With these methodological challenges in mind, we turn to the conceptual framework that guides our evaluation of child care quality. This model is presented in Figure 2.
A central feature in the model is an awareness that children are not randomly assigned to child care. Child care quality is expected to be related to family characteristics including demographic, psychological, and attitudinal differences. Because these family characteristics-income, parental education, maternal sensitivity, stimulating and supportive home environments-also can predict children’s developmental outcomes, it is necessary to control for them. Otherwise, quality effects may be overestimated or underestimated. As shown in the model, research also needs to take into account other child care parameters, such as amount of care and type of care, that may be confounded with quality or that may contribute independently to child outcomes.
Children’s developmental outcomes are considered in relation to process quality and in relation to structural and caregiver characteristics. Specifically, the model posits that process quality is directly related to child developmental outcomes. Structural and caregiver characteristics are posited to be indirectly related to child outcomes, through their influence on process quality. In the sections that follow, research findings pertaining to this model are considered in terms of concurrent relations between child care quality and children’s development, and in terms of longer-term associations between child care quality and child adjustment.
Table 2 is a summary description of results from empirical studies that examined relations between process quality and child developmental outcomes. The description includes sample size, child’s age at the time of the concurrent assessments, the measures of process quality that were used, the measures of structural quality that were used, the controls (if any) for family factors, the child developmental domains that were considered, and a summary of findings.
As is evident is Table 2, some of the available research focuses on relations between process quality measures and child behavior in the child-care setting. Other research considers relations between process quality and child behavior outside of child care. The former set of studies provide descriptions of children’s immediate reactions to caregiving experiences that are emotionally supportive and cognitively enriching versus experiences that are less supportive and enriching. These studies yield firsthand evidence about children’s reactions to care of varying quality. The latter set of studies considers whether reactions to quality experiences are evident in children’s behavior in other settings.
Process Quality and Children’s Behavior in Child Care. Several investigators have delineated systematic relations between process quality and children’s behavior in the child care setting (see Table 2). For example, controlling for child gender and family socioeconomic status, children appear happier in child care settings where activities are developmentally appropriate and caregivers are more involved (Hestenes, Kontos, and Bryan, 1993). Children show more intense negative affect when their caregivers are less involved with them. Children display closer and more secure attachment relationships with their caregivers when the caregivers are https://1stamericanloan.com/installment-loans-ky/ more positive and responsive to the children’s needs (Elicker et al., 1999; Howes et al., 1992; Howes and Smith, 1995).
Associations between caregiver-child interactions and children’s interactions with peers also have been reported (see Table 2). , 1992; Kontos and Wilcox-Herzog, 1997). Children who have opportunities to participate in activities such as art, blocks, and dramatic play demonstrate greater cognitive competence during their free play (Kontos and Wilcox-Herzog, 1997). Taken together, these studies suggest that experiences associated with better quality foster competent performance in the child care setting. By the same token, children are less likely to display competent behavior in child care settings characterized by lower process quality.