Date of Award

Winter 1983

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The present study examines three aspects of childcare: the childcare provider, the parent, and the social environment within childcare centers. Providers of family daycare, and directors of group daycare and nursery schools were surveyed regarding the services they provide. Parents whose children attended the surveyed childcare homes and centers were surveyed regarding their experiences with childcare, and the influence of childcare on the child and family. Videotapes were made in five centers, and then analyzed to determine the frequency of certain activities, and the probabilities of various social exchanges in each center.

The data were analyzed to describe each childcare alternative, and to compare family daycare, publicly-funded daycare, and nursery school. Family daycare workers report the longest workdays, and the lowest adult to child ratio. Publicly-funded as opposed to private group care centers are open more hours, and care for more children for primarily childcare as opposed to enrichment. There were many dimensions on which these centers did not differ. Users of family daycare, publicly-funded daycare, and nursery school were found to differ on some demographic variables, their rating of the importance of some characteristics of childcare, and the effects of the childcare on their child. There were many dimensions on which these three groups of parents did not differ. Differences in both activities and social exchanges were found in comparisons of public versus private centers, and morning versus afternoon times.

The many similarities among the childcare providers and users suggest that many commonly held assumptions about these childcare options may not be true. It is suggested that an appropriate reconception of childcare would abandon comparisons based on categorical group membership (i.e., daycare versus nursery school), and search for relationships between specific experiences (i.e., exposure to particular curricula, care in small versus large group) and the relevant child outcome variables.