An Ecological Review of Literature on Factors Influencing Working Mothers’ Child Care Arrangements

Abstract

As more mothers with young children enter the workplace, there is an increased need for non-maternal child care services. Prior research indicates that the type of child care utilized for children under age six not only affects maternal labor force participation, but is a critical factor in later developmental outcomes for children. Within this context, understanding how working mothers choose child care for their young children is important. A growing body of research has examined influences on mothers’ child care choice behaviors. Based on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory, this article proposes a theoretical model that examines maternal child care selection under the influence of a range of environmental context variables (including neighborhood and state policy factors), family characteristics, and child factors. This article organizes and reviews the related literature within the context of the proposed model. The purpose is to provide an empirical knowledge base that can inform the development of quality child care services and policies. The article then concludes with suggestions for social welfare policy and practice on how to improve access to high quality child care for working mothers.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Anderson, S., Dawn, R., & Scott, J. (2005). Illinois study of license exempt child care: Final report. Illinois: Springfield: Department of Human Services.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Boushey, H. (2006). Tag team parenting. Washington, DC: Center for Economic and Policy Research.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Brandon, P. D. (2000). Child care utilization among working mothers raising children with disabilities. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 21, 343–364.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Brandon, P. D. (2004). The child care arrangements of preschool-age children in immigrant families in the United States. International Migration, 42, 65–87.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological models of human development. In T. Husen & T. N. Postlethwaite (Eds.), International encyclopedia of education (2nd ed., pp. 1643–1647). New York: Elsevier Science.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Capizzano, J., & Adams, G. (2004). Children in low-income families are less likely to be in center-based child care. Snapshots of America’s Families III (Vol. 16). Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Caruso, G. (1992). Patterns of maternal employment and child care for a sample of 2-year-olds. Journal of Family Issues, 13(3), 297–312.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Chang, Y. E.,& Huston, A. C. (2001). The Relations of Maternal Beliefs about Employment and Infant Child Care to Maternal Well-Being. Paper presented at the biennial meetings of the Society for Research in Child Development, Minneapolis, MN.

  9. Clarke-Stewart, K. A., & Allhusen, V. D. (2005). What we know about child care. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Coley, R.L., Chase-Lansdale, P.L., & Li-Grining, C.P. (2001). Child care in the era of welfare reform: Quality, choices, and preferences (Policy Brief No. 01-4, Report of Welfare, Children, and Families: A Three-City Study). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University.

  11. Connelly, R. (1992). The effect of child care costs on married women’s labor force participation. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 74, 83–90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Crosby, D. A., Gennetian, L. A., & Huston, A. C. (2005). Child care assistance policies can affect the use of center-based care for children in low-income families. Applied Developmental Science, 9, 86–106.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Cutler, A., & Gilkerson, L. (2002). Unmet needs project: A research, coalition building, and policy initiative on the unmet needs of infants, toddlers, and families. Chicago, IL7 University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Disability on Human Development.

  14. De Marco, A. C. (2006). Child care options and choices for families on welfare in rural northern California counties. Unpublished dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.

  15. Early, D., & Burchinal, M. (2001). Early childhood care: Relations with family characteristics and preferred care characteristics. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 16, 475–497.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Ehrle, J., Adams, G., & Tout, K. (2001). Who’s caring for our youngest children: Child care patterns of infants and toddlers?. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Emlen, A. C. (2010). Solving the childcare and flexibility puzzle: How working parents make the best feasible choices and what that means for public policy. Boca Raton, Florida: Universal-Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Erdwins, C. J., & Buffardi, L. C. (1994). Different types of day care and their relationship to maternal satisfaction, perceived support, and role conflict. Child and Youth Care Forum, 23, 41–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Fuller, B., Holloway, S., & Liang, X. (1996a). Family selection of child-care centers: The influence of household support, ethnicity, and parental practices. Child Development, 67, 3320–3337.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Fuller, B., Holloway, S., Rambaud, M., & Eggers-Pierola, C. (1996b). How do mothers choose child care? Alternative cultural models in poor neighborhoods. Sociology of Education, 69, 83–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Fuller, B., & Kagan, S. L. (2000). Remember the children: Mothers balance work and child care under welfare reform. Growing up in poverty project: Wave 1 Findings, University of California, Berkeley and Yale University.

  22. Fuller, B., Kagan, S. L., & Loeb. (2002). New lives for poor families? Mothers and young children move through welfare reform (Executive Summary). Growing up in poverty project: Wave 2 Findings, University of California, Berkeley and Yale University.

  23. Fuqua, B., & Labensohn, D. (1986). Parents as consumers of child care. Family Relations, 35, 295–303.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Gamble, W., Ewing, A., & Wilhlem, M. (2009). Parental perceptions of characteristics of non-parental child care: Belief dimensions, family and child correlates. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 18(1), 70–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Gennetian, L, Crosby, D, Huston, A. & Lowe, T. (2002). How child care assistance in welfare and employment programs can support the employment of low-income families. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation. Retrieved August 10, 2013, from http://www.mdrc.org/publication/how-child-care-assistance-welfare-and-employment-programs-can-support-employment-low.

  26. Gilliam, W. S. (2008). Implementing policies to reduce the likelihood of preschool expulsion. Foundation for Children Development, Retrieved 5 Aug 2013, from http://medicine.yale.edu/childstudy/zigler/publications/34772_PreKExpulsionBrief2.pdf.

  27. Han, W. (2004). Nonstandard work schedules and child care decisions: Evidence from the NICHD study of early child care. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19, 231–256.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Hirshberg, D., Huang, D. S.-C., & Fuller, B. (2005). Which low-income parents select child care? Family demand and neighborhood organizations. Children and Youth Services Review, 27, 1119–1148.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Hofferth, S. L., Shauman, K., Henke, R., & West, J. (1998). Characteristics of children’s early care and education programs: Data from the 1995 National Household Education Survey (NCES Publication No. 98-128). Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office.

  30. Hofferth, S., & Wissoker, D. (1992). Price, quality, and income in child-care choice. Journal of Human Resources, 27, 70–111.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Holloway, S. D., & Fuller, B. (1992). The great child-care experiment: What are the lessons for school improvement? Educational Researcher, 21(7), 12–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Honig, A. S. (2002). Choosing child care for young children. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of Parenting (pp. 375–405). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Huston, A. C., Chang, Y. E., & Gennetian, L. (2002). Family and individual predictors of child care use by low-income families in different policy contexts. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 17, 441–469.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Johansen, A., Leibowitz, A., & Waite, L. (1996). The importance of child-care characteristics to choice of care. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 58, 759–772.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Knoche, L., Peterson, C. A., Edwards, C., & Jeon, H. (2006). Child care for children with and without disabilities: The provider, observer, and parent perspectives. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 21(1), 93–109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Kuhlthau, K., & Mason, K. O. (1996). Market child care versus care by relatives: Choices made by employed and nonemployed mothers. Journal of Family Issues, 17, 561–578.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Larner, M. (1996). Parents’ perspectives on quality in early care and education. In S. L. Kagan & N. E. Cohen (Eds.), Reinventing early care and education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Lemke, R., Witte, A., Queralt, M., & Witt, R. (2000). Child care and the welfare to work transition. NBER Working Papers 7583, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

  39. Leslie, L. A., Ettenson, R., & Cumsille, P. (2000). Selecting a child care center: What really matters to parents? Child and Youth Care Forum, 29, 299–322.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Liang, X., Fuller, B., & Singer, J. (2000). Ethnic differences in child care selection: The influence of family structure, parental practices, and home language. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15, 357–384.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Liu, M. (2010). Factors influencing low-Income working mother’s child Care arrangements under different neighborhood and state policy contexts. Urbana-Champaign: Dissertation, University of Illinois.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Liu, M., & Anderson, S. (2010). Understanding caregiving patterns, motivations, and resource needs of subsidized FFN child care providers. Child Welfare, 89, 99–119.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Liu, M., & Anderson, S. (2012). Neighborhood effects on working mothers’ child care arrangements. Children and Youth Services Review. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2011.12.021.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Loeb, S., Fuller, B., Kagan, S. L., & Carrol, B. (2004). Child care in poor communities: Early learning effects of type, quality, and stability. Child Development, 75(1), 47–65.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Lowe, E. D., & Weisner, T. S. (2004). “You have to push it: Who’s gonna raise your kids?” Situating child care and child care subsidy use in the daily routines of lower income families. Children and Youth Services Review, 26, 143–171.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Meyers, M., & Heintze, T. (1999). The performance of the child-care subsidy system. Social Service Review, 73(1), 37–64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Meyers, M., Heintze, T., & Wolf, D. (2002). Child care subsidies and the employment of welfare recipients. Demography, 39, 165–179.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  48. National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. (2013). We can do better: Child care Aware of America’s ranking of state child care center regulations and oversight. Retrieved 10 Aug 2013, from http://www.naccrra.org/about-child-care/state-child-care-licensing.

  49. National Institute of Child Health and Development Early Child Care Research Network. (2004). Type of child care and children’s development at 54 months. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19, 203–230.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network. (2002). Early child care and children’s development prior to school entry: Results from the NICHD study of early child care. American Educational Research Journal, 39, 133–164.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Nord, C. W., & Griffin, J. A. (1998). Educational profile of 3- to 8-year-old children of immigrants. In D. J. Hernandez (Ed.), Children of Immigrants: Health, Adjustment and Public Assistance, Committee on Health and Adjustment of Immigrant Children and Families, Board of Children, Youth, and Families. Washington, DC: Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Academy Press.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Parish, S. L., & Cloud, J. M. (2006). Financial well-being of young children with disabilities and their families. Social Work, 51(3), 223–232.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Parish, S. L., Cloud, J. M., Huh, J., & Henning, A. N. (2005). Child care, disability, and family structure: Use and quality in a population-based sample of low-income preschool children. Children and Youth Services Review, 27, 905–919.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Peyton, V., Jacobs, A., O’Brien, M., & Roy, C. (2001). Reasons for choosing child care: Associations with family factors, quality, and satisfaction. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 16, 191–208.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Presser, H. (2003). Working in a 24/7 economy. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Pungello, E. P., & Kurtz-Costes, B. (1999). Why and how working women choose child care: A review with a focus on infancy. Developmental Review, 19, 31–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Pungello, E. P., & Kurtz-Costes, B. (2000). Working women’s selection of care for their infants: A prospective study. Family Relations, 49(3), 245–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Radey, M., & Brewster, K. L. (2007). The influence of race/ethnicity on disadvantaged mothers’ child care arrangements. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22, 379–392.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Rafferty, Y., & Griffin, K. (2005). Benefits and risks of inclusion for preschoolers with and without disabilities: Perspectives of parents and providers. Journal of Early Intervention, 27(3), 173–192.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Riley, L., & Glass, J. (2002). You can’t always get what you want: Infant care preferences and use among employed mothers. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 64, 2–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Robins, P. (2007). Welfare reform and child care: Evidence from ten experimental welfare-to-work programs. Evaluation Review, 31, 440–468.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Rose, K. K., & Elicker, J. (2008). Parental decision making about child care. Journal of Family Issues, 29(9), 1161–1184.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Rosenzweig, J. M., Brennan, E. M., Huffstutter, K., & Bradley, J. R. (2008). Child care and employed parents of children with emotional or behavioral disorders. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 16(2), 78–89.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Seo, S. (2003). Early child care choices: A theoretical model and research implications. Early Child Development and Care, 173(6), 637–650.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Shearn, J., & Todd, S. (2000). Maternal employment and family responsibilities: the perspectives of mothers of children with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 13, 109–131.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Singer, J., Fuller, B., Keiley, M., & Wolf, A. (1998). Early child-care selection: Variation by geographic location, maternal characteristics, and family structure. Developmental Psychology, 34, 1129–1144.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Tvedit, K. (2009). The child care self-sufficiency scale: Measuring child care funding and policy generosity across states. Unpublished dissertation, Portland State University.

  68. US Administration for Children and Families. (2008). Head Start Act.

  69. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2011). Employment Characteristics of Families Summary. Washington DC: US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Uttal, L. (1996). Racial safety and cultural maintenance: The childcare concerns of employed mothers of color. Ethnic Studies Review, 19, 43–59.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Van Horn, M. L., Mulvihill, B. A., & Newell, W. Y. (2001). Reasons for child care choice and appraisal among low-income mothers. Child and Youth Care Forum, 30(4), 231–249.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Warfield, M., & Hauser-Cram, P. (1996). Child care needs, arrangements, and satisfaction of mothers of children with developmental disabilities. Mental Retardation, 34(5), 294–302.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  73. Zinzeleta, E., & Little, N. (1997). How do parents really choose early childhood programs? Young Children, 52, 8–11.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Meirong Liu.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Liu, M. An Ecological Review of Literature on Factors Influencing Working Mothers’ Child Care Arrangements. J Child Fam Stud 24, 161–171 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9822-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Working mothers
  • Child care
  • Ecological theory
  • Neighborhood characteristics
  • Child care policy