The relationship of parent-caregiver support and child care quality to toddler behavior

Date of Completion

January 1990


Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, General|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




This study, based on Bronfenbrenner's ecological model, investigated the association between the nature of parent-caregiver relationships and child behavior and examined the parent-caregiver relationship phenomenologically as a social support.^ Newspaper birth announcements in Connecticut were used to randomly select 120 parents of two-year-olds. Parents, who used child care at least twenty hours a week, completed a 10-page survey which included a demographic questionnaire and measures of (a) child behavior problems, (b) appraised family/friend support, (c) family/friend supportive behavior, (d) appraised caregiver support, and (e) caregiver supportive behavior. Ninety-seven parents (80%) responded. Twenty parent-caregiver pairs were interviewed.^ Data were analyzed using correlational and comparative statistical procedures and content analysis. Results were as follows: (a) Toddlers in child care twenty or more hours a week averaged fewer behavioral/emotional problems than the normative sample; (b) Frequency of reported behavioral/emotional problems was related minimally to SES but not to differences in the degree of general social support; (c) There was a small but significant association between scores on Internalizing and Externalizing behavior scales and reported caregiver support, and for Internalizing scores this association remained significant after controlling for SES; (d) Child care quality, as measured herein, while significantly related to caregiver support, was not related to child behavior; (e) No differences in child behavior were found between boys and girls or across center, family day care, and relative care settings; (f) Parents identified caregiver support as distinct and separate from other social support; and (g) From interviews with parents and caregivers, four types of parent-caregiver relationships emerged: custodial, business/professional, friend, and family.^ The discussion focussed on three topics: (a) The low prevalence of behavioral/emotional problems for toddlers in child care in this study; (b) The possibilities that caregiver support is associated with child behavior and that variations in child behavior may be related to different types and sources of social support; and (c) The relation of the results to the ecological model of development-in-context for children and families. ^