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Influences on parents' child care choices: A comparative analysis of preschool and long day care users

Resource Type: Reports & Papers
Author(s): Degotardi, Sheila; Sweller, Naomi; Fenech, Marianne; Beath, Alissa;
Date Issued: October, 2018
Description: Background This paper investigates Australian parents' child care decision-making, including the motivational and influential factors that they attribute to their choice. Research demonstrates that child care decision making is multifaceted, involving a combination of child-related, personal, familial and contextual considerations. Existing research has tended to compare centre-based child care users with those using family-based options, and has not examined differences in the decision-making of parents who using different centre-based options. Objective This study compared the characteristics and child care choices of parents using long day care (LDC) with those using preschool services to determine (1) whether they differ demographically and (2) if their reported child care decision-making motivations and influences diverge. Method Participants were 1418 parents who completed a nationally-distributed survey in which they provided demographic information, specified their reasons for choosing to use child care, and rated the importance of factors that influenced their child care choice. Results LDC parents had, on average, younger children, worked longer hours and resided in areas with lower socioeconomic resources than preschool parents. When compared with preschool parents, those using LDC were more likely to nominate pragmatic factors as influencing their child care decision making. External pressures, mainly related to educational outcomes, were more salient for preschool than LDC parents. However, both groups of parents similarly rated child-centred factors as the most important overall influence. Conclusion Our findings add complexity to current understandings of parents' child care decision making by showing that parents should not be treated as a homogenous group by policy makers, providers, and researchers. (author abstract)
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