Children's experiences of child care

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Child care for very young children is an increasingly common experience in Australia, but the ways in which care is arranged are remarkably diverse. Children's experiences of child care are affected by the array of socio-demographic and cultural factors that differentiate Australian families, including whether or not parents decide to use child care; what type or types of care are used and for how many hours each week; and when care is started or stopped. Care experiences are also affected by government policy and funding decisions that determine the availability, cost and quality of some types of care. Child care is often the first step in the child's journey toward a more diverse social world, which expands through relationships with caregivers, friendships with other children, and encounters with the wider community. The experiences children gain in child care are therefore an important influence on their development (Bowes, Harrison, Sweller, Taylor, & Neilsen-Hewitt, 2009; Love et al., 2003; National Institute for Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network [NICHD ECCRN], 2000, 2003, 2005). Additionally, child care can influence family wellbeing, not only by enabling parents to participate in the workforce but also by providing social and parenting support, exposure to alternative models of caregiving, and new ways of understanding the child. In order to appreciate the role that child care plays for families and children, it is critical that these experiences and how they vary by family circumstances are fully understood. This chapter draws on data collected from the B cohort at Waves 1 and 2 to describe patterns of child care experienced by 0'1 year olds and 2'3 year olds, and the associations between care and diverse family circumstances.The following questions are addressed:' At what age do young children typically experience non-parental child care?' What types of child care arrangements do they experience, and how do these change with age?' How much time is spent in care each week, and in how many different settings?' Why do parents use or not use non-parental child care?' How do children's experiences of care differ in relation to different family circumstances?By addressing these questions, families' use of child care in LSAC can then be collated and compared over the child's first years of life, enabling researchers to look at the influence of different patterns of child care experience on developmental outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLongitudinal Study of Australian children Annual statistical report 2010
EditorsBridgit Maguire
Place of PublicationMelbourne
PublisherAustralian Institute of Family Studies
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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