NOTE: Each dimension has a coefficient alpha over .75, indicating
adequate internal consistency.



DOCUMENT USE/COPYRIGHT
National Network for Child Care – NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the
National Extension Service Children Youth and Family Educational
Research Network. Permission is granted to reproduce these materials
in whole or in part for educational purposes only(not for profit
beyond the cost of reproduction) provided that the author and
Network receive acknowledgment and this notice is included:

Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child
Care – NNCC. Britner, P. A. (1999). What leads to satisfaction
for child care providers and parents?

Any additions or changes to these materials must be preapproved
by the author.

COPYRIGHT PERMISSION ACCESS
Preston A. Britner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of Family Studies
University of Connecticut
348 Mansfield Rd., U-2058
Storrs, CT 06269-2058
PH: (860) 486-3765
FAX: (860) 486-3452
E-mail: BRITNER@UCONNVM.UCONN.EDU


FORMAT AVAILABLE:: Available only on Internet
DOCUMENT REVIEW::
Level 2
DOCUMENT SIZE:: 81K or 9 pages
ENTRY DATE:: June 1999

 


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