Abstract: Child Care Stressors, Child Care Subsidy, and Child Maltreatment (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

Child Care Stressors, Child Care Subsidy, and Child Maltreatment

Saturday, January 13, 2018: 10:07 AM
Treasury (ML 4) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Kathryn Maguire-Jack, PhD, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Kelly Purtell, PhD, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Sheila Barnhart, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Background and Purpose:

Working parents face multiple demands including meeting the expectations of their employer, finding appropriate care and education for their children, and meeting the needs of their children during nonworking hours. Government-sponsored child care subsidies are intended to be a work support, to provide lower-income mothers the opportunity to have access to higher quality care for their children while they were working.  Child care can serve as a source of stress for many working mothers.  The study examines four research questions: (1) Are child care stressors related to parenting stress, neglect, psychological aggression, and physical aggression?  (2) Are child care subsidies associated with child care stressors? (3) Are child care subsidies associated with parenting behaviors? And (4) Are there interaction effects between child care subsidies, child care stressors, and parenting behaviors?  


We used the wave 3 data of mothers with children in childcare from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study (N=1,544). Child care stressors were measured by four continuous items (how many times in the past month mothers had to make special arrangements because their usual child care arrangement fell through; how many times the child had changed arrangements since the child’s first birthday; the number of current child care arrangements they were currently using; and how many times mothers had to miss work or school because their child care fell through). Child care subsidy receipt was measured as a single binary item indicating whether or not the mother received government assistance for child care. Child maltreatment was measured by three separate outcomes: physical aggression, psychological aggression, and neglect from the Parent-Child Conflict Tactics Scales.  Parenting stress was measured by a composite scale of 12 items rated on a 5-point scale.

 A series of linear regressions examined the relationships of interest in our four research questions.  For each research question, we first examined the relations within the full analytic sample, and then re-estimated the model on a subsample of mothers who were at or below 100% FPL (N=550) in an attempt to examine the relations in those who were potentially eligible for the child care subsidy. 


First, we found that having more arrangements concurrently was associated with higher parenting stress and psychological aggression among those who were under 100% FPL. Second, child care subsidy receipt was largely unassociated with child care stressors, but increased the number of times the child had changed arrangements since the age of 1. Third, receipt of child care subsidy was not associated with maltreatment in the models that were restricted to under 100% FPL. Finally, we did not find any moderation effects in the variables we tested.

Conclusions and Implications:

Although there is some evidence that child care subsidies are associated with higher quality care, the associations are fairly small and primarily found in center-based care comparisons. Thus, the quality of care provided by subsidy receipt may not reduce parenting stress enough to buffer against child care disruptions.