Childcare research at the dawn of a new millennium: An update



Publication Details

Friedman, S. L., Melhuish, E. & Hill, C. (2010). Childcare research at the dawn of a new millennium: An update. In J. G. Bremner & T. D. Wachs (Eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Infant Development (pp. 359-379). Chichester, United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


This chapter updates the publication by Friedman, Randolph, and Kochanolf (2001) about infant childcare. The continued interest in childcare and its relation to children's development reflects the fact that the employment of mothers of infants has been steadily increasing in recent decades and become the norm in many countries (Melhuish & Petrogiannis, 2006). Theory and research findings suggest that the link between childcare and children's development is dependent upon context, or social ecology (Bronfenbrenner, 1999). The social ecology in which childcare is embedded includes cultural and social contexts such as ideology and labor markets. These influence the availability of childcare, the types of childcare, and the experiences children have in childcare (Melhuish, 2005). Most industrialized societies have seen marked increases in maternal employment in the last 30 years. For example, in the USA in 1975, 39% of mothers with a preschool child were in employment. By 2000 this had increased to 67%. However, much of this was part-time employment and over 60% of preschool children had at least one parent who did not work full-time. Such changes resulted in the number of US preschool children being in childcare increasing from 4.3 million in 1977 to 12.4 million (over 50% of children) by 1997 (Smith, 2002). Countries have responded differently to the increased demand for childcare. In some countries, childcare provision is seen as a state responsibility. For example, Sweden had 85% of mothers of preschool children in employment in the early 1990s, and provided high levels of publicly funded childcare. In Englishspeaking countries in the twentieth century, childcare was a private concern with little public funding. In these circumstances, the quality and type of childcare is more diverse. For example, in the USA, in the 1990s, where mothers were employed, 10% of infant childcare was center-based, 24% was family daycare, nanny or babysitter, 28% was provided by a relative, and 20% was by the father (Ehrle, Adams, & Trout, 200 1). Most childcare in the USA is funded by parents and the quality varies considerably, partly because states have markedly different regulations concerning childcare. Where childcare costs fall to parents, parents are likely to choose on the basis of cost, particularly as information on quality is not readily available.

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