The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

An Eco-Systems Perspective On Predictors of Child Care Disruptions and the Resulting Negative Employment Outcomes Among Mothers with Young Children

Friday, January 18, 2013: 11:00 AM
Marina 1 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Meirong Liu, PhD, Assistant Professor, Howard University, Washington, DC
Manrong Chen, International MSW, MLL, PhD Candidate, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY

Child care disruptions are common barriers for the employment among mothers with young children. Understanding the predictors of child care disruptions and the related employment outcomes is an essential initial step toward developing programs and policies to help mothers balance work and family responsibilities. Existing studies have focused on individual level factors’ effects on child care disruptions and related missed work; however, few studies have examined neighborhood factors’ influence. With an eco-systems perspective, this study intends to investigate how the individual, family, and neighborhood characteristics are associated with child care disruptions and the resulting negative employment outcomes among mothers with young children.


This study used the Public and Contract data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study. Mothers who were interviewed at Year 3 of the study and using non-parental child care were selected for the analyses related to child care disruptions and the resulting losing jobs (N=1,863). The analyses related to missing work due to child care disruptions were limited to 1,692 mothers. The outcome variables included child care disruptions in the past month, and two negative employment outcomes due to child care disruptions missed work in the past month and loss jobs in the past two years. The individual and family explanatory variables include self-appraisal of working stress, potential child care assistance from informal social support networks, and the characteristics of child care arrangements.The neighborhood explanatory variables included the percentage of Black population, percentage of Hispanic population, percentage of immigrants, poverty rate, unemployed rate, and median housing value at the census tract level. Logistic regression models were estimated to identify the predictors of the outcome variables.


The analysis showed that mothers who had higher working stress, were using multiple child care, and were changing care arrangements more than twice were more likely to experience child care disruptions, and were more likely to miss work or even loss job due to the child care disruptions. Mothers who perceived they would receive emergency child care assistance from informal social support networks were less likely to loss job when they experienced child care disruptions. In addition, mothers in neighborhoods with higher percentage of Hispanic and lower median housing value were more likely to loss job because of child care disruptions (β =1.0560, p<=0.01; β =1.514E-6, p<=0.01, separately).


Our findings contribute to informing social policies and interventions to help working families balance work and family obligations. Child care disruptions and the resulting missed work are more likely to be affected by individual and family factors and the more serious result of child care disruptions—loss of job can also be substantially affected by neighborhood factors. In order to improve the employment retention of mothers with young children, policies and interventions can to be designed for improving child care stability, provide emergency care assistance, as well as releasing maternal work stress. Further, special efforts are needed to provide child care assistance to mothers in neighborhoods with higher percentage of Hispanic population and neighborhoods with low median housing value.