Parents choose many types of child-care settings for their infants, with varied consequences for child and family well-being. Yet understanding of parents’ child-care choices is limited. Most research has employed retrospective methods among parents who are already using child care. As states and localities launch and expand policy initiatives aimed at helping parents choose child care (e.g., Quality Rating and Information Systems), more information is needed directly from parents regarding their decisionmaking processes.
The major goals of this project are to explore work and child-care decision-making during women’s first pregnancies, and consider postpartum work and child-care choices at follow-up assessessments during infancy and toddlerhood in relation to prenatal beliefs and characteristics and concurrent child and family well-being.
In this prospective, longitudinal, mixed-method pilot study, women who are expecting their first child, recruited from urban and suburban hospitals, are interviewed about work and child-care plans, worries, hopes, and search and decision-making strategies, and complete validated quantitative measures of beliefs about maternal employment’s effects, psychosocial functioning, and demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Follow-up assessments during infancy and toddlerhood assess employment; child-care type, quantity, and quality; home and parenting environments; and child development.
Data collection is ongoing, with (a) continued follow-up with the first cohort to add a toddlerhood assessment point and expand assessments to include direct observations of child care quality and (b) enrollment of a second, broader cohort with enhanced recruitment procedures via medical records, and to support the development of a video-prompt interview task and a quantitative measure of parental child care decision-making.