Research That Matters (January 17 - 20, 2008)
Methods: Child care-participating parents' care choice factors are examined using the data from the National Household Education Survey of Early Childhood Program Participation of 2005 (N = 4,570). Factors related to parental child care arrangement were measured by parents' importance ratings on the following factors using 4-point Likert scale: “locations of the arrangement”; “cost of the arrangement”; “reliability of the arrangement”; “learning activities at the arrangement”; “(CHILD) spending time with other kids (his/her age)”; “times during the day that this caregiver is able to provide care”; and “number of other children in (CHILD)'s care group” when the parents made their arrangements for their children. We introduce a latent class analysis (LCA) of the seven factors to understand parents' child care choice more holistically. Also, multinomial logistic regression analyses are conducted to understand the association among the parent and child socio-demographic characteristics, parental child care choice profiles, and actual child care arrangement choices.
Results: Four empirically distinctive classes are identified out of seven latent class indicators: everything important (31%); learning and quality focused (31%); practicality focused (27%); and something else (11%) classes. Class membership is associated with child's age, race/ethnicity and parent respondent's gender, age, employment status, and socioeconomic status. After controlling for socio-demographic factors' effect, parents in the learning focused class are more likely to choose center based cares while practicality focused class parents prefer home-based relative or non-relative care arrangements than other types of care arrangement.
Conclusions and Implications: This study contributes to the existing child care literature, using an LCA approach, to provide an alternative lens for understanding parental child care considerations and choice. Within the overall diversity among parents in our sample, we find that parents' patterns of considerations fall into four general classes, such that these classes help explain variance not only in what parents view as important in their child care arrangement, but variance in the actual arrangements parents ultimately make for their young children.