Self-care: Why do parents leave their children unsupervised?

Abstract

We used a preferences-and-constraints model to develop four hypotheses to explain why parents may choose self-care (an unsupervised arrangement) as the primary child care arrangement for their children over supervised alternatives and tested them in a multivariate framework using 1995 data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation. We found that the choice of self-care over supervised care alternatives is linked to the availability of parents’ time to care for children, the child’s level of responsibility and maturity, and the neighborhood context. However, we found no evidence that parents’ ability to pay for child care is related to the choice of self-care. The results also suggest that parents use different decision-making processes, depending on their children’s ages.

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The authors contributed equally to this research and are listed alphabetically. Direct correspondence to Kristin Smith, Fertility and Family Statistics Branch, Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau, Room 2351, Building 3, Washington, DC 20233-8800; ksmith@census.gov. The findings and opinions expressed in this article are attributable to the authors. This article does not reflect the official views of the U.S. Census Bureau or NICHD. It reports the results of research and analyses undertaken, in part, by staff of the U.S. Census Bureau and has undergone a more limited internal review than do the bureau’s official publications. We thank Suzanne Bianchi, Lisa Gennetian, Martin O’Connell, the anonymous reviewers, and the editor for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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Casper, L.M., Smith, K.E. Self-care: Why do parents leave their children unsupervised?. Demography 41, 285–301 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2004.0013

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Keywords

  • Child Care
  • Neighborhood Context
  • Married Parent
  • Child Care Cost
  • Child Care Arrangement