The determinants of children's and adults' behavioral processes in home and center based child care

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Malerba, Catherine Abbamonte

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Previous research on the determinants of child care quality has led many to conclude that there is such substantial covariance between the quality of child care providers and the settings in which they work that the two are not meaningfully distinguishable. This study used data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care (when participating children were 24-months-old), to examine the relations between various aspects of the caregiving environment, caregiver traits and children’s and adults’ behavioral processes and interactions in the child care setting. Hierarchical regressions were used to test a model proposing that caregiver traits (e.g. formal training, beliefs about childrearing, professionalism) and characteristics of the environment (e.g. childadult ratio, scheduling, learning materials) contribute independently to the prediction of these behavioral processes. viii Among child care center settings (N = 177) there was substantial support for the proposed model. The majority of behavioral processes in these settings (e.g. positive engagement between children and adults, children’s prosocial behavior) were best predicted by the independence model. Among child care home settings (N = 184) there was support for both the covariance and independence models. Results suggest that the development and use of quality measures that disaggregate the contributions of individual caregivers and the environment from the behavioral processes in child care center settings would be useful for furthering research in this area and a more theoretically sound way to conceptualize the effects of child care on children’s development.