Child care and early education in Australia

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Child care and early education in Australia
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Child care and early education in Australia
The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
LINDA J HARRISON, SCHOOL OF TEACHER EDUCATION, CHARLES STURT UNIVERSITY
JUDY A UNGERER, DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY, MACQUARIE UNIVERSITY
GRANT J SMITH, TELETHON INSTITUTE FOR CHILD HEALTH RESEARCH
STEPHEN R ZUBRICK, CENTRE FOR DEVELOPMENTAL HEALTH,
CURTIN UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY
SARAH WISE, AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF FAMILY STUDIES
with
Frances Press1, Manjula Waniganayake2 and The LSAC Research Consortium
1
School of Teacher Education, Charles Sturt University
2
Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University
Improving the lives of Australians
© Commonwealth of Australia 2009
ISSN 1833‑4369
ISBN 978-1-921647-14-7
This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be
reproduced by any process without prior written permission from the Commonwealth available from
the Commonwealth Copyright Administration, Attorney‑General’s Department. Requests and inquiries
concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Commonwealth Copyright Administration,
Attorney‑General’s Department, Robert Garran Offices, National Circuit, Barton, ACT 2600 or posted at
<http://www.ag.gov.au/cca>.
The opinions, comments and/or analysis expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous
Affairs or the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous
Affairs, and cannot be taken in any way as expressions of Government policy.
This report uses a confidentialised unit record file from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC).
LSAC is conducted in partnership between the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and
Indigenous Affairs, the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with
advice provided by a consortium of leading researchers. Further information about the study and how to access
the data can be found at ‹www.aifs.gov.au/growingup/data.html›.
This research was funded by the Australian Government through the Women’s Leadership and
Development Programme.
Caveat
Caution should be exercised when using this analysis in relation to the outcomes of the children in the
4 to 5 year‑old cohort, as the ages in the cohort vary between 4 years, 3 months and 5 years, 7 months.
Refereed publication
Submissions to the department’s Social Policy Research Paper series are subject to a blind peer review.
Acknowledgements
Ms Kelly Tribolet for assistance with searching and summarising the literature, Ms Kim Booby for assistance
with formatting and presentation of the report, Mr Sebastian Misson for advice and assistance with data
manipulation, data management and statistical processes, and Professor Graham Vimpani for commenting on
a draft version of the report.
The LSAC Project Operations Team for their contribution to all practical aspects of data collection and
support for data access: Carol Soloff (Project Manager), Linda Bencic (Design Manager), Sebastian Misson
(Data Administrator), Anna Ferro, Joanne Slater and Siobhan O’Halloran.
We are grateful to the Australian Government Office for Women, FaHCSIA, for commissioning this report and for
their encouragement and advice. In particular, we thank Trish Van Dartel, Miriam Jamieson and Beth Mahoney.
We also thank the staff at the Child Care Branch, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace
Relations, and Research and Analysis Branch of FaHCSIA for their advice and comments on earlier drafts of this
report.
For more information
Research Publications Unit
Research and Analysis Branch
Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Box 7576
Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610
Phone: (02) 6244 5458
Fax: (02) 6133 8387
Email: [email protected]
Contents
Contents
Executive summary
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Child care and early education in Australia
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Report overview
1.3 Review of literature
1.4 Discussion
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Background to the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and methods
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
2.3 Sample selection and recruitment
2.4 Description of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children sample
2.5 Methods of data collection
2.6 Discussion
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Patterns of care for the infant cohort
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Section summary
3.3 Overview of analytic approach
3.4 Type, combinations, amount and stability of care for the infant cohort
3.5 Discussion
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Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Section summary
4.3 Overview of analytic approach
4.4 Family/child/community characteristics by type of care for the infant cohort
4.5 Family/child/community characteristics by amount of care for the infant cohort
4.6 Discussion
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Patterns of care and early education for the child cohort
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Section summary
5.3 Overview of analytic approach
5.4 Type, combinations, amount and stability of care and early education for the child cohort
5.5 Discussion
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Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education for
the child cohort
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Section summary
6.3 Overview of analytic approach
6.4 Family, child and community characteristics by type of care and early education for
the child cohort
6.5 Family, child and community characteristics by amount of care and early education for
the child cohort
6.6 Discussion
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Contexts of care and early education
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Section summary
7.3 Overview of analytic approach
7.4 Contexts of care for the infant cohort
7.5 Contexts of care for the child cohort
7.6 Discussion
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Child care and early education in Australia
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Infant and child outcomes
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Section summary
8.3 Outcomes for the infant cohort
8.4 Outcomes for the child cohort
8.5 Child outcomes—summary and discussion
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9Overview
9.1 Introduction
9.2 Summary and review of key findings
9.3 Emergent themes
9.4 Conclusions and future directions
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Appendixes
Appendix A: Summary table of research studies informing the literature review
Appendix B: Extract from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children data users guide version 2.1
Appendix C: LSAC Research Consortium
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Endnotes
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References
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List of tables
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NICHD‑ECC study (2005): summary of findings
Number and percentage of infants in non‑parental child care by age group
Age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement
Hours per week spent in main care arrangement
Days per week spent in main care arrangement
Hours per week spent in care (main and other care)
Number of different care arrangements per week
Average number of care arrangements per year since birth
Reasons for infant attending non‑parental care
Reasons for not using child care
Parent satisfaction with care arrangement
Parent satisfaction with care by type
Mother’s age in years at time of infant birth by type of care arrangement
Mother’s education by type of care arrangement
Mother’s employment status by type of care arrangement
Number of children in household by type of care arrangement
Weekly household income by type of care arrangement
Number of financial stresses by type of care arrangement
SEIFA index (quintiles) by type of care arrangement
Child’s age by type of care arrangement
Child’s sex by type of care arrangement
Child’s Indigenous status by type of care arrangement
Language spoken at home by type of care arrangement
Family type by type of care arrangement
Mother’s psychological distress by type of care arrangement
Mother’s separation anxiety by type of care arrangement
Mother’s separation anxiety by type of care arrangement
Mother’s social support by type of care arrangement
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy by type of care arrangement
Mother’s parenting behaviour by type of care arrangement
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Mother’s education by hours in care
Mother’s employment status by hours in care
Number of children in household by hours in care
Weekly household income by hours in care
Number of financial stresses by hours in care
Child’s age by hours in care
Child’s sex by hours in care
Child’s Indigenous status by hours in care
Language spoken at home by hours in care
Family type by hours in care
Mother’s psychological distress by hours in care
Mother’s social support by hours in care
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy by hours in care
Mother’s parenting behaviour by hours of care
Age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement
Main care/education arrangement
Combinations of care/education settings
Combinations of care/education settings
Hours per week spent in care/education arrangements
Length of time in main care/education arrangement (months)
Parent satisfaction with child’s main care/education arrangement
Number of current regular care/education arrangements a week
Reasons for using additional care/education
Mother’s age at time of child birth by type of care/education arrangement
Mother’s education by type of care/education arrangement
Mother’s employment status by type of care/education arrangement
Number of children in household by type of care/education arrangement
Weekly household income by type of care/education arrangement
Number of financial stresses by type of care/education arrangement
SEIFA index (quintiles) by type of care/education arrangement
Child’s age by type of care/education arrangement
Child’s sex by type of care arrangement
Child’s Indigenous status by type of care/education arrangement
Language spoken at home by type of care/education arrangement
Family type by type of care/education arrangement
Mother’s psychological distress by type of care/education arrangement
Mother’s social support by type of care/education arrangement
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy by type of care/education arrangement
Mother’s parenting behaviour by type of care/education arrangement
Mother’s age at child’s birth by hours in care/education
Mother’s education by hours in care/education
Mother’s employment status by hours in care/education
Number of children in household by hours in care/education
Weekly household income by hours in care/education
Number of financial stresses by hours in care/education
Child’s sex by hours in care/education
Child’s Indigenous status by hours in care/education
Language spoken at home by hours in care/education
Family type by hours in care/education
Mother’s psychological distress by hours in care/education
Mother’s social support by hours in care/education
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy by hours in care/education
Mother’s parenting behaviour by hours in care/education
Carers who returned questionnaire by type of main care
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Child care and early education in Australia
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Age of carer/teacher by type of main care
Education of carer/teacher by type of main care
Paid adult to children ratio (centre based care only)
Qualified staff to children ratio (centre‑based care only)
Mean ratings for care giving activities by main care type
Mean values of availability of resources by main care type
Teachers/carers who returned questionnaire by type
Teacher/carer age and experience by type
Education of teacher/carer
Field of study (for highest post‑secondary education)
Staff qualifications by type of care/education setting
Field of study by type of care/education setting
Paid staff‑to‑child ratios by care type
Qualified staff‑to‑child ratios by type of care/education setting
Description of approach to teaching by type of care/education setting
Provisions for space and resources by type of care/education setting
Supportive work environment by type of care/education setting
Effect of care type on the likelihood of the study infant having ‘low physical health’
on the Physical Outcomes Index (n=3,790)
Effect of hours per week in non‑parental care on the likelihood of the study infant having
‘low physical health’ on the Physical Outcomes Index (n=1,327)
Effect of hours per week in centre‑based care on the likelihood of the study infant having
‘low physical health’ on the Physical Outcomes Index (n=1,327)
Effect of hours per week in relative care on the likelihood of the study infant having
‘low physical health’ on the Physical Outcomes Index (n=1,327)
Effect of number of regular non‑parental care arrangements on the likelihood of child having
‘low physical health’ on the Physical Outcomes Index (n=1,327)
Effect of age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement on the likelihood of the
study infant having ‘low physical health’ on the Physical Outcomes Index (n=1,327)
Effect of care measures on the likelihood of the study infant having an ongoing problem
with diarrhoea or infection
Effect of care type (adjusted odds ratios) on the likelihood of child falling into ‘concern’
on the Communication and Symbolic Behaviour Scale (n=3,349)
Effect of age of entry into first non‑parental care on the likelihood of the parent reporting
‘concern’ about infant emergent communication skill (n=1,258)
Effect of type, amount and stability of current care/early education and age of entry to
first care on mother‑rated problem behaviour and pro‑social behaviour—children receiving
non‑parental child care/education
Effect of type of current care/early education on mother‑rated problem behaviour and
pro‑social behaviour—all children
Effect of type, amount and stability of current care/early education and age of entry to
first care on teacher/carer‑rated problem behaviour and pro‑social behaviour—children
in centre or school‑based child care/education Effect of type, amount and stability of current care/early education and age of entry to
first care on receptive language (PPVT) and early literacy and numeracy (Who Am I?)
outcomes—children receiving non‑parental care/education
Effect of type of current care/early education on receptive language (PPVT) and early
literacy and numeracy (Who Am I?) outcomes—all children
Effect of quality of current care/early education on mother‑rated problem behaviour and
pro‑social behaviour—children in pre‑Year 1 classes only
Effect of quality of current care/early education on teacher/carer‑rated problem behaviour
and pro‑social behaviour—children in pre‑Year 1 classes only
Effect of quality of current care/early education on receptive language (PPVT) and early
literacy and numeracy (Who Am I?) outcomes—children in pre‑Year 1 classes only
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
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Contents
Appendix tables
Table A1:
Summary table of research studies informing the literature review
Table B1:
Summary Statistics for Administration of Adapted PPVT‑III and Who Am I? tests as part of
LSAC Wave 1
Table B2:
Items selected for Adaptive PPVT‑III for use with 6 year‑olds in LSAC
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List of figures
Figure 1:
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Socio‑ecological contexts shaping children’s development
Main child care arrangement
Combinations of care (main and other care)
Number of care/education arrangements per year (since birth)
Distribution of supportiveness in centre‑based care environment
Distribution of supportiveness in family day care environment
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Appendix figures
Figure B1: Item fit map for all items on the Australian adaptation of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test
(PPVT‑III) calibrated with all cases anchored to core items
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Figure B2: Item fit map for all items on the Who Am I? test
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Figure B3: Item map for all cases on the Who Am I? test
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Figure B4: Scatterplot showing joint distribution of scores on simulated adaptive PPVT‑III and scores on
full PPVT‑III for 6 year olds
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Child care and early education in Australia
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Executive summary
Executive summary
This report was commissioned by the Australian Government Office for Women as part of the Women’s
Leadership and Development Programme. The research undertaken for Child care and early education in
Australia is based on data collected in Wave 1 of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) from
parents, children and child care/early education carers and teachers. The Wave 1 LSAC sample comprises
5,107 infants (mean age 8.8 months, range from 3 to 19 months) and 4,983 children (mean age 4 years
and 9 months, range from 4 years and 3 months to 5 years and 7 months) and their families. The report
addresses a number of questions relating to child care and early education in Australia and contains findings
on these topics:
child
care and early education attendance patterns for infants and 4 to 5 year‑old children
parents’ reasons
family,
for using care and satisfaction with their infant or child’s care/education
child and community factors related to current attendance at child care and early education services
indicators
of quality in formal and informal care/education programs attended by the LSAC infant or child
developmental
outcomes, such as health, social and cognitive development, for infants and children in relation
to care/education attendance patterns, quality indicators, and other influencing family, child and community
factors.
Key findings
Parents’ use of infant child care
Just
over one‑third (34.9 per cent) of the LSAC parents were using regular child care for their infants;
however, the proportion varied by infant age. It was lowest (18.0 per cent) for children 6 months and
younger, increasing to 29.7 per cent for children aged between 6 and 9 months, 38.7 per cent for children
between 9 and 12 months, and 48.9 per cent for children older than 12 months. Of infants who were 12 months
or older at the time of the interview (n=1,037), 47.5 per cent had received non‑parental care prior to the age
of 12 months.
The
majority of the parents using child care (62.1 per cent) accessed informal care provided by relatives,
usually grandparents, or non‑relatives; 37.9 per cent used formal, government‑regulated long day care or
family day care services; and 10.0 per cent used a combination of formal and informal care.
There
were notable differences in the use of formal and informal care by LSAC families. Long day care centres
were more likely to be used by mothers who had a university education, were employed full‑time rather than
part‑time and whose family income was higher. Relative care was less commonly used by older mothers
(over 35) and more common when there was only one child in the family. Mothers using long day care centres
tended to report lower levels of social support, parenting self‑efficacy and positive parenting behaviour, than
mothers using family day care or informal home‑based care.
Weekly
hours of child care in formal care settings (average of 20 to 21 hours a week) were longer than for
informal (average of 14 hours a week). The longest hours in care were experienced by infants attending a
combination of formal and informal arrangements (average of 24 hours a week).
ix
Child care and early education in Australia
Longer
hours of infant care were more common when mothers were older, more highly educated, employed
full‑time rather than part‑time, and families had a higher income, fewer children and spoke a language other
than English at home.
Parents
typically used child care to enable them to meet their employment, study, family or personal
responsibilities. The most common reason cited for using care was work or study (72.3 per cent), followed by
taking a break (9.6 per cent), shopping, sport and social activities (9.4 per cent), and health or other needs
(1.7 per cent).
Quality of infant child care
Information
on quality of care was limited by the small number of carers who returned their questionnaires
(530); nevertheless these data indicated similarities and differences in infants’ child care experiences.
Carer
ratings of their interaction with children in learning and care giving practices were at a similar, moderate
to high level for all types of infant care. However, provisions for play and learning were rated as less available
in informal home‑based settings than in long day care centres and family day care services.
Carer
qualifications differed by care type. The majority of carers in long day care centres held a certificate or
diploma (76.2 per cent) or university qualification (22.1 per cent) qualification, whereas only 54.9 per cent of
family day carers and 26.6 per cent of relatives held a certificate/diploma qualification. Long day care staff
were younger than family day carers (average age 34 versus 42 years) and relatives (average age 56 years).
For
long day care centres, additional information was collected on group size and staff‑to‑child ratios. Most
children (62.2 per cent) were cared for in groups of six to 10 children; 32.8 per cent in groups of more than
10; and 5.0 per cent in groups of five children or less. The majority (75.8 per cent) of long day care centres met
state or territory regulations (or recommended regulations) of one adult to four children, but less than half
(40.7 per cent) met the recommended ratio of one qualified adult to four children.
Infant health
Child
care was an important predictor of parents’ report of their infants’ low physical health, particularly for
recurrent problems with gastrointestinal, ear and other infections. Infants attending long day care centres
were almost twice as likely as children not receiving care to have problems with infections. Home‑based child
care settings provided by family day care or informal carers were not associated with a higher incidence of
infection.
In
comparison to child care factors, family demographic, socioeconomic and psychosocial predictors showed
relatively few significant associations with infant health outcomes.
When
analyses were restricted to infants in regular non‑parental child care, poorer health outcomes were
highest in the group of infants who attended long day care centres for 21 or more hours per week and lowest in
the groups who received one to eight or nine to 20 hours per week of care with relatives.
Infant communication
In
regard to parents’ concern for their infants’ emergent communication skills, family demographic and
psychosocial factors were more important predictors than were child care factors. Infants receiving regular
child care were no more likely than children in exclusive parental care to fall within the ‘concern’ category.
‘Type
of care’ differences were evident for communication concern, being lowest in the group of infants
receiving care with relatives. Hours of care showed some disadvantage for infant communication in the
group attending long day care centres for nine to 20 hours per week, but there was no relationship between
communication outcomes and hours per week in relative care.
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Executive summary
Early education and care services attended by 4 to 5 year‑old children
Almost
all 4 to 5 year olds (96.3 per cent) were attending some type of child care or early education service
each week, with the vast majority (95.1 per cent) receiving a formal centre or school‑based early childhood
program. Most of the children (54.6 per cent) attended preschool, one‑half of which were provided in a school
and one‑half in settings outside the school system. Just under one‑quarter (23.9 per cent) attended a long day
care centre and 16.5 per cent were in their first year (pre‑Year 1) of formal school.
Children
who did not attend formal early childhood programs were more likely to be younger or growing up in
families who were more disadvantaged; that is, mothers were less well educated, not employed, and reported
higher psychological distress and poorer parenting; families had a lower income, more financial stress and
more children in the household; families were lone parent, Indigenous, non–English speaking, or from a more
economically‑disadvantaged area.
The
type of early childhood service attended by the child was associated with some family demographic,
socioeconomic and psychosocial factors. School-based pre‑Year 1 and preschool programs were more likely to
be attended by children whose mothers were younger (<25 years) and less well educated, and whose families
had more children, were Indigenous or from families speaking a language other than English at home.
A
substantial proportion (37.2 per cent) of LSAC children attended child care/early education services
additional to their main early childhood program. Within this group, most families (24.4 per cent) used
informal care arrangements, such as relatives, to supplement their main care/education; 12.8 per cent used
additional formal care/education settings. The number of settings attended each week ranged from two
(28.7 per cent), to three (6.0 per cent), to four or more (1.1 per cent).
Most
of the parents who used additional child care (81.8 per cent) did so to enable them to meet their
employment responsibilities (69.7 per cent) or personal needs (12.1 per cent). Fewer parents (16.3 per cent)
gave reasons related to benefits for the child including social interaction with peers or establishing
relationships with grandparents/relatives.
Weekly
hours attended were shortest for children attending preschool only (average of 13 hours a week),
followed by long day care centre only (average of 22 hours a week), preschool plus other care (average
of 26 hours a week), and longest in pre‑Year 1 only or with other care (32 hours a week) and long day care plus
other care (34 hours a week).
Longer
hours a week of overall care/education were more common when children were older, mothers were
employed and more highly educated, and families had a higher income, fewer children, were lone‑parent
families or spoke a language other than English in the home.
Quality of early childhood education
Information
on quality of early education was based on a significant return of questionnaires from teachers
(n=3,242; 62.8 per cent).
Teachers’ ratings
of their approach to teaching and learning differed by type of early childhood service:
pre‑Year 1 classes spent the most time in teacher‑directed activities and the least time in child‑initiated
activities. Only marginal differences were noted between teaching and learning in preschool and long day care
programs.
Teachers
differed markedly by type of service. Teachers in long day care centres were younger (average of
36 years) than teachers in preschool and school settings (average of between 40 and 42 years) and were least
likely to hold a university qualification (42.7 per cent versus 56.8 per cent for preschool not in a school; 73.9 to
77.8 per cent for school‑based programs). On the other hand, teacher‑to‑child ratios were significantly higher
in long day care centres (51.6 per cent had 1 adult to <8 children) than in preschools (56.7 to 60.4 per cent had
one adult to eight to 15 children) and pre‑Year 1 classrooms (53.8 per cent had one adult to >15 children).
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Child care and early education in Australia
Child social development
Pro‑social
and problem behaviour outcomes were rated by parents and teachers. Child outcomes were
strongly associated with child and family demographic, socioeconomic and psychosocial factors, but only
weakly linked to early education/child care factors. Teacher ratings of social development were lower for
children who attended more child care settings each week.
Quality
indices also contributed to social outcomes. Mother‑rated pro‑social behaviour was higher and
problem behaviours were lower when teachers were university qualified and offered more teacher‑supported
small group activities. Teacher/carer‑rated social development was higher when teachers were more
experienced. Lower ratios of qualified staff to children, particularly for pre‑Year 1 classrooms, were associated
with higher scores for social outcomes.
Child cognitive achievement
Cognitive
achievement was indexed by tests of receptive vocabulary and early literacy and numeracy skills.
Child and family demographic, socioeconomic and psychosocial factors were identified in regression analyses
as the major predictors of child language outcomes, but early education and child care effects were also
noted.
Children
who did not attend a formal early childhood program had lower scores for receptive vocabulary than
children in pre‑Year 1 and preschool programs (whether this was in a single setting or with other additional
care), and comparable scores to children in long day care. Children who attended long day care plus other
additional care had the lowest scores. The relationship between child care factors and children’s receptive
vocabulary appeared to be a function of the amount of time in care rather than type of early childhood setting,
as shown by a significant drop in test scores as weekly hours of care/education approached 30 or more hours
a week.
For
achievement in early literacy and numeracy, child and family demographic, socioeconomic and
psychosocial factors were the major predictors as well as attendance at pre‑Year 1. Not attending a formal
early childhood program had less of an impact on children’s achievement in early literacy and numeracy
than on receptive vocabulary. Apart from the enhancing effect of being in pre‑Year 1, there were only minimal
differences in test scores across the six types of early care/education settings children attended and these did
not differ from scores for children not attending an education program.
Quality
indices were also associated with literacy/numeracy outcomes, particularly for children in pre‑Year 1.
Language outcomes were higher when teachers held an early childhood qualification and ratios of qualified
staff to children were lower. Literacy and numeracy outcomes were higher when teacher‑supported small
group activities occurred often and child‑initiated activities occurred only occasionally. Quality indices made a
minimal contribution to children’s cognitive outcomes in preschool and long day care settings, but suggested
that literacy and numeracy skills were enhanced in settings with more teacher‑directed whole group activities.
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Child care and early education in Australia
1 Child care and early education in
Australia
1.1 Introduction
The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) seeks to document the breadth of children’s early
experiences to understand the factors impacting on health and development. The theoretical framework
upon which LSAC is based is a pathways socio‑ecological model of children’s health and development
(Sanson et al. 2002), which acknowledges the complex interactions between children and their environments.
As Figure 1 shows, infant and child development occurs within the context of the family, non‑parental child
care and early education (including school), and community environments. These contexts, in turn, sit within
broader socioeconomic, structural, cultural and political contexts.
Figure 1: Socio‑ecological contexts shaping children’s development
Social, structural,
economic, political and
curtural environment
Family
Child care
Child
Community
Source: Adapted from Bronfenbrenner (1979).
This report focuses primarily on children’s family and child care/early education environments, and the
relationships between these spheres of influence.
Child care, either within the family network or in settings outside of the family, is an increasingly common
experience for many Australian children. According to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics
(ABS) (2006), regular child care is used for 34 per cent of infants under the age of 1 year, 61 per cent of
1 year olds and 71 per cent of 2 and 3 year olds. As children get older, the type of care used changes. Child care
1
Child care and early education in Australia
for infants under 1 year is primarily informal home‑based care provided by relatives (mainly grandparents)
or other adults (29 per cent). Only 7 per cent of infants under 1 year attend formal care settings, such as long
day care centres or family day care, but rates increase to 31 per cent for 1 year olds, to 46 per cent for 2 year
olds, and 53 per cent for 3 year olds. By age 4 years, most children are attending a formal child care or early
education setting, in either a long day care (28 per cent) or preschool (62 per cent) setting (ABS 2006).
Preliminary analyses of the LSAC data set indicated that for the 4 to 5 year‑old cohort the type of care or early
education setting children attend is influenced by where the child lives (Harrison & Ungerer 2005). Australian
states and territories differ widely in their education provisions for 4 to 5 year‑old children (Press & Hayes
2000). In the majority of states/territories, it is common for government schools to provide part‑time preschool
programs for children in the year before they enter formal schooling. However, in the two largest states, New
South Wales and Victoria, school‑based preschool programs are rare and families are more likely to access
preschool programs that are provided by private or community‑based services. All states/territories provide
full‑time pre‑Year 1 programs for children who are 5 years old, or who will be 5 by mid‑year, but name these
differently (WA: pre‑primary; SA: reception; Vic. Tas. Qld: preparatory; NSW, ACT: kindergarten; NT: transition).
These distinctions in the availability and cost of early education across different states/territories impact
families’ decisions about their use of preschool, child care and school‑age early childhood programs for their
children.
A further factor affecting children’s child care experiences is families’ use of multiple child care arrangements,
estimated at 2 per cent for infants under 1 year, 13 per cent for 1 year olds, 19 per cent for 2 year olds and
21 per cent for 3 year olds. Again, the pattern of care varies by age. Press (2006) comments that infants are
more likely to be in a mix of informal home‑based care arrangements, while 2 to 3 year olds more likely to be
in a combination of formal and informal care, and 4 year olds more likely to attend two or more formal settings
(including preschool).
Aspects of child care and early education experiences that impact development include: the type of
care/education setting attended, particularly home versus centre care, and regulated versus unregulated care;
the quality of care, which is closely linked to aspects of regulation; the amount of care received, which includes
weekly hours as well as duration of time or age of entry to care; and the stability of care arrangements, which
arises from the number of multiple care arrangements at any one time as well as changes to care over time.1
Consideration of how these four aspects of child care/early education impact children’s development must
take into account the broader context of family circumstances and choice, as well as parental care giving.
Type, quality, amount and stability of child care are often correlated with other risk and protective factors
within the family. For example, child care arrangements are found to be affected by a complex array of factors
that differentiate families, including family finances (Wolcott & Glezer 1995), family social class and marital
status (Vandell & Corasaniti 1990), levels of stress or support in the family, maternal psychological wellbeing
and quality of the marital relationship (Richters & Zahn‑Waxler 1988). Notably, these factors have also been
identified as important variables which directly influence the quality of maternal care giving, irrespective of
child care (Belsky & Isabella 1988; Bronfenbrenner & Crouter 1982; Bronfenbrenner, Moen & Garbarino 1984)
and, therefore, may partly or wholly explain associations between child care and child outcomes.
This report examines the child care and early education experiences children receive and investigates the
association of these experiences on their learning and social development. It also recognises the family
context and family circumstances as having a significant direct influence on children’s development, but also
as key determinants of children’s experience of non‑parental child care—when they start, what type or types
of care they receive and for how many hours each week. A further consideration is that these experiences may
also be a positive influence on families’ capacity to parent their children, by providing models of care giving or
social support.
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Child care and early education in Australia
1.2 Report overview
This report was commissioned by the Australian Government Office for Women as part of the Women’s
Leadership and Development Programme and presents findings on families’ use of child care and early
education for infants and 4 to 5 year‑old children and the relations between care/education, family
circumstances and infant/child health and development. It uses the LSAC Wave 1 data set, collected from
March to November 2004, to investigate:
type(s),
amount and stability of non‑parental child care and early education received by infants
and 4 to 5 year‑old children
family,
child and community characteristics, and their relation to the type(s), amount and stability of
non‑parental child care and early education received by infants/children
quality
of child care/early education contexts, as described by infants’ and children’s involvement with carers,
access to resources and educational programs (process quality), as well as carer/teacher qualifications and
experience, staff numbers, and group sizes (structural quality)
infant
health and development in relation to family characteristics and the type(s), amount, stability and
quality of non‑parental child care received
child
social and cognitive development in relation to family characteristics and the type(s), amount, stability
and quality of care/early education received.
This report begins with a comprehensive review of international literature on non‑parental child care and early
education. Key themes arising from this literature inform the analyses presented in subsequent sections.
The LSAC study design and methodology is outlined in Section 2. Sections 3 and 4 present the data from the
infant cohort, to describe patterns of child care and the associations between care and diverse family, child
and community circumstances. Sections 5 and 6 present data from the child cohort, to describe patterns
of care and early education, and the associations between children’s experiences and family, child and
community circumstances. Section 7 examines structural and process indicators of quality in child care and
early education settings to describe variations in quality across settings. Section 8 examines infant health and
development and child social and cognitive outcomes, in a series of multivariate analyses designed to assess
the unique contribution of child care/early education factors after accounting for the effects of family, child
and community circumstances. Section 9 summarises and highlights key findings from these descriptive and
statistical analyses in relation to current issues in early childhood education and child care policy.
1.3 Review of literature
This review draws on a comprehensive search of relevant international literature and aims to identify the major
studies conducted in this broad area. It describes evidence on the outcomes of non‑parental child care and
early childhood education programs on children’s cognitive, early learning, language and socio‑emotional
development. The review also summarises the key characteristics of child care and early education that
may affect such outcomes, and the wider family circumstances of children in child care and early education
programs.
The international literature search identified studies relating to three major types of early childhood
experiences:
non‑parental
early
high
child care
childhood education programs, typically provided in the year before school entry (preschool)
quality, early education interventions for disadvantaged children.
3
Child care and early education in Australia
Selection of studies included in the review
This review focuses on non‑parental child care and early education programs prior to school. It does not
summarise the predominantly United States (US) literature on the effects of high quality, early childhood
programs for disadvantaged children, which are typically situated in child care centres or preschools,
and include the Perry Pre‑School Project (Schweinhart, Barnes & Weikart 1993), the Abecedarian full‑day
pre‑school program (Campbell et al. 2002; Ramey, Campbell & Blair 1998), the Chicago Parent–Child Centres
(Reynolds & Temple 1998; Reynolds et al. 2001) and the Head Start and Early Head Start (Administration for
Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services 2002, 2003), as it is difficult to generalise
these programs to broadly available child care and early education programs. Rather, the review focuses
on child care and preschool programs of ‘naturally varying’ quality, which conform better to the Australian
context.
The subset of studies included in this review involves contemporary cohorts only, rather than cohorts that
have now reached adulthood,2 once again because they are more likely to generalise to the current child care
context in Australia. The sample of studies was also limited to those large enough (more than 100 cases)
and rigorous enough to use statistical analyses that control for parental, family and individual characteristics
in assessing effects on children. A brief description of the reviewed studies is provided in Appendix A,
accompanied by a summary of the major findings in relation to child outcomes.
Non‑parental child care
Scope of existing studies
There are relatively few rigorous studies of child care that involve contemporary cohorts of children
and their participation in ‘typical’ child care arrangements, that is, formal care as well as informal care
provided by relatives and friends. Three, large‑scale (n>1,000) prospective longitudinal studies have
been designed specifically to measure child care effects. Two of these are located in the US and one in the
United Kingdom (UK). The US studies are the National Institute for Child Health and Development (NICHD)
Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (NICHD–ECC) and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study,
Birth Cohort (ECLS–B). The UK study is the Families, Children and Child Care Study (FCCC). Of these, the
ECLS–B is the only study that involves a nationally representative sample.
This review includes other, moderately large longitudinal studies of child care; however, the scope of these
varies. In some, the study’s focus is limited to formal child care centres or family day care services. These
include the Cost Quality and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centres Study (CQO) (United States), the National
Child Care Staffing Study (NCCSS) (United States), Child Care Choices (CCC) (Australia), the Competent
Children, Competent Learners (CCCL) Project (New Zealand), the Göteborg Study (Sweden), the Bermuda Study
(Bermuda) and the Japanese Study of Extended Child Care (Japan). In others, the study describes outcomes
for a range of typical care arrangements, such as the Sydney Family Development Project (Australia), the
Stockholm Study (Sweden), the Norwegian Study of Maternal Employment and Day Care (Norway) and the
Study of Welfare Reform (California, US). We also include cross‑sectional studies relating to relationships
between day care and attachment (The Haifa Study of Early Care) and cortisol activity (US Study of Child Care
Cortisol Activity; West Australia Child Care Study), as well as the Early Childhood Mental Health Program Study
(Washington, US), which employed a retrospective study design.
Child care effects have also been studied using large‑scale national cohort studies, including the National
Longitudinal Study of Children and Youth (NLSCY, Canada), the Longitudinal Study of Child Development
in Quebec (LSCDQ, Quebec) and the Netherlands Twin Register (Netherlands). In addition, the UK Effective
Provision of Pre‑School Education (EPPE) project (described in the preschool section of this review) provides
limited data relevant to child care and child outcomes.
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Child care and early education in Australia
Child care effects and children’s development: effect size
To understand whether use of child care and other types of early childhood programs are related to
meaningful differences in children’s development, studies have begun to express findings in terms of effect
sizes (NICHD–ECC 2006). Effect sizes estimates are computed from significance tests and are expressed in
standard units such that –1 indicates a strong negative association, 0 indicates no association and +1 indicates
a strong positive association. Some scholars have dismissed the effect of child care on children’s development
as small, when compared to the effects of family background. However, there is much argument concerning
the meaning of the effect sizes from different studies, especially in naturalistic studies where many factors
influence the conditions and behaviours observed.
Effect size varies by family type (being higher for more disadvantaged families) and by country (being
higher where child care is more variable in quality). In the US, for example, follow ups of the 2 year olds,
3 year olds and 4 and a half year olds in the NICHD‑ECC study demonstrated modest child care effects (d<0.40).
In contrast, parenting effects were described as moderate to large (d=0.50 to 1.2) (NICHD–ECC 2006).
Depending on the age of the child and type of outcome, child care effects were between one‑third to
one‑half the size of family environment effects. The most consistent effects were seen for observed care
quality and amount of care. In the EPPE study in the UK, spending a longer time in higher quality preschool
education generated similar effect sizes to having higher maternal education and higher family income
(Sammons et al. 2003). In Australia, Ungerer and colleagues (2006) report moderate effect sizes for amount of
child care and aspects of child social development.
Child care effects and children’s cognitive and language development
Using data from the Stockholm Longitudinal Study, Andersson (1989, 1992) reported that children who entered
child care in the second half of their first year scored significantly better on standardised measures of cognitive
ability and teacher ratings of academic achievement at both 8 and 13 years of age, even after controlling for
differences in family backgrounds. The CQO study also found that children who entered child care in the
second half of their first year did better on measures of cognitive or language performance, with other factors
controlled (ed. Helburn 1995). In contrast, the Bermudian study (McCartney et al. 1985) found that mother’s
employment status in the first year of the child’s life made no difference (controlling for family background).
Similarly, the analysis of the NLSCY data conducted by Lefebvre and Merrigan (2002) found negligible and
insignificant impacts of child care on the motor, social and language development for preschoolers.
Child care effects and children’s socio‑emotional development
A major concern of child care research conducted in the US since the 1970s has been whether regular
separations between infants and mothers would cause attachment insecurity among infants in child care.
The NICHD–ECC provides evidence that early child care (in the first year of a child’s life) does not necessarily
harm the formation of the mother–child (or adult–child) attachment bonds that are necessary for healthy
infant development (NICHD–ECC 1997, 2001). Similar findings were reported for Australian children (Harrison
& Ungerer 1997, 2000). The primary influence on attachment derives from the sensitivity of the mother
(adult) in the relationship (Harrison & Ungerer 2002). In the NICHD–ECC study, the amount of child care led
to attachment insecurity at 15 and 36 months only if the children were in child care for more than 10 hours a
week and if the mother was also highly insensitive towards the child. For mothers providing sensitive care,
non‑maternal child care did not pose a threat to attachment security of the child.
In relation to the impact of child care on behaviour problems, a recent analysis of the Netherlands Twin
registry dataset (Van Beijsterveldt, Hudziak & Boomsma 2005) showed that at the age of 3 years, children
with non‑parental child care experiences had more externalising problems than children with exclusive
parental care. Overall, however, the effect sizes for child care variables were small (effect sizes were between
0.12 and 0.23).
5
Child care and early education in Australia
Child care effects and children’s stress hormone (cortisol) levels
Several studies have shown that children in child care record higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol
than children who are looked after at home (Dettling, Gunnar & Donzella 1999; Tout et al. 1998; Watamura,
Donzella & Alwin 2003). Moreover, while cortisol levels are normally high at the beginning of the day and
decrease over the course of the day, the levels recorded when children attended centre‑based child care
tended not to drop as they do when children were at home. This suggests children attending child care remain
in a high state of arousal or stress for longer periods. The pattern of elevated cortisol throughout the day is
higher among toddlers, particularly those with more fearful or difficult temperaments (Dettling et al. 2000;
Gunnar et al. 1997; Gunnar et al. 2003; Watamura, Donzella & Alwin 2003).
There is evidence to suggest, however, that child care programs in the ‘good to excellent’ range of quality,
where teachers are available to respond appropriately to stress, may buffer cortisol release. A study of
family‑based child care found that children’s stress levels do not rise in settings where they receive a lot of
attention, support and guidance from the care provider (Dettling et al. 2000). Similarly, in the West Australian
cortisol study (Sims, Guilfoyle & Parry 2006), cortisol levels of children attending child care programs rated
as ‘high quality’ on the National Childcare Accreditation Council’s Quality Improvement and Accreditation
System ratings decreased across the day, whereas cortisol levels of children attending programs rated as
‘unsatisfactory’ increased.
The work of Gunnar, her colleagues and others has found that negative behavioural effects of child care
appear to be related to the pattern of cortisol levels in children over the day. It is suggested that toddlers and
preschoolers learning to negotiate with peers may experience child care centres as socially demanding and
stressful. Extensive hours in child care and/or the inability of parents and teachers to reduce levels of stress
experienced in child care may keep children in a stressed/aroused state.
Child care effects and children’s physical health
Few studies have assessed children’s general physical health in relation to child care, although it is generally
accepted that children who attend child care centres are exposed more often to communicable diseases than
children in exclusive parental or family care. The NICHD–ECC (ed. 2005) study recorded longitudinally three
aspects of child health: ear infections, gastrointestinal infections and upper respiratory tract infections.
Findings confirmed that children aged 3 years to 4 years, 6 months in group care (where there are more
than six other children) were between 1.4 and two times more likely to be ill than children cared for at home
or in small group settings. The rate of infection was not related to the number of hours per week of care.
Contrary to expectations, having been in child care before the age of 2 did not reduce the rate of infection
at age 3 to 4 years. This study also examined rates of infection from birth in relation to child outcomes at
age 3 years and found that the effect of child care on infection was largely unrelated to child behaviour,
language ability and school readiness.
Characteristics of child care and child outcomes
A table from the NICHD–ECC study (ed. 2005; p. 32), reproduced as Table 1, summarises the findings for
children in the first three years of life on the scope and nature of the relationship between child care and
six major aspects of children’s development, after controlling for child and family factors. Effects for quality
were consistently identified for three of the six outcomes, despite being tested at differing ages and using
different specifications of assessment (indicated by ‘consistent’) and were identified under some conditions
for two of the other six outcomes (indicated by ‘sometimes’). In contrast, amount, type and stability of care
were less consistently identified as predictors of child outcomes. The nature and direction of these effects are
reviewed in the following sections.
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Child care and early education in Australia
Table 1:
NICHD‑ECC study (2005): summary of findings
Attachment
Parent–child Non‑compliance
relationships
in child care
Problem
behaviours
Cognitive
development
and school
readiness
Language
development
Quality
Sometimes
Sometimes
Consistent
Consistent
Consistent
Amount
Sometimes
Sometimes
Sometimes
Consistent
Consistent
Child care
characteristic
Type
Stability
Sometimes
Sometimes
Sometimes
Sometimes
Child care quality and cognitive/ language outcomes
The studies included in this review demonstrate the critical influence of child care quality on a range of
developmental outcomes. Higher quality care has positive developmental effects on cognitive and language
development, and on problem behaviours.
The NICHD–ECC and the Bermuda study suggest the verbal environment of the child care setting is of central
importance to cognitive and language outcomes (McCartney 1984; NICHD–ECC 2000a). Children enrolled in
high quality centres in the Bermuda study scored better on language development and were more considerate
and sociable between 3 and 5 years of age. However, the effects of early quality of care no longer appeared
at 5, 6, 7 and 8 years, with family background and maternal IQ being better predictors at these ages
(Chin‑Quee & Scarr 1994).
Positive developmental outcomes were reported in the NICHD–ECC (1999) study when child care centres met
professional guidelines for staff–child ratios, group size and care giver characteristics (controlling for maternal
education and parenting quality). At 4 years, 6 months, larger group sizes and lower care giver education were
separately associated with lower academic achievement and lower cognitive development, controlling for
family factors and children’s prior cognitive functioning (NICHD–ECC & Duncan 2003).
Other studies accord with these findings. High quality child care practices were related to improved cognitive
outcomes in the CQO study (Peisner‑Feinberg et al. 2001). Similar relationships were found between regulatory
standards (for example, child–staff ratio or care giver education and specialised training) of home‑based child
care, defined as ‘where the care provider received payment for child care’ and cared for ‘at least two children
including the study child (p. 61), and developmental outcomes (Clarke‑Stewart et al. 2002). In the Göteborg
Child Care Study, quality of service impacted on the verbal and mathematical abilities of the children who had
spent three or more years in child care (Broberg et al. 1997). Likewise, the New Zealand children in the CCCL
project—in child care rated as low quality—were less likely than those using child care rated as high quality
to be engaging in exploration, or to have extended language in interactions with adults (Wylie, Thompson
& Kerslake Hendricks 1996). The Californian Welfare Reform Project Study (Loeb et al. 2004) also showed
that child care quality positively affected children’s cognitive and language development. Children displayed
stronger cognitive growth when their care givers were more sensitive and responsive.
Child care quality and socio‑emotional development
Quality child care indicators have also been consistently related to socio‑emotional outcomes among
children. In the CQO study, for example, the closeness of the child–teacher relationship was related to
adaptive social development (Peisner‑Feinberg et al. 2001). The National Child Care Staffing Study also
suggested that children who had experienced a history of poor quality care (measured by structural
features at 18, 24, 30 and 36 months) were rated as more difficult by preschool teachers and more
hostile by kindergarten teachers (Howes 2000; Howes et al. 1988; Howes & Hamilton 1993). Prior
to 3 years, 6 months, the quality of child care also shaped children’s social skills in the Göteborg Child Care
7
Child care and early education in Australia
Study (Campbell, Lamb & Hwang 2000). In the CCCL project, children in low quality child care programs were
less likely than others to be engaging in sophisticated play. More aggressive behaviour was observed among
these children as well (Wylie, Thompson & Kerslake Hendricks 1996). Children in the Californian Welfare
Reform Project Study (Loeb et al. 2004) also displayed stronger social development when their providers had
educational levels beyond a high school diploma.
Type of child care and cognitive/ language outcomes
Studies using the NICHD–ECC dataset have been better able to separate the effect of child care type from
other child care and family effects than studies using any other data set because of the extensive list of
controls available. At ages 24, 36 and 54 months (NICHD–ECC 2000a, 2000b, 2002; NICHD–ECC & Duncan
2003), children spending more time in child care centres had higher cognitive and language scores after
controlling for family background differences and the quality and amount of child care received. In the
NICHD–ECC and Duncan analysis (2003), the measured effect size for cognitive test scores was
moderate (0.27). The NICHD–ECC data also suggest that cumulative experience in high quality, centre‑based
care starting in the second year of life (age 1) may be particularly beneficial for children. This appears to be
related to the amount of language stimulation from teachers who have more education and more specialised
training in Early Childhood Education (NICHD–ECC 2000a).
In Canada, the NLSCY studies provide a mixed report of the impact of child care centres on cognitive
development for preschool children. Lefebvre and Merrigan (2002) found that earlier child care attendance
had no significant effect on cognitive development at 4 or 5 years. However, Kohen, Hertzman and Willms
(2002) reported that child care centre attendance had a positive impact on language development, and Lipps
and Yiptong‑Avila (1999) found positive effects on maths scores. These variations in findings may reflect the
limitations of the NLSCY data in documenting types and quality of child care experiences.
In Australia, the Sydney Family Development Project (SFDP) (Harrison & Ungerer 2000; Love et al. 2003)
showed that competence in learning (such as task orientation, creativity, less learning difficulty) in the first
year of school was associated with attendance at formal, regulated care (long day care or family day care)
rather than informal, unregulated care during children’s first 2 and a half years.
In the Californian Welfare Reform Project Study (Loeb et al. 2004), children who attended centre‑based child
care programs performed better on tests of cognitive development than those looked after by friends or
family. These developmental effects were moderately strong, especially for measures of school readiness. No
consistent differences in cognitive development were found between children who attended licensed, family
child care homes and those in other home‑based settings. However, children attending family child care homes
demonstrated more behavioural problems.
Type of child care and socio‑emotional outcomes
Australian research, based on the SFDP, found that infant–mother attachment was more likely to be secure
in the group cared for in formal care settings, with the best outcomes being noted for babies in family
day care (Harrison & Ungerer 1997). In contrast, when the quality of centre‑based programs is poor, as
in the Haifa Study of Early Care, infants using centre‑based care were significantly more likely to become
insecurely attached to their mothers compared with infants who were in different forms of home‑based care
(Sagi et al. 2002).
Stability and multiplicity of child care and child outcomes
Stability of care (changes in care arrangements or care givers that children experience over time and the use
of multiple concurrent child care arrangements) has been investigated only relatively recently. The NICHD–ECC
(ed. 2005), NLSCY (Kohen, Hertzman & Willms 2002) and Child Care Choices (Bowes et al. 2004, 2009) have
indicated that many infants and toddlers experience high rates of change of child care arrangements, and that
multiplicity is a common experience for many young children.
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Child care and early education in Australia
An analysis of the NICHD–ECC data, conducted by Tran and Weinraub (2006), showed that multiple care
arrangements involving family members positively predicted language comprehension, whereas multiple
care involving a mix of family and non‑relative care givers negatively predicted language comprehension.
These effects, however, appeared to be influenced by the quality of the primary care arrangement—under
conditions of low or moderate quality in the primary care environment, multiple care was associated with lower
language scores, whereas under conditions of high quality in the primary care environment, multiple care was
associated with higher language comprehension scores.
In the Australian CCC study (Wise et al. 2005), children who attended two or more care arrangements involving
regulated long day care centres or family day care plus care provided by a family member tended to have
higher scores on global language at preschool‑age than children who only attended long day care centres.
For behavioural outcomes, a longitudinal analysis of the SFDP study (Harrison & Ungerer 2000; Love et al.
2003) showed that children who had had more changes in their care arrangements from birth to age 6 were
rated by their teachers as less well adjusted (showed more behaviour problems) at school. Similar findings
were noted in the CCC study (Bowes et al. 2009): children with a history of having more changes to their care
arrangements were rated by teachers as having more behavioural difficulties. This study also noted that
children who attending multiple child care arrangements were rated as being less pro-social with peers and
having more conflicted relationships with their teachers.
Amount of child care/age at initiation and cognitive/ language development
Results are mixed relating to the amount of care, age at initiation and cognitive/language development. The
Stockholm Study (Andersson 1989, 1992) reported that children who entered child care in the second half of
their first year scored significantly better on measures of cognitive ability and teacher/carer‑rated academic
achievement at age 8 and 13. In contrast, an analysis of the NLSCY conducted by Gagne (2003) found no
correlation between school readiness and the total number of hours spent in child care.
In Australia, Harrison and Ungerer (2000) and Love and colleagues (2003) reported that teachers’ ratings of
children’s learning capabilities in the first year of school were lower for children who had received longer hours
of care before 3 years of age. Similarly, Bowes and colleagues (2009) have reported an association between
longer hours of child care and poorer adjustment to the academic and learning demands of school.
Amount of child care/age at initiation and socio‑emotional development
Analyses of several studies have found that extensive amounts of time spent in child care, especially
during infancy, are associated with poorer behavioural outcomes. The NICHD–ECC (2001, 2003), for
example, found evidence that more hours in child care were associated with behavioural problems,
at 2 years, 4 years, 6 months, and in kindergarten. At age 2, more hours in care were associated with more
negative interactions with peers and more behaviour problems as reported by care givers, and less social
competence as reported by mothers. At 4 years, 6 months, more hours were associated with more negative
play, less social competence and more externalising behaviours, and in kindergarten, with more externalising
behaviour problems and teacher–child conflict. These effects were moderated by the quality of child care and
the quality of parenting, but were still statistically significant and quantitatively important after controlling for
these influences.
In the EPPE study, high levels of ‘group care’ before age 3 and especially before age 2 (and entry to preschool)
were associated with higher levels of anti‑social behaviour at age 3. However, when children showing high
levels of anti‑social behaviour at age 3 attended quality preschool programs between 3 and 5 years of age,
their level of anti‑social behaviour decreased (Sylva et al. 2003).
Using data from the NLSCY, Belsky (1986, 1988a, 1988b, 2001) has argued that extensive hours of child care
when children are young places them at risk of socio‑emotional problems. In contrast, Borge et al. (2004),
analysing data from 2 to 3 year olds from the NLSCY, found that aggression was significantly more common
in children looked after by their own mothers than those attending group day care. Strong social selection
9
Child care and early education in Australia
associated with family risk was found, not only in the sample as a whole, but even within the high‑risk
subsample. However, after accounting for social selection, physical aggression was significantly more common
in children from high‑risk families who were looked after by their own parents. No such difference was evident
in the majority (84 per cent) of children from low‑risk families.
Several studies did not find a relationship between quantity of child care and negative behavioural outcomes.
Findings relating to the long‑term effects of child care quantity from a recent analysis of the Netherlands Twin
registry (Van Beijsterveldt, Hudzaik & Boomsma 2005) were mixed and only significant for mothers’ ratings
and for children from low socioeconomic families. Children in child care for larger amounts of time did not show
more behaviour problems. The Washington study of mental and socio‑emotional adjustment (Bornstein et al.
2006) also did not find a relationship between hours of child care and mental development or socio‑emotional
adjustment. Finally, children in the Stockholm Study who entered child care at an early age were rated more
positively on social–personal attributes by their teachers than children who had entered child care at a later
stage or who had home care (Andersson 1989, 1992).
In Australia, a recent report by Bowes and colleagues (2009) found that amount of child care in early childhood
was a frequent predictor of adjustment outcomes at school‑age. Longer hours in formal child care settings
(particularly long day care centres) were associated with teachers’ ratings of poorer pro-social behaviour, more
socio‑emotional difficulties, and more conflicted relationships with teachers.
Effects on children of interactions between child care and family factors
The literature on the effects of early child care remains ambiguous. This underscores the need to focus on the
relative impact of parental and non‑parental care and how these types of care intersect. Increasingly, studies
are considering whether child and family characteristics moderate the influence of child care experiences by
examining the interactive effects between child care measures and background characteristics.
On the differential impact of child care on children from disadvantaged backgrounds, the NICHD–ECC study did
not find evidence that quality and other characteristics of child care have differential effects across children
from different income groups (NICHD–ECC 2000a, 2001, 2003). The authors conclude that all children benefit
regardless of family background (NICHD–ECC 2000a). The positive effect of sensitive, stimulating care giving
on the development of cognitive and social skills, irrespective of whether children were African‑American or
English‑speaking, Latino or white, was apparent in both the NICHD–ECC and the CQO studies (Burchinal &
Cryer 2003).
Moderating influences of family characteristics were observed in the CQO study for some outcomes. Effect
sizes, though modest in most cases, were stronger for children from low‑income families, indicating stronger
positive effects of good quality child care for children from more at‑risk backgrounds. The LSCDQ also
found that participation in child care programs protected children living in high‑risk, disadvantaged families
(Borge et al. 2004).
On the other hand, preschoolers from NLSCY families with above average parenting skills and higher levels of
education had slightly better cognitive outcomes if they had never been in child care (Gagne 2003). Similarly,
in the CQO study there was no evidence that children from more advantaged families were buffered from the
effects of poor quality care (Peisner‑Feinberg et al. 2001).
Early childhood education services (preschool)
Scope of existing studies
Few studies have examined the effects of preschool education, as opposed to high quality preschool early
intervention programs, on children’s outcomes. The reviewed studies include: the US Early Childhood
Longitudinal Study–Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS–K), which aims to provide data about the effects of a wide
range of family, school, community and individual variables on children’s development, early learning and early
school performance; the EPPE, which is the first national longitudinal study of young children’s development
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Child care and early education in Australia
(between 3 and 7 years); and the Oklahoma universal, high quality pre‑kindergarten program for 4 year olds,
which was reported on in a study of 1,843 pre‑kindergarten children enrolled in the Tulsa, Oklahoma public
schools. Some findings on preschool effects are also available from analyses of the NLSCY and NICHD–ECC
datasets.
Effects of preschool programs
Analyses of the EPPE program showed, at the time of entry into primary schooling, that preschool experience
enhances both intellectual and social development. The longer children had attended preschool, the greater
the intellectual benefits and social abilities (Sylva et al. 2003). Preschool attendance also reduced the rate
of risk of special education needs from one in three children to one in five children. Analysis of the ECLS–K
dataset conducted by Magnuson and colleagues (Magnuson et al. 2003; Magnuson, Ruhm & Waldfogel 2004)
showed that children attending preschool programs had better literacy and numeracy skills at ages 5 and 6,
with greater effects for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Similarly, analyses of data on approximately
1,300 children involved in the NICHD–ECC study (NICHD–ECC & Duncan 2003) suggested that attendance in a
preschool program between 3 and 5 years produces higher cognitive scores after age 5 years.
Using the NLSCY data, Pagani and colleagues (2003) compared areas of Canada with and without preschool
programs for 4 years olds and found no advantage for children on various behavioural outcomes. A more
positive picture emerges from the limited research on studies of the effects of Oklahoma’s universal ‘pre‑K’
program for 4 year olds, which controlled for selection effects. Gormley Jr and colleagues (2005) found positive
effects on children’s literacy and problem‑solving development across all income brackets, irrespective of
ethnic background.
The studies reviewed also suggest that children who start school ahead of others in academic achievement
tend to stay ahead. Studies using NLSCY data, for example, found that 4 and 5 year‑old children entering the
first year of school (kindergarten) with low vocabulary scores were more likely to have poor reading scores at
ages 8 and 9 years (Hoddinott, Lethbridge & Phipps 2002).
Quality of preschool programs and child outcomes
The available evidence indicates that quality of preschool is related to longer‑term outcomes. For example,
using data collected in the CQO study, Howes (1988) found relations between dimensions of quality (teacher
training, low child–adult ratio, group size of less than 25 children, planned curriculum and adequate physical
space) of the preschool program at 3 years of age and a child’s functioning in first grade. After controlling for
family factors, children in programs that met more of the quality dimensions had fewer behaviour problems
and better work habits.
Type of preschool program and child outcomes
Findings from the EPPE study (Sylva et al. 2003) suggested that outcomes were better when children attended
nursery schools and preschool settings that combined care and education. However, the effects of type and
quality are difficult to disentangle since these types of preschool education programs also showed higher
scores on observed quality.
Amount of preschool and child outcomes
Analyses of the EPPE data suggested that children attending preschool programs benefited cognitively and
socially, irrespective of whether they attended a half‑day or full‑day program (Sylva et al. 2003). The ECLS–K
data also suggested that children who start centre‑based child care earlier than age 3 make greater cognitive
gains than those who start at an older age.
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Child care and early education in Australia
Effects on children of interactions between preschool program factors and family factors
There is some evidence to suggest that children from more disadvantaged backgrounds benefit most from
universally accessible early education (preschool programs). Analysing the NLSCY dataset, Kohen, Lipps and
Hertzman (2006) reported that the children whose mothers had low levels of education and who participated
in pre‑school programs before formal schooling rated higher on teacher‑reported measures of competence and
academic skills than those who did not participate in a pre‑school program. Concomitantly, parent‑reported
behaviour problems were lower among the children who had participated in an early childhood education
program. In the ECLS–K study, children from low‑income families achieved greater cognitive gains when
attending centres for more than 30 hours a week, whereas this did not apply for children from high‑income
backgrounds (Loeb et al. 2005). Starting earlier was, however, related to more ‘worried/antisocial’ behaviour
as rated by teachers, and more than 30 hours in centres per week negatively affected social outcomes among
white and African‑American children (but not Hispanic children). Analyses of the EPPE dataset showed that
children from some ethnic minority groups made greater progress during preschool than white children or
those for whom English was a first language (Sylva et al. 2003).
1.4Discussion
Child care and early childhood education in Australia is a complex phenomenon. Within the broad categories of
formal and informal care and early education, there are many types and combinations of care that families use
for their young children and these vary by the age of the child. To study the impact of child care/early education
on children’s development requires a rigorous research design that accounts for the connections between care
and diverse family circumstances, child characteristics and community resources. Assessing possible relations
between child care/early education and children’s development requires complex statistical techniques
accounting for the effects of family, child and community when analysing possible effects. Results from
two decades of international research suggest that the effect sizes for child care are small to modest, when
compared to the relatively larger effects of family factors such as parenting and family socioeconomic status.
Research reviewed in this section presents mixed evidence for the links between child care and developmental
and health outcomes. This is partly explained by the country in which the study is located, and the regulatory
context that this implies. As noted by Love and colleagues (2003), ‘the generalizability of … findings may hinge
on the context in which those results were obtained’ (p. 1021). For example, the external regulatory system
applied to child care services is an important determinant of the quality of care provided. This is relevant when
studying formal child care services in Australia, where responsibility for regulating early childhood education
and care (ECEC) services is shared between the Australian Government and state/territory governments
and where regulatory arrangements differ for ECEC sectors (Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG)
Productivity Agenda Working Group 2008).
Also, the results reported in much of the research involve child outcomes measured beyond infancy.
Relatively few studies have examined concurrent relationships between the infant child care experiences and
development. Similarly, studies of children’s readiness for school or achievement in school have tended to
draw on information about child care before school. Large‑scale contemporary research, including LSAC, is
primarily longitudinal in nature. However, this report, which deals only with Wave 1 data, is limited in its ability
to assess long‑term effects.
Four interrelated aspects of children’s child care and early education were reviewed—quality, type, amount
and stability. The impact of each of these is summarised here.
Quality
Quality is tied to structural features, such as carer/teacher qualifications, group size, numbers of adults,
physical space and resources, and process features such as language stimulation, adult–child interaction and
curriculum. Results from a number of studies and locations confirm that quality is important for development,
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Child care and early education in Australia
on its own and as a moderator of other factors affecting child outcomes. Better quality programs are generally
understood to impact positively on children’s language, cognitive and behavioural development, and social
competence with peers and adults. Studies also show that the greater the exposure to better quality programs,
the greater the effect, particularly in preparing children for school.
Type
Type of care/early education, because of its association with structural features of the setting, can be closely
linked to quality. However, the type of care/early education setting may have different effects at different ages.
For example, large group centre‑based care, as opposed to small group home‑based care, has been linked to
more negative outcomes, particularly for very young children. On the other hand, experience in centre‑based
early education programs for 3 and 4 year olds has been linked to better cognitive outcomes in early years of
school.
Amount
Consistent associations have been reported between child behaviour problems and the amount of
non‑parental child care received. Two complementary aspects of care have been found to be detrimental—an
earlier age of entry to care along with longer weekly hours. On the other hand, longer hours or more overall
time in high quality care/early education is associated with benefits, such as cognitive gain, for children
growing up in circumstances of disadvantage.
Stability
Stability of child care arrangements over time and the number of concurrent child care arrangements are less
well represented in the research. In general, more unstable, changeable care is thought to be a risk factor in
children’s socio‑emotional development. By contrast, ‘multicare’—involving two child care arrangements and
often including a small home‑based setting with relatives—has been related to positive outcomes for social
and cognitive competence.
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Child care and early education in Australia
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Background to the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and methods
2 Background to the Longitudinal
Study of Australian Children and
methods
2.1 Introduction
Child care is used by significant numbers of Australian families and most Australian children attend an
early education program in the year before they enter formal schooling. However, the vast majority of child
care/early education research studies have been conducted overseas, where the regulatory context of care is
different. The generalisability of overseas findings to the Australian context must, therefore, be questioned.
LSAC is the first nationally representative study to generate comprehensive data on infants’ and 4 to 5 year‑old
children’s experience of child care/early education. This report builds on an earlier analysis of the Wave 1 LSAC
data that examined children’s attendance in care/education settings across the states and territories
(Harrison & Ungerer 2005). This earlier paper complements the present report in its focus. They both examine
patterns of child care and early education in different regulatory arrangements and funding programs. This
report, however, extends the previous work by: analysing a wider range of child care features describing care in
relation to a full description of family, child and community characteristics; reporting on quality indicators; and
assessing the effects of care on child outcomes (in conjunction with family, child and community effects).
2.2The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
Growing Up in Australia—the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children is the first comprehensive national
study to examine the lives of Australian children at regular intervals across infancy, early and middle
childhood. The study aims to provide data to enable a comprehensive understanding of children’s development
in Australia’s current social, economic and cultural environment, and thereby become a major element of the
evidence base for future policy and practice regarding children and their families. LSAC was initiated and
funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous
Affairs. The study is conducted in partnership between the Department of Families, Housing, Community
Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Australian Bureau of
Statistics, with advice provided by a consortium of leading researchers.
2.3Sample selection and recruitment
The Medicare database, the most comprehensive database of Australia’s population, was used as a sampling
frame for LSAC. Children in the scope of the survey were those infants aged 3 to 12 months and children
aged 4 years, 3 months to 5 years at the time of sample selection. A target sample of 10,000 was sought,
equally divided between these two cohorts.
A two‑stage clustered design, based on postcodes, was chosen. Every effort was made to ensure the sample
would be as representative as possible of Australia’s infants and 4 to 5 year‑old children. The first stage of
sampling entailed selecting postcodes, and the second stage children within these postcodes. Children in
both cohorts were selected from the same 311 postcodes. An average of 40 children per postcode in the larger
states and 20 children per postcode in the smaller states and territories were selected for study.
15
Child care and early education in Australia
Stratification was used to ensure proportional geographic representation for states and territories and capital
city statistical division and rest of state areas. Postcodes were randomly selected with probability proportional
to size selection where possible, and with equal probability for small‑population postcodes. Children were
randomly selected with approximately equal chance of selection for each child (about one in 25). Due to
excessive data collection costs, some remote postcodes were excluded and population estimates adjusted
accordingly.
The selection of children and corresponding fieldwork occurred in four phases. This enabled a sample selection
of children born across all months of the calendar year, to attempt to reduce the age range of children at
interview, and also because some of the target infant population had not been born at the time of the first
phase selection.
The final Wave 1 sample contained 53 per cent of all families sent a letter about the study by the Health
Insurance Commission. After excluding non‑response, the achieved response rate was 64 per cent for the
infant cohort and 57 per cent for the child cohort. Children with mothers or fathers who had completed
Year 12 are overrepresented in the final sample (by 7 to 9 percentage points). Infants with no siblings are
underrepresented (by 3 percentage points), while 4 to 5 year olds in couple families are overrepresented and
those in lone-parent families underrepresented (by 4 percentage points each). Broadly the LSAC sample is
representative of the Australian population with no large differences from 2001 Australian Bureau of Statistics
Census data on most characteristics, including, for example, Indigenous status. Comprehensive details on the
design and sample are available elsewhere (Soloff, Lawrence & Johnstone 2005).
Weights were developed to compensate for the differences between the final LSAC sample and the national
population (see Soloff et al. 2006 for detail). Using weights in LSAC analyses broadly compensates for
differences between the final sample and the national population. This process produced weights for the LSAC
sample, which can be used as expansion factors by scaling of the sample to the population. The LSAC weights
also reflect the design of the study (allowing for unequal probabilities of inclusion in the study that may result
in sampling biases) and the likelihood of response (those less likely to respond are given a higher weight
and those more likely to respond a lower weight). To allow for any non‑response effects, a post‑stratification
weighting system is used in all analyses. As the survey design used both clustering and stratification in the
sampling, this is also accounted for in all relevant analyses. Analyses in this thematic report entail the use of
sample weights, and multivariable analyses are fully adjusted for the sample design.
2.4Description of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
sample
This section describes the LSAC sample used for this report’s data analyses. The data were from data release
2.4 for Wave 1, which included 5,107 infants and 4,983 children.
Infant cohort
The average age of the infant cohort at the time of interview was 8.8 months (range: 3 to 19 months) and
51.2 per cent were male. The age of infants at interview extended beyond the upper limit for the target age
range (12 months) due to time lags between selecting the sample and conducting interviews. Three‑quarters
of the infants were either the only child in the family (39.1 per cent) or had one sibling (36.4 per cent). Most
infants (81.5 per cent) were living in intact‑couple families (that is, all children in the family being the biological
offspring of both parents), 10.5 per cent were in lone‑parent families and 6.8 per cent were in stepfamilies
(that is, at least one child being a stepchild of either parent).
The primary carer (P1) was almost always the infant’s biological parent (99.8 per cent) and female
(98.6 per cent). Most primary carers (61.5 per cent) were in the age range 25 to 34 years at the time of the
birth of the child; only 16.3 per cent were 24 years of age or less. More than three‑quarters of primary carers
(78.6 per cent) were born in Australia. In relation to the highest level of education achieved by the primary
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Background to the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and methods
carer, 29.2 per cent had obtained some level of university education, 37.2 per cent had completed a trade
certificate or diploma, 18.4 per cent had completed Years 11 to 12 and 15.2 per cent had an education of
Year 10 or less. Half of all primary carers (49.1 per cent) were not in the labour force at the time they were
interviewed. Of the others, 13.0 per cent were employed full time, 34.4 per cent employed part-time and
3.4 per cent reported being unemployed.
The secondary carer (P2) was male in 98.3 per cent of cases. More than half (55.3 per cent) were in the age
range 25 to 34 years at the time of the birth of the child and another 37.7 per cent were 35 years or older. As
with the primary carer, secondary carers were predominately born in Australia (76.4 per cent). Secondary
carers had also achieved similar levels of education to primary carers: 27.7 per cent had obtained some level
of university education, 47.7 per cent had a trade qualification, 13.6 per cent had completed Years 11 to 12 and
11.0 per cent had a Year 10 or less level of schooling. Most secondary carers (85.6 per cent) were in full‑time
employment while 7.0 per cent were employed part‑time, 3.2 per cent were unemployed and 4.3 per cent were
not in the labour force.
Child cohort
The average age of the child cohort was 4 years, 9 months (range: 4 years, 3 months to 5 years, 7 months)
and 50.9 per cent were male. Again, the age of children at interview extended beyond the upper limit for the
target age range (5 years) due to time lags between selecting the sample, achieving contact and conducting
interviews. A smaller proportion of the child cohort, when compared to the infant cohort, were only children
(11.5 per cent versus 39.1 per cent). Nearly half of the households contained two children (47.5 per cent),
26.8 per cent had three children and 14.2 per cent had four or more children. Seventy‑five per cent of children
were living in intact‑couple families, 15.0 per cent were in lone‑parent families, while 8.3 per cent were in
stepfamilies.
As with the infant cohort, in the child cohort the primary carer was almost always the child’s biological parent
(99.4 per cent) and female (97.3 per cent). Most (64.5 per cent) were in between 25 and 34 years old when the
child was born and 15.9 per cent 24 years of age or less. Over three‑quarters of primary carers (76.4 per cent)
were born in Australia. In terms of education, 24.1 per cent had obtained some level of university education,
37.2 per cent had a trade certificate or diploma, 20.1 per cent completed Years 11 to 12 and 18.5 per cent had
a Year 10 or less education. As with the infant cohort, a large number of primary carers (40.5 per cent) were
not in the labour force when interviewed; another 15.4 per cent were employed full‑time, 39.8 per cent were
employed part‑time and 4.3 per cent were unemployed.
Over half (58.1 per cent) of secondary carers were between 25 and 34 years when the child was born and
another 34.6 per cent 35 years or older. As with primary carers, secondary carers were predominately
born in Australia (73.8 per cent). Just over one in four (27.3 per cent) had obtained some level of university
education, 47 per cent had a trade qualification, 13.3 per cent had completed Years 11 to 12 and 12.4 per cent
had a Year 10 or less level of education. Most secondary carers (86.1 per cent) were in full‑time employment,
6.6 per cent were employed part‑time, 2.1 per cent were unemployed and 5.1 per cent were not in the labour
force.
2.5Methods of data collection
Participants—infant and child cohorts
Study informants for Wave 1 included:
primary
carer (P1)
secondary
child
carer, other resident parent or stepparent (P2)
care providers (formal and informal)
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Child care and early education in Australia
teachers
the
or carers in early education settings (preschool, child care, school)
child her/himself (physical markers and direct assessment tasks)
some
interviewer observation of the external environment.
The primary respondent is the child’s primary carer or main care giver. This person is typically the child’s
biological mother, but is selected as the one who knows most about the child and its birth, history and current
routines.
For the first wave of the study, the base design data collection involved an interviewer spending one to two
hours in the home to:
obtain
from the carer detailed information about the child, including his/her health and aspects of social,
cognitive and behavioural development. The interview covered the key areas of health—family functioning,
parenting, education, child care and social support
obtain
sociodemographic information on the family (such as household structure and parental labour force
status, educational attainment and income)—this was obtained from the primary or secondary carer
leave
behind self‑complete modules for both primary and secondary carers, covering aspects of the child’s
personality and behaviour, as well as other areas of family functioning, health and support. Where time
permitted, these were completed while the interviewer was in the home, to ensure a higher rate of return than
from the mail‑back option
undertake
a physical measurement of the child (including height, weight, girth and head circumference)
administer
the Adapted ‘Who am I?’ test of early literacy and numeracy and the Adapted PPVT‑III
(Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test) of receptive language to 4 and 5 year‑old children (Appendix B details the
adapted versions)
obtain
consent to contact the child’s main child care provider or teacher, plus the relevant postal address
obtain
contact details for the parents so they can be located for future waves.
Full
information about the interviews and content is available elsewhere (Soloff, Lawrence & Johnstone 2005).
With the permission of the primary carer, child care providers and teachers were contacted following the
home visit. Letters explaining the LSAC study and self‑complete questionnaires were mailed to the main child
care setting/care provider or early education school or service the child attended each week. For infants, an
attendance cut‑off of eight or more hours a week was applied. For 4 to 5 year olds, the primary education
setting was approached regardless of the number of hours attended.
Data provided by carers/teachers included characteristics of the:
service,
including teaching practices and resources
carer/teacher,
including education and training
child,
including areas of concern, and for 4 to 5 year olds, ratings of the child’s skills, competencies and
behaviours in social interactions with peers.
The return of carer/teacher questionnaires was in proportion to the number of children attending regular
non‑parental care or early education settings. For the infant cohort, 530 questionnaires were returned from
a possible sample of 1,188 infants in care. For the child cohort, 3,242 questionnaires were returned, from a
possible sample of 4,736 children attending a school or formal centre‑based early childhood service.
To broadly assess the representativeness of the sample for which carer/teacher data was available, key
demographic values were compared: mother’s age at birth, mother’s education, mother’s employment,
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Background to the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and methods
Socio‑Economic Indexes For Areas (SEIFA) disadvantage, number of children in household, weekly income,
age of study child, sex of study child, Indigenous status, family structure and language other than English
(LOTE) status. For the infant cohort, only one significant demographic difference was noted between the
sample of children for which the carer/teacher returned the questionnaire and the sample of children
whose carers/teachers were sent, but did not return, the questionnaire. Children whose carers returned the
questionnaire were less likely to be exposed to a language other than English at home. For the child cohort,
analyses showed that there were a number of differences between children/families of teachers/carers
who returned the questionnaire and those who did not. Children whose teachers returned the forms were
more likely to: have mothers who were slightly older (F(1,4700)=10.74, p<0.01); have fathers who were less
likely to have a Year 12 or less level of education (2(4,4032)=10.55, p<0.05); have families with a higher
income (F(1,4447)=7.42, p<0.01) and fewer children in the household (2(3,4753)=17.55, p<0.01); and live
in more advantaged communities (higher SEIFA index) (F(1,4751)=12.52, p<0.01). Children in the subsample
for whom teachers returned the questionnaire were also less likely to be from an Indigenous background
(2(1,4751)=15.37, p<0.01) or to be exposed to a language other than English at home, (2(1,4753)=10.33,
p<0.01), but did not differ by age (F(1,4752)=0.24) or gender (2(1,4753)=0.88). Although these subsample
differences were significant, the measure of association for each test was very small (eta2s between 0.003
and 0.001), suggesting that the actual differences were of minimal import. Therefore, population weights were
also applied to the data provided by teachers. Note, however, that teacher information was available for only
65.4 per cent of the total LSAC sample. This lower proportion is reflected in the weighted outcomes.
Measures: infant cohort
Experience of infant child care
The child’s primary carer provided information on the child’s current and past attendance at child care. For
infants, current non‑parental child care was recorded if the child was ‘looked after at regular times during the
week by anyone other than the primary (P1) or secondary care giver (P2).’ A detailed record was collected for
the type of care received. This included formal long day care centres and family day services, and informal
home‑based care arrangements and occasional care provided in community centres and leisure settings.
Occasional child care was included in the informal category because of differences in licensing and funding
across states and territories. Although occasional care is provided in formal, government‑regulated occasional
child care centres, it is also available through unlicensed providers, such as shopping centre care, drop‑in
settings and church groups, where the parent is expected to be in the premises. There was not total confidence
that parents were consistent in their use of the term ‘occasional care’ to refer to formal, licensed services.
Therefore, the decision was made to group occasional child care with other forms of short‑term child care
accessed through informal settings such as gyms and leisure centres. For each current care arrangement, up
to a maximum of three, parents were asked to identify the amount of care (number of days and hours attended
a week) received and the number of months the child had attended the care setting. The number of different
arrangements received each week was also recorded.
Past child care information included the type of first care, the child’s age when he/she entered the first care
arrangement and the total of different care arrangements used since birth.
Primary carers were also asked to rate their level of satisfaction with the main child care arrangement and the
main reason the child was receiving regular non‑parental child care.
Quality of infant child care
Descriptive information on the context of non‑parental care was provided by the child’s child care provider.
Direct contributors to quality were assessed by carer self‑report on the level and type(s) of carer–child
involvement, the availability of space and provisions for children’s play in the centre or home environment, and
for formal settings, the number of children and the number of staff, their qualifications and experience. As a
further indicator of quality in formal settings, carers were also asked to rate the supportiveness of the work
environment for staff.
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Child care and early education in Australia
Measures: child cohort
Experience of child care/early education for 4 to 5 year olds
The child’s primary carer (P1) provided information on the child’s current and past experience of child care
and early childhood education. Current arrangements were recorded according to predetermined categories
that were designed to cover the full range of formal early childhood care/education settings (that is, school,
kindergarten/preschool and long day care) for 4 to 5 year olds across the different states and territories. Types
of care/early education were described by Australian government and state/territory definitions and included
three broad groups:
Pre‑Year 1 programs
at a school (referred to as prep, kindergarten, pre‑primary, transition or reception) that
are normally full‑time, five days per week for 30 to 35 hours per week (for example, 9am to 3pm; 8:45am to
3:15pm), and available for children who have reached the age requirement of the state/territory.
Preschool
programs are classified as within a school setting or outside the school system. Preschool within a
school may be either full‑time or part‑time and are normally provided for children the year before they attend
pre‑Year 1. Preschool programs offered outside of the school system are provided by a community‑based
or privately owned centre or by a mobile service. In Victoria they are referred to as kindergarten. Preschool
settings are distinguished from long day care centres by their hours and weeks of operation, typically
during school hours and school terms, the use of part‑time, sessional programs and a restricted age group,
typically 3 year olds or 4 year olds.
Long
day care centres are defined by the provision of at least eight hours of child care for most weeks of the
year (at least 48 weeks). Long day care can be provided in community‑based or privately owned premises. For
this category, parents were asked to identify if the centre provided or did not provide a preschool program, or
if they were not sure about the program.
Information provided by the parent on the type of education/care setting was cross‑checked against the
teacher’s report to ascertain accuracy. Where discrepancies were noted, information provided by the teachers
was given priority.
Information was also collected from parents on the number of days and hours attended per week and the
length of time the child had attended, for each type of care/early education currently attended.
Current arrangements included the ‘main’ child care/early education service as well as other, additional
child care or early education services that the child attended. Types of additional care/early education were:
preschool, long day care centre, before and after school care, family day care, and informal care including
home‑based settings and occasional care settings such as community centres and leisure settings. For each
type of additional child care/early education service, information was recorded on the number of days and
hours attended per week, and the length of time in months that the child had attended the setting. The total
number of different arrangements attended each week was also recorded.
Past child care information included the type of first care, the child’s age when he/she entered the first care
arrangement and the total number of different care arrangements used since birth.
Quality of early education
Descriptive information on the context of the child’s school, preschool or long day care program was
provided by the child’s teacher or carer. Direct contributors to quality included ratings of the space and
provisions for children’s play and learning, assessment of the usual amount of time spent in teacher‑directed,
teacher‑supported and child‑initiated activities, and details on the number of children and the number of
staff, their qualifications and experience. As a further indicator of quality, teachers were also asked to rate the
supportiveness of the work environment for staff.
20
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Background to the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and methods
2.6Discussion
On a wide range of other demographic data the LSAC cohorts were broadly representative of the Australian
population of infants aged 3 to 19 months and children aged 4 years, 3 months to 5 years, 7 months. The study
children and their families were similar across both cohorts in several respects. Between the two cohorts the
proportions of study children who were male/female were similar (approximately 51 per cent male). Families
were similar in educational achievements and the proportion of carers who were Australian born. However, as
would be expected for cohorts of different ages, the total number of children in the LSAC household was higher
for the child cohort, and the number of children living in intact‑couple families was lower for the child cohort.
In terms of children’s use of child care, the expectation, based on published figures, is that 34 per cent of
infants aged under 1 year will be receiving non‑parental child care and that 88 percent of 4 year olds will be
attending a formal child care or preschool setting (ABS 2006). For the child cohort, however, the upper age
range of the LSAC sample overlaps with the minimum entry age for the first year of primary school, which
varies nationally from 4 years, 6 months to 5 years. Minimum school entry ages are: 5 years by January
in Tasmania and South Australia; 5 years before the end of April in the Australian Capital Territory and
Victoria; 5 years before the end of June in the Northern Territory and Western Australia; and 5 years before
the end of July in New South Wales (Press 2006). Although none of the LSAC cohort had reached the age of
compulsory schooling (6 years), a sizable proportion were old enough in 2004 to have started the first year of
primary school (pre‑Year 1).
The LSAC study aims to describe key aspects of children’s experience of non‑parental child care and early
childhood education, including the amount, type, length of attendance, and stability of current care/education
arrangements, as reported by parents. Some retrospective information on previous care was also collected;
however, the inclusion of retrospective data was limited to the child’s first care setting due to problems of
inaccuracy of recall. Also, as further waves of the LSAC study are completed, it will be possible to gather
excellent records of prospective use of care for the infant cohort.
A further source of information about children’s care/early education is the child’s carer/teacher in his or her
primary care/education setting. By including care providers and teachers as informants, LSAC can gather
accurate data on the child’s care/early education experience that would not be available from parents. These
data are designed to index program quality. Research has underlined the need to account for quality when
examining the effects of the amount, type and stability of care on child outcomes. Quality is best assessed by
observer ratings (see the US NICHD‑ECC and UK EPPE studies), and LSAC was limited in this aspect of its child
care data. Instead, LSAC opted to include direct and indirect assessments of quality via home‑based and centre
or school‑based carers’ and teachers’ reports. Because the majority of the LSAC 4 to 5 year olds were expected
to be attending an early education service (school, preschool or child care), these teacher‑generated data
would be sufficiently representative of early childhood programs across the nation. However, information on
infant child care is limited in that data are restricted to the minority group of LSAC infants who were attending
non‑parental care at the time of the parent interview.
21
Child care and early education in Australia
22
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Patterns of care for the infant cohort
3 Patterns of care for the infant cohort
3.1 Introduction
The increased participation of mothers of young children in the Australian workforce has led to more and more
children experiencing non‑parental care in the first few years of life. Based on a nationally representative
sample of families, LSAC provides information on various aspects of the non‑parental care experienced by
Australian infants. This section answers these questions: How many infants are in care? At what age do infants
typically start care? What types of formal and informal care arrangements do infants experience? How much
time do infants spend in care? How many different care arrangements do infants have? Why do parents use or
not use non‑parental child care for their infants? Are parents satisfied with the care their infants receive?
3.2Section summary
This section presents descriptive information provided by parents on the non‑parental care experiences of
their infants. Findings highlighted include:
Just
over one‑third (34.9 per cent) of the LSAC infants regularly spent time in non‑parental care each week,
with the majority (65.1 per cent) receiving exclusive parental care. The proportion of infants receiving
non‑parental care varied by age: lowest (18.0 per cent) for children 6 months and younger, increasing to
29.7 per cent for children aged between 6 and 9 months,38.7 per cent for children between 9 and 12 months,
and 48.9 per cent for children older than 12 months.
While
limited by the age range of the LSAC sample, the majority of infants who received non‑parental care
(67.5 per cent) had entered their first care arrangement by age 6 months. Of infants who were 12 months or
older at the time of the interview (n=1,037), 47.5 per cent (n=493) had attended non‑parental care prior to the
age of 12 months.
The
majority (62.1 per cent) of the infants receiving non‑parental child care were in informal care settings, with
grandparents being the most common providers of informal care.
Formal
child care services were used by 37.9 per cent of the infants, with the majority being in long day care
centres (28.3 per cent).
Infants
attending formal child care services (that is, long day care centre or family day care) spent more hours
in care (averages of 20.4 and 21.8 hours per week) than infants in informal settings (average of 14.0 and
14.5 hours per week).
Most
infants in care (76.8 per cent) attended only one non‑parental care arrangement each week, but almost
one‑quarter (23.2 per cent) had two or more arrangements each week. The most common type of multiple care
arrangement was a combination of formal centre‑based care and informal home‑based care.
Most
parents (72.3 per cent) of children in care cited work or study commitments as their main reason for
using child care for their infant.
The
large majority of parents with children in care (82.4 per cent) reported being very satisfied with the care
arrangements they used for their infant.
For
parents not using child care, the majority (87.3 per cent) said they did not need care; 5.6 per cent stated it
was due to problems with access, affordability or quality of care.
23
Child care and early education in Australia
3.3Overview of analytic approach
Defining non‑parental care
This report defines non‑parental care as any regular formal or informal child care services provided by people
other than the child’s parent(s), excluding casual or occasional babysitting. The primary carer is specifically
asked ‘Over the past 1 month has child been looked after at regular times during the week by anyone other
than you (or partner)?’ The parent is defined as either the mother and/or father with whom the child generally
lives, as well as any parent living elsewhere (PLE) who has ongoing regular contact with the study child.
Preliminary work was undertaken to identify when care was provided by a PLE to remove this from the analyses
of descriptors of the children’s care.
Non‑parental care for infants is provided through formal, government‑regulated long day care centres and
family day care homes, and informal, non‑regulated care by relatives (including grandparents and other
relatives) and non‑relatives (including a nanny or other person such as a friend or neighbour). Informal care
also includes occasional child care centres or care provided by a gym, leisure centre or community centre.
Statistical analyses and measures
This section presents descriptive data concerning the type, patterns, amount and stability of non‑parental care
received by the LSAC infants, parental reasons for using care and parental satisfaction with the infants’ care
arrangements.
Type and patterns of care were described using categories derived from preliminary analyses of primary
carer‑reported data on the infant’s main care arrangement and up to two additional care arrangements.
Amount of care was described as total hours per week and number of days per week in the main care
arrangement, and total hours per week across up to three care arrangements. We note that only 11 of the
1,782 infants in care had more than three regular care arrangements each week, and for these infants,
only their time in the three arrangements in which they spent the most hours per week was included in the
analyses.
Stability of care was described as the number of different care arrangements infants attended each week,
as well as the mean number of care arrangements attended per year since birth. This latter measure was
computed from the reported total number of different care arrangements an infant attended since birth,
adjusted for the age of the infant. Age adjustments were necessary because of the wide age range of the LSAC
infant cohort (3 months to 19 months).
Reasons for using child care were assessed by asking parents ‘What is the main reason why child is using
regular child care arrangements at present?’ Responses were coded according to 12 predefined categories that
included five reasons indexing needs of the parent (for example, parents’ work or study commitments), six
reasons indexing benefits to the child (for example, good for child’s social development), and a non‑specific
‘other’ category. Satisfaction with care was measured only for the main care arrangement using a single item:
‘How satisfied are you with this main care arrangement?’ This was rated on a five‑point Likert scale ranging
from 1=very satisfied to 5=very dissatisfied.
Results are presented in a series of tables, which report figures for the number of respondents for whom the
data were available. Because missing data are not included in these tables, there are variations in the total
sample size reported for each table. Mean values are given with the respective 95 per cent confidence intervals
(95% CI).
24
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Patterns of care for the infant cohort
3.4Type, combinations, amount and stability of care for the infant
cohort
Number of infants currently receiving non‑parental child care
On average, 34.9 per cent of LSAC infants (aged 3 to 19 months) had attended regular non‑parental child care
in the previous month (Table 2). There were 15 cases in which the only other care the infant received was from
a PLE. These cases are included in the ‘does not attend care’ group. Note that in future sections, the ‘does not
attend care’ group is referred to as the ‘exclusive parental care’ group.
The LSAC infants ranged in age from 3 to 19 months, with the majority (n=3,695) aged between
6 and 12 months. The proportion of infants in non‑parental child care increased with age: being lowest
(18.0 per cent) for children 6 months and younger (1 to 26 weeks); increasing to 29.7 per cent for children
aged between 6 and 9 months (27 to 39 weeks) and 38.7 per cent for children between 9 and 12 months
(40 to 52 weeks); and highest (49.8 per cent) for children older than 12 months (more than 52 weeks).
Table 2:
Number and percentage of infants in non‑parental child care by age group
Age
Care
1–26 weeks
27–39 weeks
40–52 weeks
>52 weeks
Total
Note:
No care
%
18.0
82.0
95% CI
15.4–20.8
79.2–84.6
n
102
465
%
29.7
70.3
95% CI
27.6–31.9
68.1–72.4
n
545
1290
%
38.7
61.3
95% CI
36.4–41.0
59.0–63.6
n
728
1154
%
49.8
50.2
95% CI
46.2–53.3
46.7–53.8
n
408
412
%
34.9
65.1
95% CI
33.4–36.5
63.5–66.6
n
1,782
3,320
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals.
For the purpose of comparison with the 4 to 5 year‑old cohort, further analyses were conducted to determine
the proportion of infants who were receiving non‑parental child care by age 12 months. The number of infants
who were 12 months or older at the time of the interview was 1,037. Of these, 47.5 per cent (n=493) had
attended non‑parental care prior to the age of 12 months and 52.5 per cent (n=544) had not entered care prior
to the age of 12 months.
25
Child care and early education in Australia
Child care history: age of first entry into care
Parents were asked about their infants’ first experience of non‑parental care. Information was provided for
1,911 infants, which was 129 more than the number of infants currently receiving care. Findings are reported
for four age groups: birth to 3 months; 3 to 6 months; 6 to 9 months; 9 or more months (see Table 3). Note,
however, that there are some limitations to the interpretation of these data. The large age range of the infant
cohort (3 to 19 months) and the fact that most infants were 6 months of age or older has led to a systematic
bias in the data, expressed as a relative overreporting of infants first entering child care prior to 6 months
of age and an underreporting of age of first entry occurring from 6 months onward. The following summary
should be considered with this in mind.
Of the parents who reported that their infant had received non‑parental care, about one‑third (33.9 per cent)
said that this first care arrangement had started in the first three months of life, with a further one‑third
(33.6 per cent) stating that care began between 3 and 6 months of age. Just under one‑quarter (22.9 per cent)
said that the first care arrangement began between 6 and 9 months of age.
Table 3:
Age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement
Age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement (weeks)
0 to 13
%
95% CI
n
14 to 26
27 to 39
40 or older
Total
33.9
33.6
22.9
9.6
100
32.0–35.8
31.6–35.6
21.2–24.8
8.4–11.0
100
647
642
439
184
1,911
Current type of care attended
LSAC asks about all the regular weekly child care received by the infant and gathers specific information on
up to three regular child care arrangements per week. Care categories were predefined and included formal,
government‑regulated long day care centres and family day care homes, and informal, non‑regulated care by
relatives (including grandparents and other relatives) and non‑relatives (including a nanny or other person
such as a friend or neighbour). We also included occasional child care or care provided by a gym, leisure centre
or community centre as another form of informal care.
Main child care arrangement
The infant’s main care arrangement was defined as the arrangement in which he or she spent the most hours
per week. For most infants in care (76.8 per cent), this was their only care arrangement.
Infants received their main child care across a wide range of settings (Figure 2). For those infants attending
some form of non‑parental care, most infants (62.1 per cent) were cared for in informal settings, with
grandparents being the most common informal care providers (44.3 per cent). A smaller but significant
proportion of infants attended formal care services (37.9 per cent), with the majority (28.3 per cent) attending
long day care centres and the rest attending family day care (9.6 per cent). Overall, the large majority of infants
in care (71.7 per cent) received their main care in small group, home‑based settings, such as care by a relative
and family day care. Only 28.3 per cent received their main care in large group child care centres.
26
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Patterns of care for the infant cohort
Figure 2: Main child care arrangement
In care
n=1,782
Formal
n=676 (37.9%)
Long day care
centre
n=505 (28.3%)
Family day care
n=171 (9.6%)
Informal
n=1,106 (62.1%)
Relative
n=876 (49.1%)
Non-relative
n=231 (12.9%)
Grandparent
n=790 (44.3%)
Other person
n=90 (5.1%)
Other relative
n=85 (4.8%)
Nanny
n=71 (4.0%)
Occasional/
leisure
n=69 (3.9%)
Combinations of main and other care
About one‑quarter (23.2 per cent) of infants in care attended more than one child care arrangement each week.
These overall patterns of care are displayed in Figure 3. For those in more than one arrangement, groupings
were simplified to describe the care type as formal only (single or multiple formal settings), informal only
(single or multiple informal settings) or mixed formal and informal care. When infants attended more than one
care arrangement, it was most likely to be a combination of formal centre‑based care and informal home‑based
care by relatives.
27
Child care and early education in Australia
Figure 3: Combinations of care (main and other care)
In care
n=1,782
Formal only
n=543 (30.5%)
Long day care centre
only
n=398 (22.3%)
Family day care
alone, or with day
care centre
n=145 (8.1%)
Informal only
n=1,060 (59.5%)
Relative only
n=796 (44.7%)
Mixed formal and
informal
n=179 (10.0%)
Non-relative only or
with relative
n=264 (14.8%)
Current amount of care received each week
Main child care arrangement
In order to present figures for the amount of care infants received in their main child care arrangement, we
simplified the possible combinations (Figure 3) into the following four categories: long day care, family day
care, informal relative and informal non‑relative. The sample is made up of the 1,782 infants who attended
care and whose main care arrangement was not a parent living elsewhere. Amount of regular care received in
the main care arrangement is presented as the average number of hours per week (Table 4) and the number of
days per week attended (Table 5).
In terms of the main care arrangement, infants in formal care arrangements (that is, long day care or family day
care) spent more hours per week in care than infants in informal arrangements.
28
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Patterns of care for the infant cohort
Table 4:
Hours per week spent in main care arrangement
Hours per week in main care arrangement
Long day care
centre
Mean hours
95% CI
Family day care
Informal—relative
Informal—
non‑relative
Total
19.5
20.7
13.1
14.5
17.2
18.4–20.5
19.1–22.4
12.3–14.0
12.7–16.3
16.3–18.1
505
171
875
231
1,782
n
On average, and across each of the four care types, most infants spent one or two days in their main care
arrangement (33.7 per cent and 30.6 per cent, respectively) (Table 5). Across the formal settings, the most
frequent number of days attending care was two per week. Across the informal settings, the most frequent was
one day per week.
Table 5:
Days per week spent in main care arrangement
Main care arrangement
Days per week
Long day care
Family day care
centre
Informal—
relative
Informal—
non‑relative
Total
1
%
95% CI
n
25.1
21.4–29.1
127
14.9
10.7–20.5
26
42.3
39.2–45.4
370
34.2
28.3–40.5
79
33.7
31.7–35.8
602
2
%
95% CI
n
34.5
30.8–38.4
174
38.2
31.9–45.0
65
28.9
26.0–31.9
252
23.3
19.0–28.3
54
30.6
28.7–32.6
545
3
%
95% CI
n
18.7
15.9–21.9
95
23.3
17.6–30.0
40
11.2
9.2–13.5
98
15.6
11.8–20.3
36
15.1
13.5–16.8
269
4
%
95% CI
n
6.4
4.8–8.5
32
8.8
5.5–14.0
15
5.0
3.7–6.6
44
9.4
6.5–13.4
22
6.3
5.3–7.5
113
5
%
95% CI
n
15.4
12.6–18.6
78
14.3
10.4–19.4
24
9.6
7.8–11.9
84
15.1
11.3–20.2
35
12.4
11.0–14.0
221
6 or 7
%
95% CI
n
0.0
0.00–0.0
0
0.4
0.1–2.5
1
3.1
2.2–4.4
27
2.5
1.1–5.2
6
1.9
1.3–2.6
34
Total
%
95% CI
n
100
100
506
100
100
171
100
100
875
100
100
232
100
100
1,784
Combinations of main and other care
Amount of weekly care was also examined for infants’ overall care arrangements to give a complete picture
of infants’ weekly hours of care. The average number of hours per week in care was computed for each of the
five patterns of care (Table 6). Average hours/week of care across all care types was 17.2 per week, with wide
individual variation (SD=13.6, range=1–72 hours).
29
Child care and early education in Australia
As noted for the main care arrangement, infants attending formal care services only (that is, long day care or
family day care or both) tended to spend more hours per week in care than infants in informal settings only.
Infants attending both formal and informal care settings had the highest weekly hours of care (24.4).
Table 6:
Hours per week spent in care (main and other care)
Care arrangement
Formal only
Informal only
Family day care
Long day care
only or with long
only
day care
Mean hours
95% CI
Relative only
Mixed
Non‑relative
only or with
relative
Total
Informal plus
formal
20.4
21.8
14.0
14.5
24.4
17.2
19.1–21.6
19.9–23.7
13.1–15.0
12.9–16.2
23.1–25.6
15.6–17.8
Stability of care
Multiple care arrangements
Parents were asked: ‘How many types of regular care arrangements does child have per week in total?’ As
noted above, while most infants (76.8 per cent) attended only one care arrangement each week, multiple care
was experienced by almost one‑quarter of infants (20.6 per cent in two arrangements; 2.6 per cent in three or
more care arrangements) (Table 7).
Table 7:
Number of different care arrangements per week
Total number of care arrangements
1
2
76.8
20.6
2.0
0.3
0.3
100
74.8–78.7
18.7–22.5
1.5–2.7
0.1–0.8
0.2–0.6
100
1,369
367
36
5
6
%
95% CI
n
3
4
5 or more
Total
1,783
Changes in care
Stability of care can also be indexed by the number of changes in care arrangements that infants experience
over time. Parents were asked: ‘In total, how many different regular arrangements have you used for child
since birth?’ This total was adjusted for the age of the infant to yield a measure of stability computed as the
number of care arrangements attended per year since birth. Age adjustments were necessary because of the
wide age range of the LSAC infant cohort (3 months to 19 months).
On average, the LSAC infants in regular care had attended 1.74 care arrangements since birth. However, there
was considerable variation across the sample (SD=0.91) (Table 8).
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Patterns of care for the infant cohort
Table 8:
Average number of care arrangements per year since birth
Average number of care arrangements attended per year since birth
%
95% CI
n
0.1 to 1
1.1 to 2
2.1 to 3
3.1 to 4
More than 4
Total
18.1
58.1
13.8
7.9
2.1
100
16.5–19.9
55.9–60.2
12.6–15.2
6.7–9.2
1.6–2.8
100
323
1,035
246
140
38
1,782
These summary figures show that the majority of infants (76.2 per cent) who were receiving regular care at the
time of the LSAC interview had experienced relatively little change in care arrangements (estimated per year):
18.1 per cent had up to one care arrangement and 58.1 per cent had up to two care arrangements since birth.
Parents who did change from their first care arrangement were asked: ‘What was the main reason you stopped
using that arrangement?’ Answers provided by 281 parents indicated that the most common reason for
changing from the first care arrangement was that it was not needed anymore (27.2 per cent). Other reasons
noted by parents were: a change in the parent’s own work arrangements (10.0 per cent); parents (4.2 per cent)
or carer (12.4 per cent) moving house; preference for a different type of care setting (6.3 per cent); problems
with carers, the care environment or their child’s adjustment (5.0 per cent); and too costly or inconvenient
hours/location (4.6 per cent).
Parents’ reasons for using current care arrangements
Parents were asked: ‘What is the main reason why child is using regular child care arrangements at present?’
Responses were coded according to 12 predefined categories listed in Table 9. The parents in the infant sample
indicated that the most common reasons for an infant being in a non‑parental child care arrangement were
because of parent need. Parents’ work or study commitments were cited by 72.3 per cent of parents as their
main reason for using care for their infant. A much smaller percentage of parents (5.2 per cent) cited benefits
for the child as their main reason for choosing to place their child in care.
31
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 9:
Reasons for infant attending non‑parental care
Reasons for infant attending non‑parental care
n
%
Parent need
1,280
72.3
To give parent a break or time alone
169
9.6
Parents' sport, shopping, social or community activities
167
9.4
So parent can attend own/others’ health needs
11
0.6
Other for parent’s benefit
20
1.1
1,647
93.0
It is good for the child's social development
34
1.9
Establish relationships with relatives
30
1.7
Other for child's benefit
10
0.6
Mix with other children of the same age
14
0.8
Good for intellectual/language development
2
0.1
Respite care for the child
2
0.1
92
5.2
30
1.7
Parents' work or study commitments
Subtotal
Child benefit
Subtotal
Other unspecified
Total
Note:
1,769
100
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
When infants were not receiving care, 87.3 per cent of parents indicated it was because non‑parental care
was not needed. A small percentage of parents mentioned personal reasons or attitudes for not using care
(‘child is too young’, 4.2 per cent; ‘do not want child cared for by strangers’, 1.9 per cent; ‘does not suit our
culture or ethnic beliefs’, 0.2 per cent), or concerns about the child’s needs (‘child has disability’, 0.2 per cent,
child would be unsettled’, 0.3 per cent, ‘not good for child’, 0.4 per cent). The remaining parents gave reasons
related to problems of access or affordability of child care services (4.5 per cent) or concerns about quality of
care (1.1 per cent) (Table 10).
32
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Patterns of care for the infant cohort
Table 10: Reasons for not using child care
Reasons for not using child care
%
n
Child does not need it
1,093
33.1
Parent is available—other care not needed
1,793
54.2
Problems with getting child care places
46
1.4
Not available locally
17
0.5
Transport problems
2
0.1
Cannot afford it—cost too high
66
2.0
Concerned with quality of care
30
0.9
Child has disability or special needs
8
0.2
Child would be unsettled in care
9
0.3
Does not suit our culture or ethnic beliefs
6
0.2
64
1.9
138
4.2
16
0.5
5
0.2
13
0.4
Do not want child cared for by strangers
Child is too young
Other—accessibility or affordability
Other—quality/program issues
Other—not good for child
Total
Note:
3,306
100
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Parent satisfaction with main care arrangement
Parent satisfaction was gathered in relation to the main care arrangement the infant attended. The majority
of parents reported being ‘very satisfied’ with the care arrangement they used (82.4 per cent) or ‘satisfied’
(14.3 per cent). Only 1.3 per cent reported being ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ (Table 11). However, the
highest satisfaction ratings (very satisfied) were least likely to be given to long day care centres (67.7 per cent)
and most likely to be given to relative care (91.6 per cent). Family day care and non‑relative care were
intermediate in the frequency with which they received these highest satisfaction ratings (79.5 per cent and
82.1 per cent, respectively) (Table 12).
Table 11: Parent satisfaction with care arrangement
Level of satisfaction with main care arrangement
Very satisfied
%
95% CI
n
Note:
Satisfied
Neither satisfied
nor dissatisfied
Dissatisfied
Very dissatisfied
Total
82.4
14.3
1.9
1.1
0.2
100
80.6–84.0
12.9–15.9
1.4–2.7
0.7–1.7
0.1–0.6
100
1,463
254
35
20
4
1,776
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
33
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 12: Parent satisfaction with care by type
Type of care (main care arrangement)
Satisfaction
level
Long day care
Family day care
centre
Informal—
relative
Informal—
non‑relative
Total
Very satisfied
%
95% CI
n
67.7
63.9–71.3
342
79.5
73.3–84.6
136
91.6
89.7–93.1
796
82.1
76.7–86.5
189
82.4
80.6–84.0
1,463
Satisfied
%
95% CI
n
25.2
22.0–28.6
127
15.7
11.1–21.6
27
7.6
6.2–9.5
67
14.7
10.7–19.8
34
14.3
12.9–15.9
254
Neither
satisfied nor
dissatisfied
%
95% CI
n
3.2
2.0–4.9
16
3.0
1.3–6.8
5
0.7
0.3–1.5
6
3.3
1.8–6.0
8
1.9
1.4–2.7
35
Dissatisfied
%
95% CI
n
3.3
2.1–5.3
17
1.8
0.6–5.1
3
0.0
0.0–0.0
0
0.0
0.0–0.0
0
1.1
0.7–1.7
20
Very
dissatisfied
%
95% CI
n
0.6
0.2–2.0
3
0.0
0.0–0.0
0
0.1
0.0–0.8
1
0.0
0.0–0.0
0
0.2
0.1–0.6
4
Total
%
95% CI
n
100
100
505
100
100
171
100
100
870
100
100
230
100
100
1,776
Note:
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
3.5Discussion
The majority of the LSAC infants in their first year of life were cared for exclusively by their parents. However,
more than one‑third of infants did spend regular time in non‑parental care each week, which was due primarily
to parental work and study commitments. The type of care settings infants attended varied broadly. Most
infants in care (62.1 per cent) were cared for in non‑regulated informal settings, with grandparents being the
most common care providers. This highlights the important role of extended family members, and especially
grandparents, in providing child care support for parents of infants, particularly when mothers in the family
have returned to work in the infant’s first year of life. For the 37.9 per cent of infants in care attending formal,
government‑regulated care settings, most (28.3 per cent) were enrolled in long day care centres rather than in
family day care homes (9.6 per cent).
Quality of care is important to consider, in formal as well as informal care arrangements, since in many
large‑scale studies of children in care, good quality care has been linked to better child outcomes and poor
quality care has been shown to be a risk factor for children’s development (for example, ed. NICHD 2005). In
Australia, formal child care services are required to meet regulatory standards—for example, for staff‑to‑child
ratios, staff qualifications and group size—that underpin quality. These standards, however, vary by state
or territory jurisdiction and service type. Informal services, on the other hand, tend not to be regulated by
government. Quality in these settings is largely defined by the perceptions of parent users and care providers.
To address this important issue, we report on indictors of quality in different types of infant care in Section 7. In
Section 8, we report on the relationship between attendance at formal versus informal care and developmental
outcomes.
34
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Patterns of care for the infant cohort
Stability of care has typically been shown to be beneficial for children, since it enables carers and children to
know each other better, and thus increases the predictability of the care giving environment. Parents reported
that the majority of the LSAC infants receiving child care experienced stable care: 76.8 per cent of infants were
attending only one care arrangement each week and 20.6 per cent attended two settings. Only very few infants
(2.6 per cent) currently attended more than two arrangements regularly each week. In addition, most infants
(76.2 per cent) had attended no more than two care arrangements per year since birth.
The amount of time infants spent in care varied widely, with the average across all care arrangements being
17.2 hours per week. However, infants attending formal care settings (for example, long day care centre or
family day care) spent considerably more time in care (average of 20.4 to 21.8 hours per week) than infants in
informal settings (average of 14.0 to 14.5 hours per week). In Section 4 we explore possible explanations for
these differences in care use by assessing relations between family characteristics and the type and amount
of care used by the LSAC infants. It is likely that differences in parents’ work commitments are responsible for
much of this variation in infant care, especially since parents reported that the main reason they used care for
their infants was to enable them to pursue work or formal study.
In relation to parent satisfaction, most parents with children in care (96.7 per cent) reported being very
satisfied or satisfied with the main care arrangement they used for their infant. While this result is positive,
it should be noted that parental satisfaction was assessed with only one item and, thus, the discriminatory
power of this measure may be limited. In further waves of the LSAC study it will be possible to tap more varied
aspects of parents’ views about their children’s care/education setting. For the Wave 1 data, parent satisfaction
differed significantly by type of care. Parents were more likely to give higher ratings when they were using
informal care provided by relatives. It is possible that this high satisfaction with informal relative care may
reflect not only the parent’s assessment of the quality of care provided to their infant, but other characteristics
of this care as well, including its flexibility and the fact that the carers are likely to be well known to the
parents.
35
Child care and early education in Australia
36
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
4 Family/child/community
characteristics and patterns of care
for the infant cohort
4.1 Introduction
This section explores relations between family, child and community characteristics and patterns of
non‑parental care, using bivariate analyses. It does so to identify factors that may explain differences in
the patterns of child care experienced by LSAC infants. Parents of infants in the sample reported that the
primary reason they use non‑parental care for their infants is to assist them in meeting their work or study
commitments. Therefore, we expect that many of the relations we identify will be influenced by the likelihood
that parents, particularly mothers, are in paid employment. Patterns of care use may also be influenced by
the cost and availability of care and, thus, indices of family income and neighbourhood advantage are also
investigated.
Also of interest is whether characteristics of the LSAC infants themselves may be associated with patterns of
care. In particular we assess relations between a child’s age and sex and patterns of care use, and whether
subgroups of children—those of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background (Indigenous), those exposed
to a language other than English in the home and those living in a lone‑parent family—vary in their patterns of
care use when compared with other children.
Finally, we explore a set of maternal characteristics, including psychological distress, separation anxiety,
social support, parenting self‑efficacy and parenting behaviour that are of interest for two reasons. First, they
are regarded as indices of adjustment and parenting competence, and they may be influenced in a positive way
when children are receiving good quality care. Non‑parental child care has been conceptualised as supporting
mothers’ psychological adjustment by providing parenting support for working mothers as well as ‘time
out’ from the often demanding role of parenting a young child. Non‑parental carers can also provide models
of positive parenting behaviour for inexperienced parents or distressed parents who may have difficulty
managing their child’s behaviour. However, mothers with high separation anxiety may find it difficult to leave
their infant with others and avail themselves of the possible benefits of care.
Second, these maternal characteristics are of interest because they can influence the quality of care the child
receives in the family. Understanding these factors and their relation to patterns of care is therefore important
for understanding how family and child care variables combine to influence children’s later adjustment and
functioning. This topic is discussed further in Section 8.
4.2Section summary
This section provides information regarding relations between family, child and community characteristics and
patterns of non‑parental child care for the LSAC infants. Selected findings highlighted include:
Families
with infants attending non‑parental child care were more likely to have employed mothers, higher
weekly household incomes, no financial stress and fewer children in the household, and to reside in more
advantaged communities.
37
Child care and early education in Australia
Younger
infants were more likely to have exclusive parental care, with the proportion being highest
(82.0 per cent) for infants less than 6 months, and lowest for infants aged 12 months and over (50.2 per cent).
Infants in exclusive parental care were also more likely to be Indigenous or from a family speaking a language
other than English in the home.
Mothers
of infants in exclusive parental care had higher levels of separation anxiety and lacked the social
support that could be a source of easily accessed informal care for their infants.
Families
using formal long day care or informal non‑relative care for their infants were more likely to have the
resources available to access this care, that is, mothers were more highly educated and families had higher
weekly household incomes and resided in more advantaged communities.
Families
using care by relatives (typically grandparents) for their infants were more likely to have mothers
who were younger, had only one child, were employed part‑time and received adequate social support from
outside the family.
Infants
spending longer hours in care were more likely to be older and from families who spoke a language
other than English at home.
Infants
spending longer hours in care were more likely to be from families with characteristics associated with
attending non‑parental care—mothers were older, more highly educated, more likely to be employed full‑time
than part‑time and had lower separation anxiety; families had higher weekly household incomes and fewer
children in the household.
4.3Overview of analytic approach
This section presents tables describing relations between characteristics of families, children and communities
as well as the type and amount of non‑parental care experienced by the LSAC infants.
Family demographic characteristics used were mother’s age, education, employment status and the number of
children in the household.
Family finances were described by weekly household income. In addition, an index of family financial stress
was determined by asking the primary parent whether he or she had experienced any of seven indices of
financial hardship in the past 12 months. These included being unable to pay gas, electricity, or telephone
bills on time, being unable to pay the mortgage or rent on time, adults or children going without meals,
being unable to heat or cool the home, pawning or selling something, seeking assistance from a welfare
or community organisation, and having financial limits on the type of food they could buy. Three summary
categories of financial stress defined by the total number of indices endorsed by the parent (none, one to two,
three or more) were used in this report.
Community characteristics were described by the SEIFA index (ABS 2001), which assesses the level of
disadvantage of the community in which the family resides. The SEIFA index provides a general indicator
of neighbourhood advantage or disadvantage based on information collected in the 2001 census. The
LSAC families were linked to the SEIFA index dataset by their postcode rounded off to the nearest 10 (for
example, 937 became 940) to protect the identity of the respondents’ postcodes. For this report, SEIFA
scores were categorised into five groups defined by the quintile distribution of SEIFA scores for all Australian
neighbourhoods, with the ‘lowest’ group representing the most disadvantaged and the ‘highest’ group the
most advantaged.
Child demographic characteristics in the analysis were age and sex of the study child, and whether the he/she
was of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background (Indigenous status), was exposed to a language other
than English in the home or was living in a lone‑parent family.
38
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
Mother’s psychological adjustment, social support and parenting were indexed by measures of psychological
distress, separation anxiety, social support, parenting self‑efficacy and parenting behaviour. These factors
may be important for understanding the broader context of child care and its impact on the development of
young children.
Mother’s psychological distress was measured by the six‑item version of the Kessler scale of non‑specific
psychological distress (K‑6) (Kessler et al. 2002). The K‑6 is an effective self‑report measure for predicting the
presence of a mood or anxiety disorder (Furukawa et al. 2003; Kessler et al. 2003). Items (for example, ‘In the
past four weeks, how often did you feel nervous?’) are rated on a five‑point Likert scale (1=none of the time
and 5=all of the time) and summed to provide an overall score ranging from six to 30. As recommended by
the authors of the scale, mothers were identified as having clinically significant (high) levels of psychological
distress when their scores were 19 or greater (Kessler et al. 2003).
Mother’s separation anxiety was assessed using six items from the Maternal Separation Anxiety Scale (Hock,
DeMeis & McBride 1988). Items (for example, ‘My child is happier with me than with babysitters’ and ‘Only a
mother just naturally knows how to comfort her distressed child’) are rated on a five‑point Likert scale ranging
from 1=strongly agree to 5=strongly disagree and summed to provide an overall score ranging from six to 30.
Mother’s social support was assessed by asking mothers ‘Overall, how do you feel about the amount of
support or help you get from family or friends living elsewhere?’ Response categories are: ‘I get enough help’,
‘I don’t get enough help’, ‘I don’t get any help at all’ and ‘I don’t need any help’. Distributions were examined
and the responses classified into two groups: (i) mothers who reported ‘I get enough help’ and (ii) mothers
who reported ‘I don’t get enough help’ or ‘I don’t get any help at all’. Those who responded with ‘I don’t need
any help’ (6.9 per cent) were omitted from further analyses.
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy was assessed with a single, self‑report item ‘Overall, which of the following
statements best describes how you feel about yourself as a parent?’ Responses constituted a five‑point Likert
scale ranging from 1=not very good at being a parent to 5=a very good parent. The overwhelming majority
(98 per cent) of parents rated themselves as being average or above average and were considered to have
‘higher’ parenting self‑efficacy. Less than 2 per cent of parents in the infant and child cohort rated themselves
as ‘not very good at being a parent’ or as ‘a person who has some trouble being a parent’. These parents were
classified as having ‘lower’ parenting self‑efficacy.
Mother’s parenting behaviour was a composite measure of self‑report scales assessing parental warmth and
hostile parenting. Parental warmth was assessed by six items regarding the frequency with which mothers
display warm, affectionate behaviours towards their child (for example, ‘How often do you express affection
by hugging, kissing and holding this child?’). Items are rated on a five‑point Likert scale ranging from
1=never/almost never to 5=always/almost always and summed to form a total warmth score ranging from six
(low warmth) to 30 (high warmth). Hostile parenting was assessed with five items regarding the frequency with
which the mother’s interactions with the infant are irritable and angry (for example, ‘I have raised my voice
with or shouted at this child’). Items are rated on a 10‑point Likert scale ranging from 1=not at all to 10=all
the time and summed to form a total hostility score ranging from five (low hostility) to 50 (high hostility). The
parental warmth and hostility scales were combined to form a composite parenting behaviour measure, with
higher scores indicating more positive parenting behaviour (that is, more warmth, less hostility). The resulting
distribution was highly skewed and could not distinguish between cases at the upper end of the scales (most
parents showed positive parenting behaviours). The measure was, therefore, transformed into a dichotomous
variable, with parents in the bottom 20 per cent of the distribution falling in the ‘lower’ category and the rest of
the population being labelled ‘higher’.
Analysis plan. Each family, child and community characteristic was examined against the six broad categories
describing types of infant child care arrangements: exclusive parental care; formal care only, subdivided
into long day care only and family day care only or with long day care; informal care only, subdivided into
relative care only and non‑relative care only or with relative care; and mixed formal and informal care. Results
are presented in a series of tables, which report figures for number of respondents for whom the data were
39
Child care and early education in Australia
available. Because missing data are not included in the tables, there are variations in the total sample size
reported for each table. Significant differences between mean values are noted when of interest, with the
criteria for significance being the non‑overlap of their respective 95 per cent confidence intervals (95% CI).
Following this, analyses were repeated using a continuous measure of amount of care received, that is,
hours per week in care. Correlation analyses are reported. Significant differences between mean values are
also noted, with the criteria for significance being the non‑overlap of their respective 95 per cent confidence
intervals (95% CI).
4.4 Family/child/community characteristics by type of care for the
infant cohort
A question of policy interest that can be answered using LSAC data is: What factors determine which infants
are placed in non‑parental care and the type of care they receive? This section presents descriptive statistics
looking at the relations between family, child and community characteristics and the non‑parental care
experiences of the LSAC infants.
Family demographic characteristics
Mother’s age
For the most part, mother’s age was fairly consistent across families’ use of different care types. The only
differences noted were a lower use of relative only care as mothers got older and a higher use of informal
non‑relative care by the oldest age group (35 years and above) compared to the youngest age group
(<25 years) (Table 13).
40
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
Table 13: Mother’s age in years at time of infant birth by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Informal
Family day
Long day care only or
care only with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Informal
non‑relative Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
68.0
Younger than 25 64.5–71.2
569
6.2
4.9–7.8
52
2.3
1.5–3.5
19
18.2
15.7–20.9
152
3.0
2.1–4.4
25
2.4
1.6–3.6
20
100
100
837
25 to 29
63.1
60.2–65.8
816
7.8
6.5‑9.4
101
3.0
2.3–4.0
39
17.6
15.7–19.6
227
4.6
3.6–5.7
59
3.9
3.0–5.1
51
100
100
1,293
30 to 34
64.8
62.5–67.1
1,199
8.2
7.1–9,4
151
2.8
2.2–3.6
51
15.1
13.5–16.8
279
5.4
4.4–6.5
99
3.8
3.1–4.7
70
100
100
1,850
35 and above
65.4
62.5–68.3
725
8.4
6.9–10.1
93
3.2
2.3–4.5
36
12.4
10.5–14.7
138
7.1
5.6–9.0
79
3.4
2.5–4.6
38
100
100
1,109
Total
65.0
63.5–66.5
3,309
7.8
7.1–8.6
398
2.9
2.4–3.4
146
15.6
14.6–16.8
796
5.2
4.5–5.9
262
3.5
3.0–4.1
179
100
100
5,088
Mother’s age
(years)
Note:
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Mother’s education
Mother’s education was an important factor in the use of non‑parental child care—as education increased,
care exclusively by parents decreased. Mothers with a university education were more likely to use formal care
in long day care centres (10.4 per cent) or informal non‑relative (8.5 per cent) care for their infants compared to
mothers with Year 11 to 12 education (6.4 per cent and 4.0 per cent, respectively) or Year 10 or less education
(3.6 per cent and 1.9 per cent, respectively) (Table 14).
41
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 14: Mother’s education by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Informal
Family day
Long day care only or
care only with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Year 10 or less
78.7
75.6–81.5
608
3.6
2.6–5.1
28
2.6
1.6–4.2
20
11.6
9.5–14.1
90
1.9
1.1–3.1
14
1.6
0.9–3.0
13
100
100
773
Year 11 or 12
70.2
67.6–72.7
662
6.4
5.2–7.9
60
2.4
1.7–3.5
23
14.0
11.9–16.3
132
4.0
3.1–5.2
38
2.9
2.1–4.0
28
100
100
943
Trade certificate
or diploma
64.6
62.4–66.7
1,213
8.1
7.0–9.4
152
2.8
2.1–3.7
53
16.4
14.7–18.3
309
4.5
3.6–5.7
85
3.6
2.8–4.5
67
100
100
1,879
University
55.2
52.7–57.7
819
10.4
9.1–11.9
155
3.4
2.7–4.3
50
17.7
16.0–19.6
263
8.5
6.9–10.3
126
4.8
3.9–5.9
72
100
100
1,485
Total
65.0
63.5–66.5
3,302
7.8
7.1–8.6
395
2.9
2.4–3.4
146
15.6
14.5–16.7
794
5.2
4.5–5.9
263
3.5
3.1–4.1
180
100
100
5,080
Mother’s
education
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Mother’s employment status
Mothers not working were more likely than mothers working to provide exclusive parental care for their infants
and they were least likely to place their infants in any type of formal or informal care. Mothers employed
full‑time and part‑time were relatively similar in their use of formal and informal care arrangements, differing
only in their use of long day care. Mothers employed full‑time were more likely to use long day care than
mothers employed part‑time (20.8 per cent and 13.0 per cent, respectively) (Table 15).
42
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
Table 15: Mother’s employment status by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Informal
Family day
Long day care only or
care only with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Full-time
28.3
24.4–32.6
116
20.9
17.4–24.8
85
7.8
5.9–10.4
32
24.2
19.8–29.1
99
10.5
8.1–13.3
43
8.4
6.1–11.5
34
100
100
409
Part-time
37.7
35.4–40.1
582
13.0
11.5–14.6
200
5.4
4.4–6.5
83
27.3
25.2–29.4
421
8.8
7.6–10.2
136
7.9
6.7–9.3
122
100
100
1,544
Not working
83.3
81.8–84.6
2,608
3.6
2.9–4.4
111
1.0
0.7–1.4
30
8.8
7.8–9.9
276
2.7
2.2–3.4
85
0.7
0.5–1.1
22
100
100
3,132
Total
65.0
63.5–66.5
3,306
7.8
7.1–8.6
396
2.8
2.4–3.6
145
15.6
14.6–16.8
796
5.2
4.5–6.0
264
3.5
3.1–4.1
178
100
100
5,085
Mother’s
employment
status
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Number of children in the household
The number of siblings or other children in the household where the study child lived was significantly
related to the use of non‑parental child care. As the number of children in the household increased, infants
were more likely to be in exclusive parental care, that is, 59.6 per cent of infants with no sibling/other child
were in exclusive parental care compared to 64.6 per cent with one sibling/other child, 73.5 per cent with two
siblings/other children and 76.3 per cent with three or more siblings/other children.
For infants in regular care, the number of siblings or other children in the household was also related to the
type of care used. Care by a relative was highest (20.2 per cent) when the study infant was the only child in
the household. Use of formal long day care centres was lowest for infants with the largest number of children
in the household (4.1 per cent). Family day care and non‑relative care were generally the least frequently used
forms of care and their use did not vary significantly by the number of children in the household (Table 16).
43
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 16: Number of children in household by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Informal
Family day
Long day care only or
care only with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
1
59.6
57.3–62.0
1,189
8.3
7.3–9.5
166
2.8
2.2–3.5
55
20.2
18.3–22.3
403
4.8
4.1–5.8
97
4.2
3.5–5.1
84
100
100
1,994
2
64.6
62.3–66.8
1,199
8.9
7.6–10.2
164
3.4
2.6–4.4
63
14.3
12.3–15.9
265
5.4
4.4–6.5
100
3.5
2.8–4.5
66
100
100
1,857
3
73.5
70.6–76.2
616
6.1
4.6–8.1
51
2.3
1.5–3.4
19
10.1
8.3–12.2
84
5.3
4.0–7.0
44
2.8
1.9–4.0
23
100
100
837
4 or more
76.3
71.9–80.1
316
4.1
2.6–6.4
17
2.0
0.9–4.3
8
10.7
8.1–14.0
44
5.6
3.7–8.4
23
1.4
0.6–3.5
6
100
100
414
Total
65.1
63.5–66.6
3,320
7.8
7.1–8.6
398
2.9
2.4–3.4
145
15.6
14.5–16.7
796
5.2
4.5–5.9
264
3.5
3.0–4.0
179
100
100
5,102
Number of
children
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Family finances
Weekly household income
In general, as families’ weekly household income increased, the proportion of infants receiving exclusive
parental care decreased (Table 17). However, the pattern differed by type of infant care. Increased use of
formal centre‑based care, informal care by non‑relatives, most likely nannies, and informal plus formal care,
was associated with higher income levels. On the other hand, care by relatives was a common form of regular
care for all income groups.
44
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
Table 17: Weekly household income by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Informal
Family day
Long day care only or
care only with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Less than 600
74.7
71.7–77.5
725
4.6
3.3–6.2
44
1.9
1.2–3.0
19
13.7
11.6–16.0
133
3.6
2.6–4.9
35
1.6
0.9–2.6
15
100
100
971
600 to 999
72.8
70.5–74.9
969
5.9
4.8–7.4
79
1.9
1.3–2.8
25
13.8
12.2–15.5
184
3.2
2.4–4.2
42
2.5
1.8–3.5
33
100
100
1,332
1,000 to 1,499
61.4
58.9–64.0
769
9.5
8.2–11.0
119
3.1
2.3–4.1
38
17.0
15.0–19.2
213
4.7
3.7–5.9
59
4.3
3.4–5.5
54
100
100
1,252
1,500 to 1,999
52.8
49.1–56.4
342
11.1
9.1–13.5
72
4.6
3.3–6.3
30
18.0
15.4–20.8
116
8.1
6.3–10.3
52
5.5
4.2–7.3
36
100
100
648
More than 2,000
50.0
45.7–54.4
309
12.2
9.9–15.0
75
3.5
2.4–5.1
22
18.2
15.3–21.5
112
10.8
7.7–14.9
67
5.4
3.9–7.4
33
100
100
618
Total
64.6
63.0–66.2
3,114
8.1
7.3–8.9
389
2.8
2.3–3.3
134
15.7
14.6–16.9
758
5.3
4.6–6.1
255
3.6
3.1–4.1
171
100
100
4,821
Weekly
household
income ($)
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Financial stress
Level of family financial stress was determined by asking the primary parent whether they had experienced any
of seven different indices of financial hardship in the past 12 months. Infants from families who reported no
financial stresses were less likely to receive exclusive parental care and more likely to attend relative care than
infants from families who experienced one or more stresses (Table 18).
45
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 18: Number of financial stresses by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Long day
care only
Informal
Family day
care only or
with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
only or with
relative
Informal plus
formal
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
None
62.2
60.3–64.1
1,686
7.4
6.5–8.5
201
2.6
2.1–3.3
71
17.6
16.1–19.2
476
6.1
5.1–7.2
165
4.1
3.4–4.9
111
100
100
2,710
1 or 2
67.7
65.5–69.9
1,163
7.8
6.7–9.1
134
3.1
2.4–4.1
54
13.8
12.2–15.4
236
4.6
3.8–5.6
79
3.0
2.3–3.8
51
100
100
1,717
3 or more
70.2
66.4–73.7
450
9.5
7.6–11.8
61
3.0
1.9–4.8
19
12.0
9.7–14.8
77
2.7
1.8–4.2
17
2.6
1.6–4.1
17
100
100
641
Total
65.1
63.6–66.6
3,299
7.8
7.1–8.6
396
2.9
2.4–3.4
144
15.6
14.5–16.7
789
5.2
4.5–5.9
261
3.5
3.1–4.1
179
100
100
5,068
Number of
financial
stresses
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Community characteristics
SEIFA index
Family disadvantage at the community level, indicated by very low SEIFA ratings, was broadly associated
with a greater likelihood of an infant receiving exclusive parental care. Infants from the most disadvantaged
communities were less likely to attend family day care (1.4 per cent) than infants in communities with ratings
between 960 and 980 (5.2 per cent), and infants in the most advantaged communities were more likely to
attend non‑relative care than infants in communities with SEIFA ratings below 1,010 (Table 19).
46
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
Table 19: SEIFA index (quintiles) by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Informal
Family day
Long day care only or
care only with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
SEIFA quintiles
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
950 and lower
69.0
65.7–72.2
765
6.5
4.9–8.6
72
1.4
0.8–2.5
15
16.5
14.1–19.2
183
3.6
2.7–4.9
40
3.0
2.0–4.4
33
100
100
1,108
960–980
65.1
62.0–68.1
606
8.5
6.9–10.4
79
5.2
3.9–6.8
48
14.2
12.0–16.7
132
3.6
2.6–5.0
33
3.5
2.5–4.7
32
100
100
930
990–1,010
67.3
63.4–71.0
703
7.3
5.7–9.3
76
2.8
1.9–4.1
29
15.9
13.5–18.7
166
4.0
3.11–5.2
42
2.7
1.9–3.8
28
100
100
1,044
1,020–1,060
63.8
60.8–66.7
667
8.4
7.0–10.1
88
3.1
2.1–4.5
32
14.8
12.8–17.1
155
6.0
4.64–7.69
63
4.0
3.0–5.2
42
100
100
1,047
1,070 and higher
59.6
56.3–62.8
579
8.5
7.2–10.2
83
2.1
1.4–3.3
21
16.5
14.1–19.3
160
8.8
6.69–11.48
85
4.5
3.5–5.8
44
100
100
972
Total
65.1
63.5–66.6
3,320
7.8
7.1–8.6
398
2.9
2.4–3.4
145
15.6
14.5–16.7
796
5.2
4.50–5.93
263
3.5
3.0–4.0
179
100
100
5,101
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Child demographic characteristics
Child’s age
Younger infants were more likely to have exclusive parental care, with the proportion being highest
(82.0 per cent) for infants less than 6 months (26 weeks and younger), mid‑range for infants
aged 6 to 9 months (70.3 per cent) (27 to 39 weeks) and 9 to 12 months (61.3 per cent) (40 to 52 weeks), and
lowest (50.3 per cent) for infants aged 12 months and over. For all non‑parental care arrangements, increased
age was broadly related to an increased likelihood of attending that type of care arrangement; for example,
care with relatives increased from 10.3 per cent for infants less than 6 months to 14.7 per cent for infants
between 6 and 9 months, 16.6 per cent for 9 to 12 months, and 18.9 per cent for children older than 12 months
(Table 20).
47
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 20: Child’s age by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Long day
care only
Informal
Family day
care only or
with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
26 weeks and
younger
82.0
79.2–84.6
465
2.2
1.4–3.4
12
1.3
0.7–2.3
7
10.3
8.2–12.9
59
2.6
1.7–4.0
15
1.6
0.9–2.7
9
100
100
567
27 to 39 weeks
70.3
68.1–72.4
1,290
5.8
4.9–6.9
107
2.1
1.5–2.8
38
14.7
13.2–16.4
270
5.2
4.3–6.3
95
1.9
1.4–2.5
35
100
100
1,835
40 to 52 weeks
61.3
59.0–63.7
1,154
9.2
8.0–10.7
174
3.1
2.4–4.0
58
16.6
15.0–18.4
312
5.4
4.4–6.7
102
4.3
3.6–5.2
81
100
100
1,881
Older
than 52 weeks
50.2
46.7–53.8
412
12.8
10.7–15.2
105
5.1
3.8–7.0
42
18.9
16.4–21.8
155
6.4
5.0–8.1
52
6.6
5.0–8.6
54
100
100
820
Total
65.1
63.6–66.5
3,320
7.8
7.1–8.6
398
2.9
2.4–3.4
146
15.6
14.5–16.7
796
5.2
4.5–5.9
264
3.5
3.0–4.0
179
100
100
5,103
Child’s age
Note:
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Child’s sex
Child’s sex was not related to differences in the use of non‑parental child care or to different types of care.
Boys and girls were equally likely to be in care (Table 21).
48
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
Table 21: Child’s sex by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Long day
care only
Informal
Family day
care only or
with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Male
64.9
63.0–66.8
1,699
7.7
6.8–8.8
202
2.9
2.3–3.7
77
16.0
14.6–17.6
420
5.0
4.2–5.9
131
3.4
2.9–4.2
90
100
100
2,619
Female
65.3
63.3–67.2
1,622
7.9
7.0–8.9
196
2.8
2.2–3.5
69
15.2
13.8–16.6
377
5.4
4.5–6.4
133
3.6
2.9–4.3
89
100
100
2,486
Total
65.1
63.5–66.6
3,321
7.8
7.1–8.6
398
2.9
2.4–3.4
146
15.6
14.5–16.7
797
5.2
4.5–5.9
264
3.5
3.0–4.0
179
100
100
5,105
Child’s sex
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Child’s Indigenous status
Parents were asked to identify whether they were Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, both, or neither. Infants of
parents who identified themselves as either Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or both were combined into one
group labelled ‘Indigenous’.
Results presented in Table 22 showed that within the LSAC sample Indigenous families were more likely to be
providing exclusive parental care for their infants (73.6 per cent) than non‑Indigenous families (64.6 per cent).
However, due to the small number of Indigenous families relative to non‑Indigenous families and the
non‑inclusion of remote and very remote families, these data need to be treated with caution. Results also
showed that for the Indigenous infants in care, the type of care arrangements attended were similar to those
used by non‑Indigenous infants in care.
49
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 22: Child’s Indigenous status by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Long day
care only
Informal
Family day
care only or
with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Indigenous
73.6
68.2–78.4
183
6.8
4.2–10.8
17
1.4
0.5–3.7
4
12.4
8.8–17.2
31
3.4
1.9–6.1
9
2.3
1.1–4.8
6
100
100
250
Non‑Indigenous
64.6
63.1–66.2
3,137
7.9
7.1–8.6
381
2.9
2.5–3.5
142
15.8
14.7–16.9
766
5.3
4.6–6.0
255
3.6
3.1–4.1
173
100
100
4,854
Total
65.1
63.5–66.6
3,320
7.8
7.1–8.6
398
2.9
2.4–3.4
146
15.6
14.5–16.7
797
5.2
4.5–5.9
264
3.5
3.0–4.0
179
100
100
5,104
Child’s Indigenous
status
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Language other than English spoken at home
An infant was considered to be exposed on a regular basis to a language other than English in the family
if either of the study infant’s parents (who lived in the household) indicated that a language other than
English (LOTE) was spoken at home. Fifteen per cent of LSAC families (n=848) identified themselves as
being in this group. A total of 36 languages were reported. These included languages from many countries
in Europe (Italian, Spanish, Greek, German, Serbian, Russian and others), the Middle East (Arabic, Turkish
and others), Asia (Vietnamese, Filipino, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hindi and others), New Zealand and the
Pacific Islands (Samoan, Maori, Tongan), and other areas. Numbers ranged from 110 speakers of Arabic, 82 of
Vietnamese, 44 of Spanish and of Filipino, 43 of Italian, 42 of Greek, 32 of Mandarin and of Cantonese, 26 of
Hindi and of German, to 20 and below for all other languages. Such a broad diversity of families makes it
difficult to generalise about LOTE families; therefore the following results should be treated with caution.
In general, results showed that a higher proportion of infants from LOTE families (69.5 per cent) were receiving
exclusive parental care than infants from families in which English only was spoken (64.0 per cent) (Table 23).
When in care, infants from LOTE families were less likely to attend formal care arrangements, informal
non‑relative care, and combined informal and formal care. LOTE families were more likely to use informal care
from relatives for their infants than English‑only speaking families. This pattern of care may be due to cultural
preferences for care provided by relatives in LOTE families, or may be the result of a greater availability of
extended family, and particularly grandparents, as care providers. Further examination of the LSAC dataset
would be required to address these possibilities.
50
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
Table 23: Language spoken at home by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Long day
care only
Informal
Family day
care only or
with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
English only
64.0
62.4–65.6
2,651
8.4
7.6–9.2
347
3.2
2.7–3.7
131
14.8
13.7–16.0
613
5.7
4.9–6.6
236
4.0
3.5–4.6
166
100
100
4,144
Other language
69.5
65.6–73.0
589
4.8
3.4–6.7
41
1.5
0.9–2.7
13
20.4
17.5–23.5
173
2.5
1.7–3.6
21
1.3
0.8–2.3
11
100
100
848
Total
64.9
63.4–66.4
3,240
7.8
7.1–8.5
388
2.9
2.4–3.4
144
15.8
14.7–16.9
786
5.1
4.5–5.9
257
3.6
3.1–4.1
177
100
100
4,992
Language spoken
at home
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Family type
If the primary carer indicated he or she had no partner living in the household at the time of interview, the
family was identified as being a ‘lone‑parent’ family. Family type (lone versus couple) was not a significant
factor in whether families used non‑parental care, or in the type of care arrangement chosen for infants
(Table 24).
Table 24: Family type by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Long day
care only
Informal
Family day
care only or
with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Lone parent
67.9
63.8–71.8
362
7.4
5.4–10.2
40
2.8
1.7–4.5
15
14.7
12.0–17.9
78
3.3
2.1–5.0
18
3.9
2.5–6.0
21
100
100
534
Couple
64.6
63.0–66.2
2,912
7.8
7.0–8.6
351
2.9
2.4–3.4
129
15.8
14.7–17.0
713
5.4
4.7–6.3
245
3.5
3.0–4.0
158
100
100
4,508
Total
66.0
63.4–66.5
3,274
7.8
7.0–8.5
391
2.9
2.4–3.4
144
15.7
14.6–16.8
791
5.2
4.5–6.0
263
3.6
3.1–4.1
179
100
100
5,042
Family type
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
51
Child care and early education in Australia
Mother’s psychological adjustment, social support and parenting
Mother’s psychological distress
Mothers’ higher and lower ratings on psychological distress did not differ significantly by the type of child care
they used for their infants (Table 25).
Table 25: Mother’s psychological distress by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Long day
care only
Informal
Family day
care only or
with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Low
65.4
63.6–67.1
2,306
8.0
7.1–9.0
282
2.8
2.3–3.4
99
15.0
13.7–16.3
528
5.3
4.5–6.3
188
3.6
3.0–4.2
126
100
100
3,529
High
65.0
61.5–68.4
461
7.1
5.4–9.2
50
3.2
2.2–4.8
23
15.8
13.2–18.8
112
5.4
4.0–7.2
38
3.4
2.3–5.1
24
100
100
708
Total
65.3
63.7–66.9
2,767
7.9
7.0–8.7
332
2.9
2.4–3.4
122
15.1
13.9–16.3
640
5.3
4.6–6.2
226
3.6
3.1–4.1
150
100
100
4,237
Level of
psychological
distress
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Mother’s separation anxiety
There was a general trend for mothers with higher levels of separation anxiety to be more likely to provide
exclusive parental care for their infants. The mean separation anxiety score for mothers of infants in exclusive
parental care was 26.0, while the mean scores for mothers of infants in non‑parental care ranged from
21.4 to 23.2 (Table 26). Furthermore, as separation anxiety increased, so did the rate of infants in exclusive
parental care: low anxiety=45.3 per cent; medium anxiety=65.5 per cent; high anxiety=83.4 per cent.
These findings are further explored in Table 27, which contrasts type of care received by three categories of
separation anxiety: low, medium and high. As noted above, the proportion of infants receiving care decreased
with increasing levels of separation anxiety, with a similar pattern for each of the five types of care.
52
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
Table 26: Mother’s separation anxiety by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Formal
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Mean
95% CI
n
Long day
care only
Informal
Family day care
only or with long
day care
Mixed
Non‑relative
only or with
relative
Relative
only
Informal plus
formal
26.0
23.2
22.8
22.3
22.3
21.4
25.7–26.3
22.7–23.8
22.0–23.5
21.8–22.9
21.8–22.9
20.8–22.1
3,221
372
141
772
255
167
Table 27: Mother’s separation anxiety by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Level of
separation
anxiety
Formal
Long day
care
Informal
Family day
care only or
with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Low
45.3
42.5–48.2
550
10.0
8.6–11.6
121
4.4
3.4–5.7
53
25.4
22.9–27.9
308
8.6
7.1–10.5
105
6.3
5.1–7.8
77
100
100
1,214
Medium
65.5
63.5–67.6
1,572
8.0
7.0–9.2
192
3.1
2.4–3.9
73
15.1
13.6–16.6
361
5.1
4.3–6.1
123
3.2
2.6–3.9
77
100
100
2,398
High
83.4
81.2–85.5
1,099
4.5
3.4–6.0
59
1.2
0.7–1.9
15
7.9
6.5–9.4
104
2.1
1.5–2.9
27
1.0
0.6–1.6
13
100
100
1,317
Total
65.4
63.8–66.9
3,221
7.6
6.8–8.4
372
2.9
2.4–3.4
141
15.7
14.6–16.8
773
5.2
4.5–5.9
255
3.4
2.9–3.9
167
100
100
4,929
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Mother’s social support
Mothers who reported receiving inadequate social support (from sources outside their home) were much less
likely than mothers reporting adequate support to have their infant cared for by a relative only (6.9 per cent
versus 18.1 per cent). Infants of mothers who reported inadequate social support were more likely than infants
of mothers with adequate social support to receive exclusive parental care and long day care only (Table 28).
Mothers reporting inadequate social support may have fewer friends and relatives that they can call upon for
assistance in caring for their infants and thus be more likely to use formal care arrangements like long day care
or to care for their infants exclusively themselves.
53
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 28: Mother’s social support by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Informal
Family day
Long day care only or
care only with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Gets enough
support
63.0
61.0–64.9
1,868
6.9
6.0–7.8
204
2.7
2.2–3.3
79
18.1
16.6–19.7
536
5.2
4.5–6.1
155
4.2
3.5–5.0
124
100
100
2,966
Does not get
enough support
70.4
67.7–73.0
687
10.9
9.2–12.8
106
3.3
2.4–4.5
32
6.9
5.5–8.6
67
6.4
4.9–8.3
62
2.2
1.5–3.2
22
100
100
976
Total
64.8
63.4–66.5
2,555
7.9
7.0–8.8
310
2.8
2.3–3.4
111
15.3
14.1–16.6
603
5.5
4.8–6.4
217
3.7
3.2–4.3
146
100
100
3,942
Social support
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy
Mothers with lower parenting self‑efficacy were more likely than mothers with higher parenting self‑efficacy to
use long day care centres for infant care (10.1 per cent versus 7.1 per cent). No other differences in type of care
use were noted (Table 29).
Table 29: Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Long day
care only
Informal
Family day
care only or
with long cay
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Higher
65.8
64.1–67.5
2,648
7.1
6.4–8.0
287
2.8
2.3–3.3
111
15.8
14.6–17.0
635
5.1
4.4–6.0
207
3.4
2.9–4.0
137
100
100
4,025
Lower
62.5
59.7–65.3
655
10.1
8.5–12.0
106
3.1
2.2–4.4
33
15.0
12.8–17.4
157
5.3
4.2–6.7
55
4.0
3.0–5.5
42
100
100
1,048
Total
65.1
63.6–66.6
3,303
7.8
7.0–8.6
393
2.8
2.4–3.4
144
15.6
14.5–16.7
792
5.2
4.5–5.9
262
3.5
3.1–4.1
179
100
100
5,073
Level of parenting
self‑efficacy
54
Formal
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
Mother’s parenting behaviour
Parenting behaviour was assessed by a composite measure combining maternal self‑report scales indexing
parental warmth and hostility (reversed). Higher scores indicate more positive parenting behaviour. Children
of mothers reporting more positive parenting behaviour (that is, more warmth and less hostility) were more
likely to provide exclusive parental care for their infants (66.1 per cent) and less likely to place their infants in
long day care centres (7.1 per cent) than mothers reporting less positive parenting behaviour (60.9 per cent and
10.6 per cent, respectively). Mothers reporting higher versus lower levels of positive parenting behaviour did
not differ in their use of family day care or informal relative and non‑relative care for their infants (Table 30).
Table 30: Mother’s parenting behaviour by type of care arrangement
Care arrangement
Parental
Exclusive
parental care
Formal
Long day
care only
Informal
Family day
care only or
with long day
care
Relative
only
Mixed
Non‑relative
Informal plus
only or with
formal
relative
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Higher
66.1
64.5–67.7
2,669
7.1
6.3–7.9
286
2.7
2.3–3.3
110
15.9
14.8–17.1
642
5.0
4.2–5.8
200
3.2
2.7–3.7
128
100
100
4,035
Lower
60.9
58.0–63.7
620
10.6
8.9–12.5
108
3.2
2.3–4.5
33
14.4
12.3–16.7
147
6.1
4.9–7.6
62
4.9
3.8–6.2
50
100
100
1,020
Total
65.1
63.5–66.6
3,289
7.8
7.1–8.6
394
2.8
2.4–3.4
143
15.6
14.5–16.8
789
5.2
4.5–6.0
262
3.5
3.1–4.1
178
100
100
5,055
Positive parenting
behaviour
Note:
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
4.5 Family/child/community characteristics by amount of care for
the infant cohort
In this section we present descriptive statistics showing relations between family, child and community
characteristics and the amount of non‑parental care experienced by the LSAC infants. The amount of care for
each infant was indexed by the total number of hours per week they regularly spent in care.
Family demographic characteristics
Mother’s age
The relationship between the number of hours infants spent in care and the age of the mother at the time
of the child’s birth was examined using Pearson’s correlation. Mother’s age correlated positively with the
average number of hours an infant spent in non‑parental care each week. Although significant, the relationship
between the two variables was not strong, r=0.09, p<0.01.
55
Child care and early education in Australia
Mother’s education
Infants with mothers who had more than a Year 12 education (trade certificate, diploma or university) spent, on
average, longer hours in care (Table 31). This longer time in care may be related to the longer working hours of
mothers with higher levels of education.
Table 31: Mother’s education by hours in care
Hours per week of care
Maternal education
Mean
95% CI
n
Year 10 or less
15.1
13.1–17.2
164
Year 11 or 12
15.0
13.7–16.2
281
Trade certificate or diploma
18.1
17.0–19.2
665
University
17.7
16.8–18.7
665
Mother’s employment status
There was a strong, statistically significant trend indicating that the more hours worked by the mother, the
more hours per week her infant spent in non‑parental child care (Table 32).
Table 32: Mother’s employment status by hours in care
Hours per week of care
Mother’s employment status
Mean
Full-time
35.3
33.8–36.8
293
Part-time
15.9
15.3–16.5
962
9.5
8.7–10.4
525
Not working
95% CI
n
Number of children in the household
Similar to the findings for type of care, the number of siblings or other children in the household where the
study child lived was an important factor in the amount of care received. Weekly hours of care decreased as
the number of siblings/other children increased. The difference in mean hours of care per week for infants
only (18.3 hours) versus infants with three or more siblings/other children in the household (15.1 hours) was
significant (Table 33). Families with more children may use less child care because mothers are less likely to be
employed, and the increasing cost of care with multiple children may also be a factor.
Table 33: Number of children in household by hours in care
Hours per week of care
Number of children
56
n
Mean
95% CI
1
18.3
17.4–19.1
802
2
17.0
15.9–18.1
657
3
14.9
13.4–16.4
222
4 or more
15.1
12.5–17.7
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
Family finances
Weekly household income
As weekly household income increased, so did hours of infant non‑parental care. Infants from families in
the two lowest income categories had significantly fewer hours in care than infants from families in the two
highest categories (Table 34). Families with higher incomes are likely to have parents working longer hours,
who both need care for their children and have the financial capacity to pay for that care.
Table 34: Weekly household income by hours in care
Hours per week of care
Weekly household income ($)
n
Mean
95% CI
Less than 600
13.3
11.6–15.1
245
600–999
13.3
12.1–14.5
363
1,000–1,499
17.3
16.1–18.4
483
1,500–1,999
19.4
17.9–20.9
306
More than 2,000
22.2
20.7–23.7
309
Financial stress
Financial stress was not related to the mean number of hours infants spent in non‑parental care each week
(Table 35).
Table 35: Number of financial stresses by hours in care
Hours per week of care
Number of financial stresses
n
Mean
95% CI
None
17.8
17.0–18.6
1,024
1 or 2
16.0
14.9–17.0
554
3 or more
17.4
15.5–19.3
191
Community characteristics
SEIFA index
The correlation between the community rating of disadvantage (SEIFA index) and the hours an infant spent in
care was examined. There was no significant correlation between the two measures.
Child demographic characteristics
Child’s age
Correlation statistics were used to assess the relation between child’s age and hours in care, both as
continuous variables. The result indicated that as infants increased in age, they were more likely to spend
longer hours in care, r=0.09, p<0.01. Infants older than 52 weeks spent more hours in care each week than
younger infants (Table 36), presumably because their mothers were more likely to be employed for longer
hours.
57
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 36: Child’s age by hours in care
Hours per week of care
Child’s age (weeks)
Mean
95% CI
n
26 and younger
15.2
12.4–17.9
102
27 to 39
16.3
15.2–17.4
545
40 to 52
17.0
16.1–17.9
728
Older than 52
19.2
17.9–20.6
408
Child’s sex
There was no difference between male and female infants in the average number of hours per week spent in
care (Table 37).
Table 37: Child’s sex by hours in care
Hours per week of care
Child’s sex
Mean
95% CI
n
Male
17.2
16.3–18.0
918
Female
17.2
16.3–18.1
863
Child’s Indigenous status
There was no difference in the number of hours infants spent in care each week based on Indigenous status
(Table 38). This result should be interpreted cautiously, however, due to the small number of Indigenous
infants in care in the LSAC sample.
Table 38: Child’s Indigenous status by hours in care
Hours per week of care
Mean
95% CI
n
Indigenous
16.5
12.8–20.3
65
Non‑Indigenous
17.2
16.6–17.9
1,716
Child’s Indigenous status
Language other than English spoken at home
Infants living in a LOTE household had longer hours of care than infants in English‑only speaking homes
(Table 39).
Table 39: Language spoken at home by hours in care
Hours per week of care
Language spoken at home
58
Mean
95% CI
English only
16.4
15.8–17.0
1,493
Other language
21.5
19.2–23.7
259
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
n
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
Lone‑parent versus couple family
If the primary carer indicated he or she had no partner living in the household at the time of the interview,
the family was identified as being a lone‑parent family. Family type (lone versus couple) was not a significant
factor in the average number of hours per week infants spent in non‑parental child care (Table 40).
Table 40: Family type by hours in care
Hours per week of care
n
Family type
Mean
95% CI
Lone parent
17.0
14.8–19.2
171
Couple
17.2
16.6–17.9
1,596
Mother’s psychological adjustment, social support and parenting
Mother’s psychological distress
Infants of mothers higher in psychological distress did not differ in the number of hours spent in care from
infants of mothers lower in psychological distress (Table 41).
Table 41: Mother’s psychological distress by hours in care
Hours per week of care
Level of psychological distress
Mean
95% CI
n
Low
16.6
15.8–17.3
1,223
High
17.6
16.0–19.2
248
Mother’s separation anxiety
There was a significant but very weak negative relationship between mothers’ separation anxiety and the
hours an infant spent in care. As level of mothers’ separation anxiety increased, the number of hours infants
spent in care decreased. The correlation between hours in care and mothers’ separation anxiety was: r=–0.08,
p<0.01.
Mother’s social support
Infants of mothers who received adequate support did not differ from infants of mothers who did not get
enough support in terms of the hours they spent in care (Table 42).
Table 42: Mother’s social support by hours in care
Hours per week of care
Social support
Mean
95% CI
n
Gets enough support
16.5
15.7–17.3
1,098
Does not get enough support
16.9
15.4–18.4
289
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy
Infants of mothers with lower parenting self‑efficacy did not differ from infants of mothers with higher
self‑efficacy in terms of the hours they spent in care (Table 43).
59
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 43: Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy by hours in care
Hours per week of care
Level of parenting self‑efficacy
Mean
95% CI
n
Higher
16.9
16.2–17.5
1,376
Lower
18.1
16.7–19.6
393
Mother’s parenting behaviour
Infants of mothers with higher versus lower levels of positive parenting behaviour did not differ in the number
of hours they spent in non‑parental care (Table 44).
Table 44: Mother’s parenting behaviour by hours of care
Hours per week of care
Positive parenting behaviour
Mean
95% CI
n
Higher
17.4
16.6–18.1
1,367
Lower
16.2
14.8–17.6
399
4.6Discussion
The findings presented in this chapter have identified clusters of characteristics differentiating families whose
infants attended non‑parental child care from families whose infants experienced exclusive parental care.
While these findings are useful in pointing out directions for further investigation, it is important to note that
the results are based on bivariate relationships which do not take account of other, possibly confounding,
effects. Any specific causal interpretations would need to be tested with statistics that control for possible
confounding variables.
Mothers with infants in child care were more likely to be in the workforce and, therefore, to need alternate care
arrangements for their infants. Families of infants who received non‑parental child care were also more likely to
be economically advantaged, with higher weekly household incomes, no indices of financial distress and living
in relatively advantaged communities. Thus, users of infant child care appeared to be families who were more
able to afford paid care, or who had access to child care services, including family members who could provide
care.
In contrast, families of infants receiving exclusive parental care were more likely to have larger numbers
of children living in the household and infants younger in age, and to come from cultural groups (that is,
Indigenous and LOTE) either economically less advantaged or perhaps with cultural values supporting
exclusive parental care for their infants.
Mothers of infants in exclusive parental care were also more likely to report higher levels of anxiety about
being separated from their infant, which may have led them to be less comfortable with entrusting their
infant’s care to anyone other than themselves or the infant’s father. Furthermore, mothers of infants in
exclusive parental care reported receiving lower levels of social support, suggesting they may have less access
to informal care providers than mothers reporting higher levels of social support.
Lone‑parent families were no more likely than couple families to use non‑parental care for their infants. Girls
and boys were also equally likely to attend non‑parental care.
Within the group of infants receiving child care, families using long day care centres or non‑relative care
(such as nannies) were identified by characteristics associated with the ability to afford these forms of care,
60
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family/child/community characteristics and patterns of care for the infant cohort
including higher levels of maternal employment, higher maternal education and higher weekly household
income. Family users of these forms of child care also resided in more advantaged communities, where such
services were likely to be available.
Families using relatives to care for their infants were identified by a different cluster of characteristics. Mothers
in these families were more likely to be younger, to have only one child, to be employed part‑time (rather than
full‑time) and to report adequate levels of social support. Most care by relatives was provided by the study
infants’ grandparents, who appear to be a strong source of support for younger mothers with their first infant
who are working part‑time.
61
Child care and early education in Australia
62
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Patterns of care and early education for the child cohort
5 Patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
5.1 Introduction
By the time Australian children reach 4 to 5 years of age, most have attended a formal long day care centre
or an early education setting, such as preschool. Depending on the state or territory where the family lives,
preschool may be provided within the school sector. State and territory policies account for differences in the
age that children are able to enter a formal pre‑Year 1 program at school. This section answers the following
questions:
What
At
proportion of 4 to 5 year‑old children attend child care and early education settings (including school)?
what age do children typically start to attend non‑parental child care or early education programs?
What
How
types of child care and early education settings do children attend?
much time do children spend in these settings?
How
many different child care and early education settings do children
attend concurrently?
Why
Are
do parents use child care/early education for their children?
parents satisfied with the child care and early education their children receive?
5.2Section summary
This section presents descriptive information provided by parents on the non‑parental child care and early
education experiences of their 4 to 5 year‑old children. Selected findings highlighted include:
Almost
all 4 to 5 year olds (96.3 per cent) were attending some type of child care or education service each
week, with the vast majority (95.1 per cent) receiving a formal centre or school‑based early childhood program.
Just over half the children (54.6 per cent) attended preschool, one‑half of which were provided in a school and
one‑half in settings outside the school system. Just under one‑quarter (23.9 per cent) attended a long day care
centre and 16.5 per cent were in their first year (pre‑Year 1) of formal school.
A
substantial proportion (37.2 per cent) of children attended child care/early education additional to
their main early childhood program. The most common pattern was to add an informal care arrangement
with a relative (24.4 per cent). The rest (12.8 per cent) used an additional formal care/education service,
such as preschool, long day care centre, family day care, or outside school hours care. Children receiving
multiple care/education typically attended two settings each week (28.7 per cent), but some attended three
(6.0 per cent), and small proportion attended four or more (1.1 per cent).
The
majority of parents (69.7 per cent) who used additional care beyond their main care/education
arrangement did so to meet their work or study needs.
In
terms of children’s child care history, almost one‑quarter (24.2 per cent) of children had started some kind
of non‑parental child care/early education before they were 1 year of age. The proportion attending these
63
Child care and early education in Australia
services increased to 59.4 per cent before 3 years of age and 80.0 per cent before age 4. The remaining
20.0 per cent of children had entered a care/education setting after the age 4 years.
Children
attending preschool programs only had the shortest hours of care/education each week
(12.3 to 13.7 hours), while children attending school‑based pre‑Year 1 programs or long day care centres with
additional care arrangements had the longest weekly hours of care/education (32.2 to 33.9 hours). Children
attending long day care only had an intermediate number of hours each week (22.0 hours), which was similar
to children attending preschool programs with additional care (24.4 to 26.0 hours).
Most
parents reported being ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with their main care/education arrangement and
there was little variation in level of satisfaction across the different care/education settings.
5.3Overview of analytic approach
Defining non‑parental child care and early childhood education
This report defines non‑parental child care and early childhood education as any regular formal or informal
child care or early education service provided by people other than the child’s parent(s), excluding casual or
occasional babysitting. To identify the children receiving an early childhood education program, the primary
carer is first asked: ‘Does child go to a school, kindergarten, preschool or a day care centre?’ This is followed
by a question on additional forms of care: ‘Apart from (the school or preschool program we have discussed)
has child been looked after at regular times during the week by anyone other than you (or partner) over the
past one month?’ The parent(s) is defined as the mother and/or father with whom the child generally lives,
as well a parent living elsewhere who has ongoing regular contact with the study child. Preliminary work was
undertaken to identify when care was provided by a parent living elsewhere to remove this category from the
analysis of children’s child care/early education.
Early childhood education and care for 4 to 5 year‑old children can be accessed through schools,
preschool/kindergarten settings, or long day care centres. Each state and territory provides some preschool
programs for 4 to 5 year‑old children in the year before they enter school. Additional child care provisions
include formal government‑regulated long day care centres, family day care, as well as outside school hours
care programs for children attending school. Child care also comprises informal non‑regulated home‑based
care from relatives and non‑relatives, as well as occasional child care or care provided by a gym, leisure centre
or community centre.
Statistical analyses and measures
This section presents descriptive data on the type, patterns, amount and stability of non‑parental care and
early education received by the LSAC children, and parents’ reasons for, and satisfaction with, their child’s
care/education arrangements.
Type and patterns of care were described using categories derived from preliminary analyses of primary
carer reported data on the child’s main early childhood education and care arrangement (pre‑Year 1 program,
preschool, day care centre) and up to three additional care/education arrangements.
Amount of care/education was described in terms of total hours per week and number of days per week in the
main care/education arrangement, and total hours per week across the main care/education arrangement and
up to three additional arrangements.
Stability of care was described in terms of the number of different care/education arrangements children
attended each week, as well as the mean number of care/education arrangements attended per year since
birth. This latter measure was computed from the reported total number of different care arrangements a child
attended since birth, adjusted for the age of the child. Age adjustments were necessary because of the wide
age range of the LSAC child cohort (51 to 67 months).
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Patterns of care and early education for the child cohort
Parents’ reasons for using child care additional to their main care/education arrangement were assessed
by asking: ‘What is the main reason why child is using (other) regular child care arrangements at present?’
Responses were coded according to 12 predefined categories that included five reasons indexing needs of
the parent (for example, parents’ work or study commitments), six reasons indexing benefits to the child (for
example, good for child’s social development), and a non‑specific ‘other’ category. Satisfaction with care was
measured for the main care/education arrangement only using a single item: ‘How satisfied are you with this
(school/kindergarten/preschool/day care)?’ rated on a five‑point Likert scale ranging from 1=very satisfied to
5=very dissatisfied.
5.4Type, combinations, amount and stability of care and early
education for the child cohort
Number of children in care/education
The vast majority of 4 to 5 year olds (96.3 per cent) were attending some type of child care or early education
service (including school) each week. The next subsection reports types of care/early education for the main
setting and for combinations of child care and education across single or multiple settings.
Child care history: age of first entry into care
Parents were asked to report how old their child was when he or she first attended a child care or early
education setting. Close to one‑quarter (24.2 per cent) of children were reported to have first entered care
before 1 year of age and 59.4 per cent attended some form of child care before 3 years of age. For 20.0 per cent
of the child cohort, their first experience of care/education was not until at least 4 years of age (Table 45).
The percentage of the 4 to 5 year‑old child cohort reported as entering care before 1 year of age (24.2 per cent)
is considerably lower than the 47.5 per cent of infants who were 12 months or older at the time of the interview
and had attended non‑parental care prior to the age of 12 months. This finding represents an important
distinction between the infant and child cohorts of LSAC. However, it should be noted that the data for the
child cohort was reported retrospectively and the accuracy of these reports is difficult to determine.
Table 45: Age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement
Age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement (years)
<1
%
95% CI
n
1 to <2
2 to <3
3 to <4
24.2
18.0
17.2
20.6
20.0
100
23.0–25.5
17.0–19.1
16.1–18.5
19.5–21.7
18.5–21.5
100
1,170
870
831
993
964
4,828
4+
Total
Current type of care/education attended
LSAC asks about all regular weekly care/education received by the study child. Information was gathered on
the main centre‑based child care or early childhood education arrangement and up to three additional regular
care/education arrangements per week. Care/education categories were predefined and included school‑based
pre‑Year 1 programs (prep, kindergarten, reception, transition, or pre‑primary), preschool programs in school
settings or not in a school, long day care centres with or without preschool programs, before and after school
care programs, and family day care homes. Care also included informal, non‑regulated care by relatives
(including grandparents and other relatives) and non‑relatives (including a nanny or other person such as
a friend or neighbour). Informal care also included occasional child care centres or care provided by a gym,
leisure centre or community centre.
65
Child care and early education in Australia
Main care/education arrangement
Parents were asked whether their child attended a school, preschool, kindergarten or day care centre. The
most common setting was preschool (54.6 per cent, made up of 27.9 per cent in a school‑based preschool
and 26.7 per cent in a preschool not in a school setting). About one‑quarter of children (23.9 per cent) were
attending a long day care centre as their main care/early education arrangement and 16.5 per cent had started
a pre‑Year 1 school program. Only 4.9 per cent of the children did not attend any formal centre or school‑based
based setting and, of these, 1.2 per cent were in home‑based family day care or informal care settings and
3.7 per cent were in exclusive parental care (Table 46).
Table 46: Main care/education arrangement
Main care/education arrangement
n
%
Exclusive parental care
186
3.7
59
1.2
822
16.5
Preschool (in a school)
1,390
27.9
Preschool (outside a school)
1,332
26.7
Long day care centre
1,193
23.9
Family day care or informal care
Pre‑Year 1 (in school)
Total
Note:
4,982
100
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Teachers in centre and school‑based settings were asked to provide information on the
administrative/organisational basis under which the program operates. For all school‑based programs:
76.0 per cent (n=1,097) were located in state or territory government schools; 11.6 per cent (n=168) were in
Catholic schools; and 12.3 per cent (n=178) were within the Independent schools system. For preschool located
within a school: 81.7 per cent (n=709) were in government schools; 9.2 per cent (n=80) were in Catholic
schools; and 9.1 per cent (n=79) were in Independent schools. For care/education programs in settings not in
a school: 65.6 per cent (n=1,042) were administered by non‑profit organisations such as local government,
religious faiths, community‑based groups and education institutions; 25.4 per cent (n=404) were for‑profit,
being a private or franchised centre or a commercial child care chain; the remaining 9.0 per cent identified as
being employer‑sponsored (n=72) or ‘other’ (n=71).
Combinations of main and other care/education
A total of 37.2 per cent of the LSAC child cohort attended care/education services additional to the main centre
or school‑based setting indicated above. The following tables (Tables 47, 48 and 49) set out the groupings
used to describe the combinations of care settings for all children in the sample.
Table 47 gives a comprehensive breakdown of main and other care/education arrangements attended by the
children. The first two rows refer to children who did not receive any centre or school‑based care/education.
The next four rows identify children who attended a single arrangement in one of the four main centre or
school‑based care/education settings. The next eight rows describe the most common groupings for multiple
arrangements. These include each of the four main settings with additional care/education either in a formal
setting (preschool, long day care, family day care, outside school hours care) or in an informal setting (relatives
or non‑relatives). Where children attended more than two arrangements per week, comprising formal and
informal settings (mixed formal and informal), they were included with the appropriate formal (pre‑Year 1,
preschool, long day care) plus informal group. The defining characteristic is that these children received a
centre‑based care/education program plus additional informal care.
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Patterns of care and early education for the child cohort
Where children were attending two or more care/education settings, the most common pattern was to add an
informal care arrangement with a relative or non‑relative to the main centre or school‑based care/education
arrangement.
Table 47: Combinations of care/education settings
Combinations of care/education arrangements—14 categories
n
%
186
3.7
59
1.2
Pre‑Year 1 only
545
10.9
Preschool in school only
798
16.0
Preschool not in a school only
797
16.0
Long day care centre only
742
14.9
92
1.9
Pre‑Year 1 plus other informal care with/without formal care/education
185
3.7
Preschool in school plus other formal care/education
227
4.6
Preschool in school plus other informal care with/without formal care/education
365
7.3
Preschool not in a school plus other formal care/education
150
3.0
Preschool not in a school plus other informal care with/without formal care/
education
385
7.7
Long day care plus other formal care/education
166
3.3
Long day care plus other informal care with/without formal care/education
284
5.7
No centre or school‑based care/education
Exclusive parental care
Family day care or informal
Single setting
Multiple settings
Pre‑Year 1 plus other formal care/education
Total
Note:
4,982
100
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
The 14 categories describing no centre or school‑based care, single and multiple care/education arrangements
were simplified to generate eight categories (Table 48). These describe children:
who
in
did not attend centre or school‑based care/education (4.9 per cent)
pre‑Year 1 school programs with or without additional before or after school care (16.5 per cent)
attending
preschool in a school, as a single arrangement (16.0 per cent) and with additional care/education
arrangements (11.9 per cent)
attending
a preschool not in a school, as a single arrangement (16 per cent) and with additional
care/education arrangements (10.7 per cent)
attending
a long day care centre, as a single arrangement (14.9 per cent) and with additional care/education
arrangements (9.0 per cent).
These eight groups are used in all further analyses of care/education type.
67
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 48: Combinations of care/education settings
Combinations of care/education arrangements—eight categories
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Pre‑Year 1 only
centre or
With other
With other
With other
Preschool
Preschool
Long day
or with
school‑based
care/
care/
care/
other care/
only
only
care only
education
education
education
care/
education
education
Total
n
245
822
798
592
797
535
742
450
4,982
%
4.9
16.5
16.0
11.9
16.0
10.7
14.9
9.0
100
Note:
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Current amount of care/education received each week
Hours per week in care/education
Parents were asked to report the number of hours per week a child attended each care/education arrangement.
These were summed to estimate the mean number of hours per week the child spent across the different
care/education arrangements. Children attending preschool programs only had the shortest hours of
care/education each week (preschool in a school: 13.7 hours; preschool not in a school: 12.3 hours), while
children attending pre‑Year 1 programs or long day care centres with additional care arrangements had the
longest mean hours of care/education each week (32.2 hours and 33.9 hours, respectively). Children attending
a single long day care centre spent an intermediate number of hours in care/education each week (22.0 hours),
which was similar to children attending preschool programs with additional care (range=24.4 to 26.0 hours)
(Table 49).
Table 49: Hours per week spent in care/education arrangements
Combinations of care/education arrangements
Pre‑Year 1
Pre‑Year 1 only
or with
other care/
education
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a school
Preschool
only
With other
care/
education
Preschool
only
With other
care/
education
Long day care
Long day care
only
With other
care/
education
Mean
(hours)
32.2
13.7
26.0
12.3
24.4
22.0
33.9
95% CI
31.6–32.8
13.3–14.1
25.2–26.8
12.0–12.6
23.4–25.3
21.0–22.9
32.5–35.4
Length of time in main care/ education arrangement (months)
Parents were asked: ‘How long has child been at this (school/kindergarten/preschool/day care centre)?’ On
average, children had been attending a school‑based program (either pre‑Year 1 or preschool) for about half
a year (4.6 and 6.6 months, respectively) (Table 50). In contrast, children in preschools not in a school setting
had attended the program for close to one year (11.2 months). Children in long day care centres had been
attending for the longest period, that is, close to two years (23.4 months). It is important to note that this
data refers to the child’s current main care/education arrangement, and it is possible that children currently
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Patterns of care and early education for the child cohort
in pre‑Year 1 or preschool programs may have attended a different preschool or long day care program in their
earlier years.
Table 50: Length of time in main care/education arrangement (months)
Main care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Mean (months)
95% CI
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
4.6
6.6
11.2
23.4
4.2–5.0
6.3–7.0
10.7–11.7
22.6–24.2
Parent satisfaction with main care/education arrangement
Parents were asked how satisfied they were with the main care/education arrangement their child was
attending. Ratings were done on a five‑point scale ranging from 1 (very satisfied) to 5 (very dissatisfied). In
general, parents reported being ‘very satisfied’ (1) or ‘satisfied’ (2) with their child’s main care/education
arrangement. Average levels of satisfaction were very similar across all care/education settings (Table 51).
Table 51: Parent satisfaction with child’s main care/education arrangement
Main care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Mean
95% CI
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
1.4
1.4
1.4
1.5
1.4–1.5
1.4–1.5
1.4–1.4
1.4–1.5
Stability of care/education
Multiple care/education arrangements
Parents were asked ‘How many types of regular care arrangements does child have per week in total, including
any school or preschool/kindergarten?’ Most children were attending only one care/education arrangement
(60.5 per cent), but a sizable proportion were in two or more arrangements (35.8 per cent). Two care/education
arrangements was the most common experience of multiplicity, but some children attended three, four or five
arrangements a week (Table 52).
Table 52: Number of current regular care/education arrangements a week
n
%
0
186
3.7
1
3,015
60.5
2
1,431
28.7
3
297
6.0
4
43
0.9
5
9
0.2
Number of weekly care/education arrangements
Total
Note:
4,982
100
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals.
69
Child care and early education in Australia
Changes in care/education
Stability of care can also be indexed by the number of changes in care arrangements children experience over
time. Parents were asked: ‘In total, how many different regular arrangements have you used for child since
birth?’ The total was adjusted for the age of the child to yield a measure of stability computed as the number of
care arrangements attended per year since birth. The mean number of care/education arrangements attended
per year since birth was 0.42, indicating considerable stability of care for most children in the 4 to 5 year‑old
cohort (Figure 4). However, this measure of stability will be influenced by the age of the child at the time of
the LSAC interview and also by the age at which the child first started care. It is important also to note that for
the child cohort, all reports of the number of care arrangements since birth are retrospective accounts and the
accuracy of these reports is difficult to determine.
Figure 4: Number of care/education arrangements per year (since birth)
2000.00
Frequency
1500.00
1000.00
500.00
0.00
0.00
1.00
2.00
3.00
4.00
5.00
Number of care settings per year
Mean=0.4235
Standard deviation=0.24747
N=4,982
Parents’ reasons for using additional care/education arrangements
Parents of 4 to 5 year‑old children using more than one care/education arrangement a week were asked:
‘What is the main reason why child is using (other) regular child care arrangements at present?’ Responses
were coded according to 12 predefined categories (Table 53). The majority of parents (69.7 per cent) who used
additional care said they used this to meet work or study needs, enhance the child’s social development with
peers (8.6 per cent) or establish relationships with grandparents or another relative (4.2 per cent).
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Patterns of care and early education for the child cohort
Table 53: Reasons for using additional care/education
Reasons for using additional care/education
n
%
Parent need
Because of parents’ work or study
1,269
69.7
Because of parents’ sport and so on
102
5.6
To give parent a break or time alone
100
5.5
7
0.4
14
0.8
1,492
81.8
It is good for child’s social development
117
6.4
To establish relationships with grandparents or other relative
77
4.2
To mix with other children of same age
41
2.2
It is good for child’s intellectual development
35
1.9
Respite care for the child
6
0.3
Other for child’s benefit
21
1.1
297
16.3
34
1.0
Parents’ own/other health needs
Other for parents’ benefit
Subtotal
Child benefit
Subtotal
Other unspecified
Total
Note:
1,823
100
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
5.5Discussion
The vast majority (95.1 per cent) of the LSAC 4 to 5 year‑old children were attending a centre or school‑based
child care or early education service. Due to the age range of the children in the study, some were old enough
to attend a pre‑Year 1 program at school (16.5 per cent). The majority were attending preschool (54.6 per cent),
almost equally divided between preschool programs in school and not in a school setting. The remaining
children in the sample either attended long day care centres (23.9 per cent), or were not currently attending
any large group, centre‑based care or education arrangements (4.9 per cent). Based on the literature, we
would expect that attending an early education program in a preschool or long day care centre would enhance
children’s cognitive development and facilitate their performance in their transition to school. Concomitantly,
we would expect that children without this formal educational experience may find the transition to school
more challenging. We will address these issues in our analyses of child outcomes in Section 8.
Parents reported that most children (60.5 per cent) were attending only one care/education setting each week
and that there had been relatively few changes in the child’s care/education arrangements since birth. This
trend towards stable care/education arrangements should help support children’s adaptation and learning. It
is important to note, however, that LSAC does not ascertain the degree of stability of care within each setting,
which is affected, for example, by staff changes in a centre or by children being moved from one room to
another.
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Child care and early education in Australia
As with the infant cohort, many parents of 4 to 5 year olds used more than one care/education arrangement
to fulfil their work or study commitments. The perceived benefits for the child, when noted by parents, tended
to focus on children’s social development. Parents reported that the additional care arrangements enhanced
their child’s social competence with peers or provided the opportunity for their child to establish stronger
relationships with grandparents or other relatives. Such relationships are likely to be beneficial for the child
and the parents who benefit from the support extended family relationships provide.
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
6 Family, child and community
characteristics and patterns of care
and early education for the child
cohort
6.1 Introduction
This section explores relations between family, child and community characteristics and the patterns of
non‑parental child care and early education identified for the 4 to 5 year‑old cohort. The purpose of these
bivariate analyses is to identify factors that may explain differences in children’s care/education arrangements.
The range of variables investigated is the same as for the infant cohort (reported on in Section 4). These
include family demographic characteristics, indices of family finances, community characteristics, child
demographic characteristics and indices of maternal adjustment, social support and parenting.
6.2Section summary
This section provides information on relations between family, child and community characteristics and
patterns of non‑parental child care and early education for the LSAC children. Selected findings include:
On
average, 95.1 per cent of the 4 to 5 year‑old children participating in LSAC attended some form of centre
or school‑based child care or early education service, but this proportion ranged from 88.7 per cent to
98.4 per cent depending on the child’s characteristics and his or her family and community circumstances.
The
proportion of children who attended a centre or school‑based care/education service was lower: for
children who were younger, Indigenous, or from a lone‑parent family or a family speaking a language other
than English in the home; for families with larger numbers of children living in the household, a lower weekly
income, higher levels of financial stress, or living in more economically disadvantaged areas (as identified by
a low SEIFA index); and for mothers who reported higher levels of psychological distress and reported poorer
parenting behaviour.
Children
of employed mothers were more likely to attend care/education arrangements for longer hours
per week (for example, long day care centres or preschools plus other additional care/education arrangement).
Children
from less economically advantaged families were more likely to attend care/education settings in the
public sector that are provided for lower (or no) cost, such as pre‑Year 1 and preschool programs in a school
setting.
Children
from more economically advantaged families were more likely to attend more costly care/education
settings, such as a preschools not in a school setting.
More
girls than boys were attending pre‑Year 1.
The
number of hours per week children spent in care/education arrangements was higher for children whose
mothers were employed and more highly educated, and whose families had higher household incomes and
fewer children.
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Child care and early education in Australia
Children
from lone‑parent families and families speaking a language other than English in the home were also
more likely to receive longer hours of care/education.
Differences
in mother‑reported psychological adjustment, social support and parenting appeared to show
little relation to the type of care/education arrangement or to the number of hours per week the child spent
in care/education.
6.3Overview of analytic approach
This section presents tables describing relations between children’s child care/early education arrangements
and characteristics of families, children and communities, as follows:
Family demographic characteristics were mother’s age, education, employment status and the number of
children in the household.
Family finances were described by weekly household income and a specific index of family financial stress.
Community characteristics were described by the SEIFA index (ABS 2001), which assesses the level of
disadvantage of the community in which the family resides.
Child demographic characteristics included the age and sex of the study child and whether the study child was
of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background (Indigenous status), was exposed to a language other than
English in the home or was living in a lone‑parent family.
Mother’s psychological adjustment, social support and parenting were indexed by measures of psychological
distress, social support, parenting self‑efficacy and parenting behaviour.
All measures of these constructs for the child cohort were the same as those for the infant cohort (Section 4.3),
except for the composite measure of parenting behaviour, which included different age appropriate items for
the hostile parenting component (for example, ‘Of all the times you talk to this child about his/her behaviour,
how often is this disapproval?’) as well as items assessing consistent parenting (for example, ‘When you give
this child an instruction or make a request to do something, how often do you make sure that he/she does it?’).
The parenting composite for the child cohort was constructed by combining measures of parenting warmth,
parenting hostility and consistent parenting, with higher scores indicating more positive parenting behaviour
(that is, more warmth, less hostility, more consistency). The resulting distribution was highly skewed and
could not distinguish between cases at the upper end of the scales (most parents showed positive parenting
behaviours). The measure was, therefore, transformed into a dichotomous variable, with parents in the bottom
20 per cent of the distribution falling in the ‘lower’ category and the rest of the population being labelled
‘higher’.
Analysis plan. Each of the family, child and community characteristics were examined against the eight broad
categories describing types of non‑parental child care/early education arrangements: no centre‑based care
or exclusive parental care; pre‑Year 1 only or with other care; preschool in a school only; preschool in a school
with other care; preschool not in a school only; preschool not in a school with other care; long day care only;
long day care with other care. Results are presented in a series of tables, which report figures for the number
of respondents for whom data were available. Because missing data were not included in these tables, there
are variations in the total sample size reported for each table. Significant differences between mean values are
noted when of interest, with the criteria for significance being the non‑overlap of their respective 95 per cent
confidence intervals (95% CI).
Following this, analyses were repeated using a continuous measure of the amount of care received—that is,
hours per week in care.
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
6.4 Family, child and community characteristics by type of care and
early education for the child cohort
A question of policy interest in LSAC is: What factors determine which children attend non‑parental child
care and early education settings and the type of arrangements their parents provide? This section presents
descriptive statistics looking at relations between family, child and community characteristics and the
non‑parental child care and early education experiences of the LSAC children.
Family demographic characteristics
Mother’s age
Children with mothers younger than 25 years were more likely to attend a pre‑Year 1 program (19.9 per cent)
than children with mothers aged 25 to 34 (15.6 per cent), and more likely to attend only a preschool in a school
setting (18.7 per cent) than children with mothers aged 35 years and over (13.7 per cent). They were also less
likely to attend a preschool not in a school setting with other care (6.9 per cent) than children with mothers
older than 25 (25 to 34 years=11.6 per cent, 35 years and over=11.1 per cent) (Table 54). These results with
respect to preschool attendance are consistent with younger mothers accessing care/education settings that
provide shorter hours of care, as well as those that are less costly (that is, pre‑Year 1 and preschool in a school
setting). This may be related to the employment and economic characteristics of these younger mothers.
Table 54: Mother’s age at time of child birth by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a
school
Preschool not in a
school
Not in
Precentre or
With other
With other
Year 1 only
schoolPreschool
Preschool
or with
care/
care/
based
only
only
education
education
other care/
care/
education
education
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Long day
care only
With other
care/
education
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
11.8
13.5
9.6–14.4 11.0–16.4
94
107
6.9
5.2–9.0
55
14.8
12.2–17.8
118
8.3
6.6–10.5
66
4.6
3.9–5.4
146
15.6
16.1
11.9
16.0
11.6
14.4–17.0 14.8–17.6 10.8–12.9 14.6–17.5 10.4–12.9
501
517
380
513
371
15.0
13.7–16.3
479
9.3
100
8.2–10.4
100
296 3,203
35 and
above
5.0
3.9–6.5
47
16.5
13.7
12.2
18.2
14.3–19.0 11.8–15.7 10.5–14.2 16.0–20.5
153
127
113
169
11.1
9.1–13.5
103
14.3
12.3–16.6
133
9.0
7.4–10.9
84
Total
4.9
4.3–5.6
242
16.5
16.1
11.9
16.0
15.4–17.6 15.0–17.3 11.0–12.9 14.8–17.3
813
793
588
789
10.7
9.8–11.8
529
14.8
13.7–16.0
730
9.1
100
8.1–10.1
100
446 4,928
Mother’s
age (years)
%
95% CI
n
Younger
than 25
6.1
19.9
18.7
4.5–8.2 17.2–22.9 16.1–21.8
49
159
149
25 to 34
Note:
%
95% CI
n
Long day care
100
100
797
100
100
929
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
75
Child care and early education in Australia
Mother’s education
Broadly speaking, a higher level of maternal education was associated with less likelihood of a child receiving
exclusive parental care or receiving no centre or school‑based care/education. The difference was greatest
between university‑educated mothers (1.8 per cent) and Year 10 or less educated mothers (8.7 per cent).
Children of mothers with a university education were represented in higher proportion in categories associated
with longer hours of care/education (such as preschool not in a school with other care (14.7 per cent) and long
day care in conjunction with other care (11.0 per cent) compared to mothers with Year 10 or less education
(6.6 and 6.9 per cent, respectively) (Table 55).
It is interesting to note that where differences in care/education use were found, these were with arrangements
associated with longer hours of care (typically a formal care/education arrangement in combination
with informal care), with more highly educated mothers using arrangements providing longer hours of
care/education for their children. However, there was one care/education arrangement where the difference
in use favoured children of mothers with lower levels of education. Specifically, children of mothers with less
education were more likely to attend a preschool in a school setting (Year 10 or less education: 23.2 per cent;
Year 11 to 12 education: 19.4 per cent) than were children of mothers with an education beyond secondary
school (trade certificate or diploma: 15.1 percent; university: 11.5 per cent). This pattern of care/early education
is likely due to school‑based preschool programs settings (where available) being located within the public
sector and provided at a very low (or free) cost to families.
Table 55: Mother’s education by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Precentre or
Year 1 only
With other
With other
With other
Preschool
Preschool
Long day
schoolor with
care/
care/
care/
based
only
only
care only
education
education
education
other care/
care/
education
education
Mother’s
education
%
95% CI
n
Year 10 or
less
8.7
7.0–10.7
79
Year 11 or
12
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
9.9
15.9
7.9–12.3 13.4–18.6
90
144
6.6
14.3
5.1–8.5 12.1–16.7
60
130
6.9
5.2–8.9
62
100
100
907
4.9
3.7–6.4
48
13.0
19.4
13.9
18.0
10.9–15.3 17.2–21.9 11.8–16.2 15.7–20.4
130
194
139
179
10.9
11.8
9.0–13.2 10.1–13.9
109
118
8.2
6.8–9.9
82
100
100
1,000
Trade
certificate
or diploma
5.1
4.2–6.2
93
16.6
15.1
11.9
15.0
15.0–18.5 13.7–16.7 10.5–13.5 13.3–17.0
301
274
216
272
10.2
16.6
8.8–11.7 14.8–18.5
184
300
9.4
8.0–10.9
170
100
100
1,809
University
1.8
18.3
11.5
11.8
15.9
14.7
15.0
1.3–2.6 16.2–20.5 10.0–13.2 10.3–13.5 14.1–17.9 12.7–16.8 13.3–17.0
22
219
139
141
191
176
181
11.0
9.4–12.9
133
100
100
1,202
Total
4.9
4.3–5.6
242
9.1
8.2–10.1
446
100
100
4,918
Note:
76
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
17.6
23.3
15.1–20.4 17.6–23.3
159
184
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
16.5
16.1
11.9
16.0
15.4–17.6 15.0–17.2 11.0–12.9 14.8–17.3
809
791
586
787
%
95% CI
N
Total
10.8
14.8
9.8–11.8 13.7–16.0
529
728
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
Mother’s employment status
Attendance at a centre or school‑based early childhood care/education program varied by mother’s employment
status: 96.2 per cent of children whose mothers who were employed full time and 97.9 per cent of children
whose mothers worked part-time) attended school, preschool or school, compared to 92.4 per cent of children
of unemployed mothers. Furthermore, the employment groups differed in the types of care/education settings
used. Children with full‑time employed mothers (19.5 per cent) were more likely to attend a pre‑Year 1 program
than were children of mothers employed part-time (14.7 per cent), while children of unemployed mothers
(17.2 per cent) were similar in their level of attendance at pre‑Year 1 compared to both employed groups
(Table 56).
When attendance at preschool (only or with additional care/education) versus long day care (only or with
additional care/education) was assessed, further differences among employment groups were found. Children
of mothers employed full-time were equally likely to be enrolled in preschool (38.4 per cent) or long day care
settings (38.4 per cent), while children of mothers employed part-time or unemployed were much more likely
to be enrolled in preschools (part-time: preschool=57.0 per cent, long day care=26.2 per cent; unemployed:
preschool=58.1 per cent, long day care=17.2 per cent). This is consistent with the need of full‑time employed
mothers for more hours of non‑parental care for their children to meet their work commitments and suggests
that these hours were less available through preschool services.
Table 56: Mother’s employment status by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Precentre or
Year 1 only
With other
With other
With other
schoolPreschool
Preschool
Long day
or with
care/
care/
care/
based
only
only
care only
other care/
education
education
education
care/
education
education
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
10.8
18.8
19.6
8.7–13.2 16.1–21.8 16.7–22.8
80
139
146
100
100
747
12.3
15.9
12.0
16.8
14.6
11.6
11.0–13.7 14.4–17.5 10.5–13.7 15.1–18.7 13.0–16.4 10.1–13.3
247
313
240
328
292
226
100
100
1,976
Mother’s
employment
status
%
95% CI
n
Full-time
3.8
19.5
2.6–5.5 16.9–22.4
29
146
Part- time
2.1
1.6–2.9
41
14.7
13.3–16.3
289
Not working
7.6
6.5–8.8
171
17.2
22.4
15.5–19.0 20.5–24.3
382
495
Total
4.9
4.3–5.6
241
16.6
15.5–17.7
817
Note:
%
95% CI
n
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
6.7
15.4
5.2–8.5 13.0–18.3
51
113
5.5
4.1–7.3
43
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
7.4
22.8
6.4–8.5 21.0–24.8
160
505
5.5
13.7
4.7–6.5 12.4–15.3
119
299
3.5
2.7–4.3
75
100
100
2,205
16.1
11.9
16.0
15.0–17.2 11.0–12.9 14.8–17.3
792
587
487
10.7
14.8
9.7–11.8 13.7–16.0
528
731
9.0
8.1–10.1
446
100
100
4,928
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
77
Child care and early education in Australia
Number of children in the household
As the number of children in the household increased, the likelihood of children being enrolled in centre or
school‑based care/early education settings decreased. Children from households with four or more children
were much more likely to experience ‘no centre or school‑based care or exclusive parental care’ (11.3 per cent)
than were children from households with three or less children (2.8 per cent to 4.3 per cent) (Table 57).
For pre‑Year 1, the percentage of children did not vary by number of children in the household. However,
differences in attendance at other care/education settings by number of children in the household were
noted. Children from larger households were more likely to attend care/education services with shorter hours
of care. For example, children from households with three or more children (18.9 per cent to 19.4 per cent)
were more likely to attend a preschool in a school setting only than children from households with only one
child (11.2 per cent). Similarly, children from households with two or more children (range=15.6 per cent to
17.9 per cent) were more likely to attend a preschool not in a school setting only than were children from
households with only one child (10.9 per cent).
Also, in accordance with the trend for children from larger households to attend early childhood services
providing fewer hours of care/education per week, children from larger households were, in general, less
likely to attend long day care centres (where costs are likely to be higher) than were children from smaller
households.
Table 57: Number of children in household by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Precentre or Year 1 only
With other
With other
With other
schoolor with Preschool
Preschool
Long day
care/
care/
care/
based
other
only
only
care only
education
education
education
care/
care/
education education
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
11.2
14.4
8.9–14.0 12.0–17.2
64
83
10.9
8.7–13.7
63
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
9.6
19.6
14.3
7.6–12.1 16.8–22.7 11.9–17.2
55
112
82
100
100
572
Number of
children
%
95% CI
n
1
2.8
17.1
1.8–4.3 14.4–20.3
16
98
2
3.9
16.3
14.5
12.6
15.6
12.0
15.6
3.1–4.9 14.9–17.9 13.3–15.9 11.4–13.9 14.1–17.2 10.7–13.4 14.2–17.1
91
386
344
299
370
284
368
9.5
8.3–10.9
225
100
100
2,368
3
4.3
16.1
18.9
10.4
17.9
10.8
14.1
3.4–5.4 14.3–18.2 16.7–21.4 8.9–12.2 15.8–20.2 9.2–12.6 12.3–16.2
58
215
253
139
239
144
188
7.4
6.1–9.0
99
10
100
1,335
10.4
8.2–13.2
74
6.4
4.9–8.3
45
100
100
707
10.7
14.9
9.8–11.8 13.8–16.1
535
742
9.0
8.1–10.1
450
100
100
4,981
4 or more
Total
Note:
78
%
95% CI
n
Total
11.3
17.4
19.4
10.2
17.6
9.2–13.8 14.5–20.6 16.4–22.9 8.3–12.4 14.6–21.1
80
123
137
72
125
4.9
16.5
16.0
11.9
16.0
4.3–5.6 15.5–17.6 14.9–17.2 11.0–12.8 14.8–17.3
244
822
798
593
796
7.3
5.6–9.5
51
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
Family finances
Weekly household income
Broadly speaking, as weekly household income increased, children were more likely to attend centre or
school‑based care/education settings and less likely to be in exclusive parental care or home‑based care
(the range decreased from 8.9 per cent to 1.4 per cent for the lowest to the highest income bracket) (Table 58).
Children from households with higher incomes (>$1000 per week) were also more likely to be enrolled in
care/education arrangements providing longer hours of care (for example preschool not in a school plus
other care, and long day care plus other care) and less likely to be enrolled in preschool in a school only, an
arrangement typically associated with fewer hours of care.
In contrast, weekly household income did not strongly differentiate children enrolled in pre‑Year 1 programs,
although some weak differences were noted. Children from families in the middle‑income range
($1,000 to $1,499 per week) were less likely to attend a pre‑Year 1 program than children from families in
upper (more than $2,000 per week) or lower (less than $600 per week) income categories. The lack of a
strong differentiation between lower and higher income groups may be explained by the fact that pre‑Year 1 is
provided by the public as well as the private sector and attendance at public sector programs is cost‑free.
Middle‑income families were equally distributed across six categories of care/education arrangements,
whereas the highest and lowest income groups were differentiated by type of care/education arrangement.
Table 58: Weekly household income by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
PreNot in
centre or Year 1 only
With other
With other
schoolor with Preschool
Preschool
care/
care/
other
only
only
based
education
education
care/
care/
education education
Weekly
household
income ($)
Less than
600
600 to
999
1,000 to
1,499
1,500 to
1,999
More
than
2,000
Total
Note:
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
8.9
7.2–11.0
80
6.8
5.5–8.3
78
3.3
2.5–4.3
38
2.8
1.9–4.2
22
1.4
0.8–2.4
4
4.9
4.2–5.6
227
19.7
17.0–22.7
177
17.4
15.5–19.6
202
13.6
11.8–15.8
157
14.1
11.6–17.1
109
18.7
16.0–21.6
128
16.6
15.5–17.7
772
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Long day care
Long day
care only
With other
care/
education
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
16.1
11.3
15.7
6.8
14.6
13.6–18.9 9.4–13.6 13.3–18.5 5.4–8.5
12.4–17.0
144
102
141
61
131
20.4
10.6
14.5
9.0
14.6
18.2–22.8 8.9–12.5 12.6–16.8 7.5–10.9 12.768–16.8
236
122
168
105
169
15.2
14.0
16.3
11.5
15.6
13.4–17.2 12.2–16.0 14.2–18.6 9.7–13.5
13.6–18.0
175
161
187
132
180
14.5
14.0
14.5
14.5
13.7
12.1–17.4 11.8–16.5 12.2–17.1 12.3–17.1
11.5–16.2
112
108
112
112
106
10.9
11.1
18.4
12.2
15.4
8.9–13.1 9.1–13.5 15.8–21.3 9.9–14.8
12.9–18.3
75
77
126
84
106
15.9
12.2
15.7
10.6
14.8
14.8–17.1 11.3–13.2 14.5–17.1 9.6–11.7
13.7–16.0
742
569
734
493
691
6.9
5.4–8.8
62
6.7
5.3–8.4
77
10.5
8.8–12.6
121
11.8
9.8–14.2
91
12.1
9.9–14.7
83
9.3
8.4–10.4
434
100
100
897
100
100
1,158
100
100
1,150
100
100
770
100
100
687
100
100
4,662
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
79
Child care and early education in Australia
Financial stress
Level of family financial stress was determined by asking the primary parent whether they had experienced
any of seven indices of financial hardship in the past 12 months. Children whose parents reported three or
more financial stresses were more likely to be in exclusive parental care/home‑based care and not attending a
centre or school‑based care/education program (10.2 per cent) than children whose parents reported a lower
level of financial stress (none: 3.7 per cent; one to two: 4.4 per cent) (Table 59). Level of financial stress did
not strongly differentiate among the types of care/education settings children attended. However, the few
differences noted were consistent with the findings reported for maternal employment and weekly household
income. For example, children whose parents reported three or more financial stresses were less likely to
attend a preschool not in a school setting, with other care—an arrangement more commonly used by employed
mothers and households with higher weekly incomes.
Table 59: Number of financial stresses by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Precentre or
With other
With other
With other
Year 1 only
schoolPreschool
Preschool
Long day
or with
care/
care/
care/
based
only
only
care only
education
education
education
other care/
care/
education
education
%
95% CI
n
16.6
15.0
15.1–18.2 13.7–16.3
441
397
11.8
17.1
12.3
14.3
9.2
10.7–13.1 15.7–18.7 10.9–13.8 12.9–15.9 8.0–10.5
315
456
326
381
243
100
100
2,658
4.4
3.5–5.5
71
15.6
17.6
13.9–17.5 15.8–19.6
254
286
12.2
14.9
10.6–13.9 13.2–16.8
198
242
100
100
1,623
10.2
7.7–13.3
68
17.5
16.6
15.0–20.5 14.1–19.4
116
110
11.5
14.6
9.4–14.1 12.0–17.6
76
97
6.7
14.4
5.0–8.8 11.8–17.5
44
96
8.5
6.6–11.0
57
100
100
664
4.8
4.2–5.5
237
16.4
16.0
15.4–17.5 15.0–17.2
812
793
11.9
16.1
11.0–12.9 14.9–17.4
588
795
10.8
14.9
9.8–11.8 13.8–16.1
532
738
9.1
8.2–10.1
449
100
100
4,944
%
95% CI
n
None
3.7
3.0–4.5
99
1 or 2
3 or more
Total
Note:
80
%
95% CI
n
Number of
financial
stresses
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Total
10.0
16.1
9.2
8.6–11.5 14.3–18.1 7.9–10.6
162
261
149
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
Community characteristics
SEIFA index
The SEIFA index is a general indicator of neighbourhood advantage or disadvantage based on information
collected in the 2001 census. Higher scores indicate greater neighbourhood advantage. Findings in this
area were limited, but consistent with other related indicators of socioeconomic status. Children whose
families resided in less advantaged neighbourhoods were less likely to be attending centre or school‑based
care/education settings. On the other hand, children whose families resided in more advantaged communities
were more likely to be attending a preschool not in a school setting (with or without other care) and less likely
to be attending a preschool in a school (Table 60).
Table 60: SEIFA index (quintiles) by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Not in
Precentre or
Year 1 only
With other
With other
schoolPreschool
Preschool
care/
care/
or with
based
only
only
education
education
other care/
care/
education
education
Long day care
Long day
care only
With other
care/
education
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
11.2
15.7
8.6–14.4 12.3–19.8
123
173
7.9
5.8–10.7
87
14.6
12.1–17.5
160
7.5
5.7–9.8
83
100
100
1,099
6.0
4.6–7.7
60
14.8
18.1
13.2
14.0
12.5–17.3 14.6–22.2 10.3–16.8 10.8–17.9
148
182
132
141
11.1
8.3–14.5
111
13.4
11.1–16.2
135
9.6
7.6–11.9
96
100
100
1,005
990 to
1,010
5.8
4.3–7.8
57
15.6
13.3–18.3
154
10.8
17.3
8.2–14.1 14.4–20.6
107
171
10.3
8.3–12.8
102
100
100
988
1,020 to
1,060
2.0
17.3
19.1
13.1
14.7
1.3–2.9 14.3–20.7 15.5–23.4 10.5–16.2 11.5–18.5
19
171
189
129
145
11.0
8.0–14.8
109
14.3
10.8–18.6
141
8.7
6.4–11.7
86
100
100
989
1,070
and
higher
2.2
1.3–3.5
19
15.4
12.8–18.3
138
11.3
22.1
13.5
8.8–14.4 18.7–25.9 11.0–16.5
102
199
122
15.0
12.4–18.0
135
9.4
7.7–11.3
84
100
100
900
Total
4.9
4.3–5.6
245
16.5
15.5–17.6
822
14.9
13.8–16.1
742
9.0
8.1–10.1
451
100
100
4,981
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
950 and
lower
8.1
19.2
6.5–10.1 16.5–22.2
89
211
15.8
12.4–19.8
173
960 to
980
SEIFA
quintiles
Note:
%
95% CI
n
15.4
11.9–19.6
152
11.3
8.7–14.5
102
%
95% CI
n
10.8
14.1
8.5–13.7 11.2–17.6
107
139
16.0
11.9
16.0
14.9–17.2 11.0–12.8 14.8–17.3
798
593
796
10.7
9.8–11.8
535
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals.
Due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
81
Child care and early education in Australia
Child demographic characteristics
Child’s age
Children not attending centre or school‑based care or in exclusive parental care were, on average, younger than
those attending all types of centre or school‑based care/education. Differences across type of care/education
were minimal, although younger children were more likely to be attending long day care centres only and older
children more likely to be in a pre‑Year 1 program at school (Table 61). These differences are not unexpected
and likely reflect the age restrictions for pre‑Year 1 and preschool as well as development of children.
Table 61: Child’s age by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Precentre or
Year 1 only
With other
With other
With other
schoolPreschool
Preschool
Long day
care/
care/
care/
or with
based
only
only
care only
education
educated
education
other care/
care/
education
education
%
95% CI
n
4.25–4.66
8.3
6.9–10.0
96
4.67–4.99
4.9
4.1–6.0
131
5.00–5.69
1.6
42.9
1.0–2.5 40.1–45.7
18
503
Total
4.9
4.3–5.6
245
Note:
82
%
95% CI
n
Child’s age
(years)
%
95% CI
n
1.7
15.9
1.1–2.6 13.9–18.1
20
182
11.3
9.9–12.8
300
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
10.6
18.5
9.2–12.3 16.2–20.9
122
212
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Total
%
%
95% CI 95% CI
n
n
11.2
21.9
12.0
9.5–13.2 19.4–24.6 10.2–14.0
129
251
138
100
100
1,149
17.5
13.6
17.6
11.9
14.5
16.1–19.1 12.4–15.0 16.1–19.2 10.7–13.2 13.2–16.0
466
363
468
316
387
8.6
7.6–9.8
229
100
100
2,658
12.8
11.1–14.7
150
8.9
7.3–10.8
104
7.2
5.7–9.1
84
100
100
1,173
10.7
14.9
9.8–11.8 13.8–16.1
535
742
9.0
8.1–10.1
451
100
100
4,981
9.2
7.6–11.0
108
9.9
8.1–12.0
116
16.5
16.0
11.9
16.0
15.5–17.6 14.9–17.2 11.0–12.8 14.8–17.3
822
798
593
796
7.7
6.4–9.3
90
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
Child’s sex
More girls (18.3 per cent) were attending a pre‑Year 1 program than boys (14.8 per cent), which is consistent
with the frequently reported finding of earlier school readiness among girls (Table 62).
Table 62: Child’s sex by type of care arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Precentre or
Year 1 only
With other
With other
With other
Preschool
Preschool
Long day
schoolor with
care/
care/
care/
based
only
only
care only
other care/
education
education
education
care/
education
education
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
15.5
11.8
15.5
11.3
14.1–17.1 10.7–13.1 13.9–17.3 10.0–12.8
396
302
395
289
16.6
15.1–18.1
423
9.5
8.3–10.9
243
100
100
2,551
16.5
15.1–18.1
401
10.1
13.2
9.0–11.3 11.8–14.7
246
320
8.5
7.5–9.7
207
100
100
2,430
16.5
16.0
11.9
16.0
15.5–17.6 14.9–17.2 11.0–12.8 14.8–17.3
822
798
593
796
10.7
14.9
9.8–11.8 13.8–16.1
535
742
9.0
8.1–10.1
451
100
100
4,981
Child’s sex
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Male
4.9
4.1–5.9
125
14.8
13.4–16.3
378
Female
4.9
4.1–6.0
120
18.3
16.5
12.0
16.9–19.8 15.1–18.0 10.9–13.2
444
401
291
Total
4.9
4.3–5.6
245
Note:
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
83
Child care and early education in Australia
Child’s Indigenous status
Indigenous children (90.1 per cent) were less likely than non‑Indigenous children (95.3 per cent) to be
attending a centre or school‑based care arrangement and, hence, more likely to be either in exclusive parental
care or attending a home‑based child care program (Table 63). When Indigenous children were attending
care, they were more likely to attend care settings providing shorter hours of care, that is, more likely to be
enrolled in a preschool in a school setting only (Indigenous=26.0 per cent, non‑Indigenous=15.6 per cent),
and less likely to be attending a preschool not in a school setting with other care (Indigenous=3.5 per cent,
non‑Indigenous=11.0 per cent) or a long day care centre with other care (Indigenous=4.4 per cent,
non‑Indigenous=9.2 per cent).
Table 63: Child’s Indigenous status by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Precentre or
With other
Year 1 only
With other
With other
Long day
schoolPreschool
Preschool
care/
or with
care/
care/
based
only
only
care only
education
other care/
education
education
care/
education
education
Child’s
Indigenous
status
Indigenous
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
9.9
17.5
26.0
6.0–15.7 12.5–24.0 20.1–33.0
19
34
51
12.4
7.8–19.4
24
13.6
9.4–19.2
26
3.5
1.6–7.7
7
12.7
8.4–18.9
25
4.4
2.4–7.9
9
100
100
194
NonIndigenous
4.7
4.1–5.4
226
16.5
15.6
11.9
16.1
11.0
15.0
15.4–17.6 14.5–16.8 11.0–12.8 14.9–17.4 10.0–12.1 13.9–16.2
788
747
567
770
528
717
9.2
8.3–10.3
442
100
100
4,785
Total
4.9
4.3–5.6
245
16.5
16.0
11.9
16.0
15.5–17.6 14.9–17.2 11.0–12.8 14.8–17.3
822
798
591
796
9.1
8.1–10.1
451
100
100
4,979
Note:
84
%
95% CI
n
Total
10.8
9.8–11.8
535
14.9
13.8–16.1
742
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
Language other than English spoken at home
The LSAC study child was considered to be exposed on a regular basis to a language other than English in the
family if either parent (who lived in the household) indicated that a language other than English was spoken at
home. The proportion of LSAC families in the 4 to 5 year‑old cohort who identified themselves as being in this
group was slightly higher than that reported for the infant cohort, 17.7 per cent (n=867) versus 17.0 per cent.
There were 40 different home languages identified in this cohort. After English, the largest group was Arabic
(n=89), followed by Cantonese (n=66), Italian (n=59), Vietnamese (n=54), Greek (n=52), Mandarin (n=51),
Spanish (n=36), Filipino (n=31), Samoan (n=28), Turkish and Hindi (n=22). Other languages were spoken
by 20 or fewer LSAC families.
Children from LOTE families (91.6 per cent) were less likely than children from English‑only speaking families
(96.0 per cent) to be attending centre or school‑based care/education settings. Specifically, they were less
likely to be attending preschool in school settings (with or without other care) and long day care centres
with other care. In contrast, children from LOTE families (25.1 per cent) were more likely to be attending
pre‑Year 1 programs than were children from English‑only speaking families (14.4 per cent)—perhaps because
their educational focus is consistent with the strong value placed on formal education in many of the identified
LOTE cultural groups (Table 64).
Table 64: Language spoken at home by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Precentre or
Year 1 only
With other
With other
With other
Preschool
Preschool
Long day
schoolor with
care/
care/
care/
based
only
only
care only
education
education
education
other care/
care/
education
education
Total
Language
spoken at
home
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
English only
4.0
14.4
16.9
13.1
15.9
11.1
14.8
3.4–4.6 13.4–15.6 15.7–18.3 12.1–14.3 14.6–17.2 10.0–12.3 13.5–16.2
160
580
681
528
639
446
595
9.8
8.7–10.9
393
100
100
4,021
Other
language
Total
Note:
%
95% CI
n
8.4
25.1
6.8–10.5 22.3–28.2
73
218
%
95% CI
n
11.8
9.9–14.0
102
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
6.8
16.8
5.1–9.0 14.2–19.8
59
146
9.4
7.7–11.3
81
15.4
13.1–17.9
133
6.3
4.9–8.1
55
100
100
867
4.8
16.3
16.0
12.0
16.1
4.2–5.4 15.3–17.5 14.9–17.2 11.1–13.0 14.8–17.4
233
798
783
587
785
10.8
9.8–11.9
527
14.9
13.8–16.1
728
9.2
8.2–10.2
448
100
100
4,889
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
85
Child care and early education in Australia
Family type
Children from lone‑parent families (92.0 per cent) were less likely than children from couple families
(95.7 per cent) to be attending a centre or school‑based care/education service. However, when attendance
at specific care/education settings was assessed, few significant differences were observed. Children from
lone‑parent families were less likely than children from couple families to be attending preschool programs not
in a school settings (with or without other care), but the groups were not different in their attendance at any
other care/education settings (Table 65).
Table 65: Family type by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Precentre or
With other
With other
With other
Year 1 only
schoolPreschool
Preschool
Long day
or with
care/
care/
care/
only
only
care only
based
other care/
education
education
education
care/
education
education
Family type
Lone
parent
8.0
6.3–10.1
59
Couple
Total
Note:
86
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
18.6
13.4
16.2–21.4 11.2–16.0
139
99
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
13.4
12.3
11.1–16.0 10.1–14.8
99
91
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Total
%
%
95% CI 95% CI
n
n
8.1
14.5
6.4–10.2 12.2–17.3
60
108
11.8
9.6–14.3
87
100
100
743
4.3
3.7–5.1
180
15.8
16.6
11.6
16.7
11.2
14.9
14.7–17.0 15.5–17.8 10.7–12.6 15.4–18.1 10.2–12.4 13.8–16.2
656
690
483
695
467
620
8.7
7.8–9.8
361
100
100
4,151
4.9
4.3–5.6
240
16.2
16.1
11.9
16.1
15.2–17.4 15.0–17.3 11.0–12.9 14.8–17.3
794
790
582
786
9.2
8.2–10.2
449
100
100
4,894
10.8
14.9
9.8–11.8 13.8–16.0
527
728
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
Mother’s psychological adjustment, social support and parenting
Mother’s psychological distress
Children whose mothers reported higher levels of psychological distress (6.2 per cent) were less likely to be
attending centre or school‑based care/education settings than children whose mothers reported lower levels
of distress (3.8 per cent). However, differences in attendance at specific care arrangements were limited to the
category of preschool programs not in a school settings with other care, with children with mothers with higher
psychological distress (8.2 per cent) attending these settings less often than children with mothers with lower
psychological distress (11.7 per cent) (Table 66).
Table 66: Mother’s psychological distress by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Precentre or
Year 1 only
With other
With other
With other
Preschool
Long day
schoolPreschool
or with
care/
care/
care/
based
only
only
care only
other care/
education
education
education
care/
education
education
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
15.3
16.8
12.6
15.8
11.7
14.7
9.3
14.1–16.6 15.5–18.2 11.5–13.7 14.4–17.3 10.5–13.1 13.4–16.1 8.3–10.5
496
543
405
510
378
475
301
100
100
3,230
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Level of
psychological
distress
%
95% CI
n
Low
3.8
3.1–4.6
122
High
6.2
19.0
15.4
11.8
15.9
4.7–8.2 16.6–21.6 13.2–17.8 9.9–14.0 13.5–18.6
56
170
138
106
142
8.2
15.9
6.5–10.2 13.5–18.5
73
142
7.7
6.2–9.7
69
100
100
897
Total
4.3
16.1
16.5
12.4
15.8
3.6–5.1 15.0–17.4 15.3–17.8 11.4–13.4 14.5–17.2
177
666
682
511
652
10.9
15.0
9.9–12.1 13.7–16.3
451
617
9.0
8.0–10.1
370
100
100
4,127
Note:
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
87
Child care and early education in Australia
Mother’s social support
Few differences in attendance at care/education settings were noted for children of mothers who reported
receiving enough versus not enough social support. Children of mothers who did not receive enough social
support (7.5 per cent) were less likely than children of mothers who receive enough support (12.3 per cent)
to attend a preschool not in a school setting with other care, and more likely (18.8 per cent) than children of
mothers who receive enough support (14.1 per cent) to attend long day care only settings (Table 67).
Table 67: Mother’s social support by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Not in
Precentre or
Year 1 only
With other
With other
schoolPreschool
Preschool
care/
care/
or with
based
only
only
education
education
other care/
care/
education
education
88
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Long day
care only
With other
care/
education
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Total
Social
support
%
95% CI
n
Gets
enough
support
4.1
16.4
3.4–5.0 15.0–17.9
119
474
15.7
12.7
14.4–17.1 11.5–14.0
454
366
15.9
12.3
14.5–17.4 11.0–13.8
459
356
14.1
12.7–15.5
406
8.9
7.8–10.1
257
100
100
2,890
Does
not get
enough
support
4.4
14.7
3.3–5.9 12.4–17.3
41
136
16.5
12.3
14.4–18.9 10.5–14.4
153
114
15.8
13.6–18.3
147
7.5
6.0–9.4
70
18.8
16.4–21.4
174
9.9
8.1–12.1
91
100
100
925
Total
4.2
16.0
3.5–5.0 14.8–17.3
160
610
15.9
12.6
14.7–17.1 11.5–13.7
606
480
15.9
11.2
14.5–17.3 10.1–12.4
605
426
15.2
14.0–16.5
579
9.1
8.1–10.3
348
100
100
3,815
Note:
%
95% CI
n
Long day care
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy
Differences in attendance at care/education settings were limited to children of parents with lower self‑efficacy
(20.8 per cent) being more likely to attend a preschool in a school setting with other care than children of
parents with higher self‑efficacy (11.6 per cent) (Table 68).
Table 68: Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Precentre or
Year 1 only
With other
With other
With other
schoolPreschool
Preschool
Long day
care/
care/
care/
or with
based
only
only
care only
education
education
education
other care/
care/
education
education
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
4.9
4.3–5.6
232
16.5
16.2
11.6
16.1
10.9
15.4–17.6 15.1–17.4 10.7–12.6 14.9–17.5 9.9–12.0
779
767
549
763
513
14.7
13.6–15.9
694
9.0
8.1–10.1
427
100
100
4,725
Lower
3.3
1.5–7.4
5
15.5
10.6–22.1
25
12.5
8.2–18.4
20
8.5
5.1–13.8
13
15.2
10.6–21.5
24
10.4
6.7–15.8
17
100
100
159
Total
4.9
4.2–5.6
237
16.5
16.2
11.9
16.0
15.4–17.6 15.0–17.3 11.0–12.9 14.8–17.3
805
789
582
782
10.8
9.8–11.9
527
14.7
13.6–15.9
718
9.1
8.2–10.1
444
100
100
4,884
Level of
parenting
self‑efficacy
%
95% CI
n
Higher
Note:
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
13.8
20.8
9.5–19.6 15.2–27.9
22
33
%
95% CI
n
Total
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
89
Child care and early education in Australia
Mother’s parenting behaviour
Mothers with less positive parenting behaviour were more likely to have children in exclusive parental care
or in home‑based care arrangements (7.7 per cent) than mothers with more positive parenting behaviour
(4.1 per cent). No other differences in attendance at different types of care/education arrangements were found
(Table 69).
Table 69: Mother’s parenting behaviour by type of care/education arrangement
Care/education arrangement
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Not in
Precentre or
Year 1 only
With other
With other
With other
schoolPreschool
Preschool
Long day
care/
care/
care/
or with
based
only
only
care only
education
education
education
other care/
care/
education
education
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
4.1
3.5–4.8
159
16.3
16.4
11.7
15.9
11.4
14.7
15.1–17.5 15.1–17.7 10.8–12.8 14.6–17.3 10.3–12.6 13.5–16.0
630
633
453
615
439
569
9.5
8.5–10.6
367
100
100
3,865
Lower
7.7
6.3–9.5
78
16.9
15.3
12.6
16.5
14.6–19.4 13.1–17.7 10.7–14.8 14.3–19.0
170
154
127
167
8.7
14.8
7.1–10.5 12.8–17.2
87
150
7.5
6.1–9.2
76
100
100
1,010
Total
4.9
4.2–5.6
237
16.4
16.2
11.9
16.0
15.4–17.6 15.0–17.3 11.0–12.9 14.8–17.3
801
787
581
781
10.8
14.7
9.8–11.9 13.6–15.9
526
719
9.1
8.2–10.1
443
100
100
4,874
Positive
parenting
behaviour
%
95% CI
n
Higher
Note:
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Total
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
6.5 Family, child and community characteristics by amount of care
and early education for the child cohort
This section presents descriptive statistics looking at the relations between family, child and community
characteristics and the amount of non‑parental child care and early education experienced by the LSAC
children. Amount of care/education for each child was indexed by the total number of hours per week children
regularly spent in their child care/education arrangements. Children who received exclusive parental care only
(that is, zero hours in non‑parental care) were excluded from the following analyses.
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Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
Family demographic characteristics
Mother’s age
The number of hours per week children spent in care/education arrangements did not differ significantly across
the three maternal age groups (Table 70).
Table 70: Mother’s age at child’s birth by hours in care/education
Mother’s age (years)
Younger than 25
Mean hours per week of
care/education
95% CI
25 to 34
35 and above
22.5
21.9
22.6
21.7–23.4
21.4–22.3
21.8–23.4
748
3,068
884
n
Mother’s education
Children with mothers who had more than a Year 12 education (trade certificate, diploma or university) spent,
on average, longer hours in child care/education than children of mothers with a Year 10 education or less
(Table 71).
Table 71: Mother’s education by hours in care/education
Mother’s education
Year 10 or less
Mean hours per week of
care/education
95% CI
n
Year 11 or 12
Trade certificate or
diploma
University
20.7
21.3
22.1
23.7
19.9–21.4
20.7–22.0
21.5–22.7
23.2–24.3
831
956
1,731
1,172
Mother’s employment status
There was a strong, statistically significant trend indicating that as mothers increased their hours of work (that
is, from part‑time to full‑time), the more hours a week her child spent in non‑parental child care/education
arrangements (Table 72).
Table 72: Mother’s employment status by hours in care/education
Mother’s employment status
Mean hours per week of
care/education
95% CI
n
Full-time
Part-time
Not working
33.0
22.7
18.1
32.1–33.8
22.2–23.1
17.6–18.5
691
1,906
2,103
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Child care and early education in Australia
Number of children in the household
The number of siblings or other children in the household where the study child lived was an important factor
in the amount of non‑parental care/education received. Weekly hours of care/education decreased as the
number of siblings/other children increased. The mean hours of care/education per week for only children
(26.2 hours) or for children with one sibling/other child in the household (22.6 hours) was significantly longer
than for children with either three (20.6 hours) or four or more (19.7 hours) siblings or other children in the
household (Table 73).
Table 73: Number of children in household by hours in care/education
Number of children
Mean hours per week of
care/education
95% CI
1
2
3
26.2
22.6
20.6
19.7
25.1–27.2
22.2–23.1
20.1–21.2
18.9–20.6
548
2,283
1,287
629
n
4 or more
Family finances
Weekly household income
As weekly household income increased, so did hours of non‑parental child care/education. Children from
families in the two lowest income categories spent significantly fewer hours in care/education than did children
from families in the two highest income categories (Table 74).
Table 74: Weekly household income by hours in care/education
Weekly household income ($)
Less than 600
Mean hours per week
of care/education
95% CI
600–999
1000–1,499
1,500–1,999
More than 2,000
21.3
20.8
21.9
23.2
25.0
20.5–22.1
20.2–21.5
21.3–22.6
22.4–24.1
24.1–25.9
818
1,088
1,113
748
676
n
Financial stress
Financial stress was not related to the mean number of hours children spent in non‑parental child
care/education each week (Table 75).
Table 75: Number of financial stresses by hours in care/education
Number of financial stresses
None
Mean hours per week of
care/education
95% CI
n
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1 or 2
3 or more
22.6
21.6
21.3
22.2–23.0
20.9–22.2
20.5–22.2
2,564
1,553
598
Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
Community characteristics
SEIFA index
The correlation between the community rating of disadvantage (SEIFA index) and the hours a child spent in
care/education was examined. There was no significant correlation between the two measures, r=0.002,
p=not significant.
Child demographic characteristics
Child’s age
There was a significant but modest correlation between child’s age and hours in care/education, indicating that
older children experienced longer hours, r=0.21, p<0.001. This may be partly due to the older LSAC children
who had started full‑time school.
Child’s sex
There was no difference between male and female children in the average number of hours per week they
spent in care/education (Table 76).
Table 76: Child’s sex by hours in care/education
Child’s sex
Female
Male
Mean hours per week of care/education
95% CI
n
22.0
22.3
21.5–22.5
21.8–22.7
2,426
2,321
Child’s Indigenous status
There was no difference in the number of hours children spent in care/education each week based on
Indigenous status (Table 77).
Table 77: Child’s Indigenous status by hours in care/education
Child’s Indigenous status
Indigenous
Mean hours per week of care/education
95% CI
n
Non‑Indigenous
22.5
22.1
20.8–24.3
21.7–22.5
177
4,568
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Child care and early education in Australia
Language other than English spoken at home
Children who lived in a household in which a language other than English was spoken attended longer hours
of care/education than children in English‑only speaking homes (Table 78). This is likely due to the high
proportion attending pre‑Year 1.
Table 78: Language spoken at home by hours in care/education
Language spoken
English only
Mean hours per week of care/education
95% CI
n
Other language
21.8
23.8
21.4–22.2
23.0–24.7
3,873
794
Family type
Children from lone‑parent families spent on average longer hours in care/education than children from couple
families (Table 79).
Table 79: Family type by hours in care/education
Family type
Lone parent
Mean hours per week of care/education
95% CI
n
Couple
24.3
21.7
23.5–25.2
21.3–22.0
680
3,985
Mother’s psychological adjustment, social support and parenting
Mother’s psychological distress
Children of mothers with higher levels of psychological distress did not differ in the number of hours spent in
care/education from children of mothers with lower levels of psychological distress (Table 80).
Table 80: Mother’s psychological distress by hours in care/education
Level of psychological distress
Low
Mean hours per week of care/education
95% CI
n
High
21.8
22.1
21.4–22.3
21.3–22.9
3,118
842
Mother’s social support
Children of mothers who reported receiving enough support did not differ in the number of hours they spent in
care from children of mothers not receiving enough support (Table 81).
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Family, child and community characteristics and patterns of care and early education
for the child cohort
Table 81: Mother’s social support by hours in care/education
Social support
Gets enough support
Mean hours per week of care/education
95% CI
n
Does not get enough support
22.1
21.4
21.7–22.6
20.6–22.2
2,780
887
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy
Children of mothers with lower parenting self‑efficacy did not differ from children of mothers with higher
parenting self‑efficacy in terms of the hours they spent in care (Table 82).
Table 82: Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy by hours in care/education
Level of parenting self‑efficacy
Mean hours per week of care/education
95% CI
n
Higher
Lower
23.0
24.1
21.7–22.4
22.1–26.1
4,504
154
Mother’s parenting behaviour
Children of mothers with less positive parenting behaviour (that is, less warmth and more hostility) did not
differ from children of mothers with more positive parenting behaviour in terms of the hours they spent in
care/education (Table 83).
Table 83: Mother’s parenting behaviour by hours in care/education
Positive parenting behaviour
Mean hours per week of care/education
95% CI
n
Higher
Lower
22.1
22.1
21.7–22.5
21.4–22.8
4,504
154
6.6Discussion
Most of the 4 to 5 year‑old LSAC children (95.1 per cent) were attending some form of centre or school‑based
early childhood program, but the proportion varied (from 88.7 per cent to 99.4 per cent attendance)
depending on the child’s characteristics and his or her family and community circumstances. There were clear
characteristics differentiating the group of children in exclusive parental care or attending family‑based child
care services. Mothers of children not attending a centre or school‑based care/education program were less
well educated and more likely to be unemployed, have a lower weekly income, have more financial stress,
have larger numbers of children living in the household and reside in less advantaged neighbourhoods.
Mothers of children not attending centre or school‑based care/education also reported higher levels of
psychological distress and poorer parenting behaviour. In addition, children not attending a centre or
school‑based care/education setting were more likely to be younger or from a lone‑parent family.
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Child care and early education in Australia
Factors related to mothers’ employment and family economic advantage appeared to differentiate the types of
care/education settings children attended, specifically in relation to settings providing longer or shorter hours
of care/education. Children attending ‘preschool only’ had the shortest hours each week, while those attending
long day care centres with or without other care arrangements, or preschools with other care arrangements,
received much longer hours. Children attending arrangements that provided longer hours were more likely
to have mothers who were more highly educated or worked full time or part time, and to come from families
with higher weekly household incomes, fewer indices of financial stress and fewer children. In contrast,
children from families with characteristics associated with less economic advantage were more likely to attend
preschool (only), particularly preschools located in a school. These settings not only provided minimal hours
per week (less than 14), but are often provided free of cost or at most a minimum cost through state/territory
government and Catholic schools. Furthermore, children’s weekly hours of attending care/education settings
per week increased as mother’s level of education and hours of work and family income increased, and as the
number of children in the household decreased. Hours were also higher in lone‑parent versus couple families.
Child characteristics were also linked to attendance at some care/education settings. More girls than boys
were attending pre‑Year 1 programs, which is likely linked to the earlier maturity in girls of behaviours
that enable them to adapt to these more structured, academically oriented educational settings. Older
children (5.0 years and over) were more likely to be attending pre‑Year 1; whereas the younger age group
(4.3 to 4.7 years) had the highest proportion of children not attending a centre or school‑based care/education
settings.
Cultural characteristics were also associated with whether children attended centre or school‑based
care/education settings. Indigenous children were less likely than non‑Indigenous children to attend centre
or school‑based child care or early education settings, as were children from LOTE families compared with
English‑only speaking families. It is important to note, however, that these differences in attendance were
only modest, since the vast majority of Indigenous (90.2 per cent) children and children from LOTE families
(91.6 per cent) attended some kind of centre or school‑based care/education. When children from LOTE
families attended these child care/education settings, they were more likely to spend longer hours there.
Finally, differences in mother‑reported psychological adjustment, social support and parenting behaviour
appeared to show little relation to the use of different types of care/education settings. Section 8 reports on
whether these factors are important in predicting developmental outcomes for the LSAC children in the context
of their child care and early education experiences.
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Contexts of care and early education
7 Contexts of care and early education
7.1 Introduction
With children and infants spending regular periods of time each week in child care and early education
settings, it is critical that the nature and quality of these settings are understood. Australia has a multi‑layered,
complex system for providing, funding and regulating child care and early education.
Formal infant child care (long day care centres and family day care homes) is subject to state and territory
regulatory frameworks and Australian Government quality assurance requirements linked to cost of care
subsidies. In this way, governments ensure that minimum standards for staff training, adult‑to‑child ratios
and developmentally appropriate curriculum are identified and enforced. Informal child care (home‑based
care by relatives or non‑relatives) is not subject to scrutiny by the Australian Government or most states and
territories. Thus, the quality of informal care can vary more than the quality of formal care.
For 4 to 5 year olds, formal early education programs in long day care centres, preschools and school
settings are monitored by state and territory education or community/human services departments. These
departments determine funding and regulatory standards for teacher/carer qualifications, staff‑to‑child ratios,
group size and curriculum.Recent reviews have noted marked differences in program provision, funding and
regulations for 4 to 5 year olds across the states and territories (Press 2006; Tayler et al. 2006).
Regulatory frameworks set minimum requirements for staffing. Some services choose to work to minimum
requirements; others choose to operate above these requirements; and some seek exemptions from
requirements when qualified staff are not available. For this reason, and in order to assess these and other
differences, LSAC collected information about the nature and quality of the infants’ or children’s child
care/early education from the setting they were attending at the time of interview.
Quality is conceptualised in the literature as encompassing the features of children’s experiences that are
beneficial to their wellbeing, learning and development. Broadly, these features are defined as structural
(aspects partially governed by regulations) and process (recurring patterns and interactions occurring
between children, staff and parents). Structural features of good quality provide the underlying conditions that
support quality processes; for example, carers’ and teachers’ general educational achievement and specific
preparation in early childhood education that predict the richness of language and cognitive experiences,
and the extent to which interactions with children are responsive, sensitive and positive (Howes, Phillipsen
& Peisner‑Feinberg 2000; Whitebook, Howes & Phillips 1989). Process components of good quality include
positive care giving behaviour and interactions between carers/teachers and children, as well as the
organisational features of the environment that affect staff stability. For example, job satisfaction is predictive
of job commitment and the intention to remain within a position, which in turn affects continuity of care for
children.
Ideally, quality in child care/early education programs is evaluated by observing the environment, interviewing
staff and reviewing records of children’s interactions with staff, peers and the activities and materials provided
for play and learning. Logistically, however, the size and diverse locations of the LSAC study were not able to
support direct observation within programs; therefore, self‑report questionnaires for carers and teachers were
derived from observational and other measures of quality. Questionnaire information was collected at the level
of the room or group where the LSAC infant/child spent most time, and provided by the teacher/carer who had
primary responsibility for the program that the child attends (for the 4 to 5 year‑old cohort) and by the person
who was the main carer of the child (for the infant cohort). Four categories of information were included, each
of which had been identified in previous research as indicators of quality in child care/early education. The four
categories were:
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Child care and early education in Australia
1. structural features (numbers of children and adults, and staff characteristics such as age, experience and
qualifications)
2. practice features (adult–child interaction and involvement, and approaches to learning)
3. provisions and resources (availability of space, materials and equipment to support children’s play,
development and learning)
4. organisational features (supportive work environment for staff).
These four categories of quality were collected across all formal settings. For home‑based informal care, items
not relevant to these settings were excluded from the questionnaire.
This section addresses questions about the context of the LSAC infant’s or child’s main care/early education
setting. It describes key indicators of quality in children’s care/early education programs. Where appropriate,
comparisons of the nature and quality of these programs are made across the types of care/early education
settings defined in Sections 3 and 5.
7.2Section summary
This section presents descriptive information provided by the LSAC child’s regular carer or teacher. The
findings that are highlighted summarise key results for each cohort (infant and 4 to 5 year‑old) and illustrate
significant differences in carer/teacher demographics, care giving practices, the programs provided,
and the organisational features of the care and early education settings the child attended. Although
these data are limited to infants and children whose carers/teachers returned the mail‑out questionnaire
(infants: 530 carers; 4 to 5 year olds: 3,242 teachers), they are representative of the wider sample of infants
and children attending care/education settings at the time of the LSAC interview (Section 2). However, it is
not possible to establish whether the carers and teachers themselves are representative of the wider staffing
profile of long day care centres, family day care, preschools or schools, or whether the settings they worked in
are representative of the wider population of schools, centres, preschools and so on.
On
average, for infant and child cohorts, carers and teachers who worked in long day care centres were
younger and had fewer years experience working in care/early education settings than carers in home‑based
child care (family day carers, relatives and non‑relatives) and teachers in schools and preschools.
University‑qualified
staff who worked in long day care centres were less likely to be caring for infants
(22.1 per cent) than for 4 to 5 year olds (42.7 per cent). The proportion of university‑qualified staff was
somewhat higher for teachers of 4 to 5 year olds in preschools not in a school setting (56.8 per cent) and
highest in school settings (77.5 per cent in pre‑Year 1 classes; 73.9 per cent in school‑based preschools).
For
most infant long day care settings, ratios of adults‑to‑children achieved the minimum legislated
requirement of 1:4 or 1:5, but ratios of qualified staff‑to‑children were more variable, achieving 1:<4 at best
and 1:>10 at worst.
Most
infants (62.2 per cent) were cared for in groups of six to 10 children; 32.8 per cent in groups of more than
10; and 5.0 per cent in groups of five children or less.
Positive
practices in infant child care were rated at a similar, moderate‑to‑high level across the different
types of care, although time spent in active outdoor play was significantly lower in informal care provided by
relatives and non‑relatives than in formal care.
Provisions
for infant play and learning were generally less available in informal settings than in long day care
centres and family day care homes.
Practices
in programs for 4 to 5 year olds were markedly different for children in pre‑Year 1 classes compared
to children attending preschool and long day care centres. In pre‑Year 1, children spent more time in
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Contexts of care and early education
teacher‑directed activities and less time in teacher‑supported individual activities and child‑initiated activities.
Time spent in child‑initiated activities was highest for children attending preschools not in a school setting.
On
average, teachers in programs for 4 to 5 year olds recorded good to high availability of space and
materials to support children’s play and independent learning, but ratings were consistently lower for
pre‑Year 1 classrooms compared to preschool and long day care settings. Long day care centres received
the highest ratings for space, and preschools not in a school setting received the highest ratings for
materials/resources.
In
general, and for both infant and child cohorts, carers and teachers in formal services felt well supported in
the workplace. Small but statistically significant differences were noted across programs: the lowest levels
were reported by teachers in pre‑Year 1 classrooms and the highest levels by teachers in preschool programs
not in a school setting.
7.3Overview of analytic approach
Respondents
The context of infant and 4 to 5 year‑old child care and early education was assessed by way of a mail‑out
questionnaire. For the infant cohort, questionnaires were sent to the care setting that was attended for the
most hours per week (minimum of eight hours/week), to be completed by a nominated care giver/teacher.
For the infant cohort, the care giver in home‑based care (family day care and informal care by relatives or
non‑relatives) was ‘the person who provides regular care for the child’. For centre‑based day care, this was
‘the person who is the main carer of the child’. For the child cohort, questionnaires were sent to the school,
preschool or long day care centre that was attended for the most hours per week (no minimum hours/week).
The respondent was ‘the person who has primary responsibility for the planning and delivery of the group
program in which this child participates’; for example, ‘a teacher, group leader, care giver or child care worker
in long day care or a teacher of a preschool, kindergarten or pre‑Year 1 school program.’
Measures
Two questionnaires were developed for the infant cohort: one for carers in home‑based settings (family day
carers and relatives or non‑relatives) and one for carers/teachers in long day care centres. The four levels of
information identified above were included in questionnaires sent to formal services (long day care centres and
family day care homes). Informal carers (relatives and non‑relatives) were asked to complete only the first two
levels (that is, structural features and practice features). The same questionnaire, covering the four levels of
information, was used for all settings for the 4 to 5 year‑old cohort, including long day care centres, preschools
and schools.
Level 1: Structural features of the program—the demographic characteristics of staff, including age, years of
experience, level of educational achievement or qualification, field of study and staff‑to‑child ratios.
Level 2: Practice features of the program—age‑appropriate criteria. For the infant cohort, this related to
carer–child interaction in play and routine care giving tasks. For the 4 to 5 year‑old cohort, this was described
by different approaches to learning that typify early childhood programs.
Carer–child interaction in infant child care was measured by an estimate of the amount of time the care
giver typically spent with the LSAC child or groups of children in nine activities. Each activity was rated on a
four‑point Likert scale, with scale points described as 1=not at all, 2=somewhat, 3=quite a lot and 4=very
much. Items were the same for all care settings. Four items described direct teaching or interaction in
learning experiences (for example, sitting and playing; singing, telling stories, reading books; active outdoor
play; and taking part in pretend play). Two items described direct teaching or interaction in routine care
giving (for example, giving individual attention in routine care; teaching good health practices). Two items
described support and supervisory tasks related to teaching/interaction (for example, organising space,
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Child care and early education in Australia
equipment/toys, food/drink; watching or supervising children’s play). One item described difficult interaction
(for example, managing problem behaviour).
Approaches to learning in early education programs was measured by an estimate of how much time in
a typical day was spent by the LSAC child’s group or program in teacher‑directed whole‑group activities,
teacher‑supported small group activities, teacher‑supported individual activities and child‑initiated activities.
Each of these was rated on a four‑point Likert scale, with scale points defined as 1=never, 2=occasionally,
3=often and 4=very often.
Level 3: Provisions and resources for play and learning—formal care and early education settings only. Items
differed for each age group, and within infant care, for the different settings of family day care and long day
care centres.
Provision and resources for play and learning in infant care was described by the availability of materials for
play and learning, in five aspects of the environment:
books
and materials to stimulate language development
materials
for fine motor skills and hand‑eye coordination such as posting boxes, nesting cups, pop‑up toys or
puzzles
art
activities and creative materials such as crayons and play doh
pretend
play materials such as dolls, prams, cars and dress‑ups
equipment
or space for active play such as balls and ride‑on or push‑along toys.
In long day care centres, provision of soft areas such as cushions and cosy corners for quiet play was included.
In family day care homes, carers were asked how often they set up areas specifically for one type of play. Each
item was rated on a five‑point Likert scale, with scale points defined as 0=not at all, 1=occasionally, 2=for
short periods each day, 3=for about half the day and 4=all day.
Provision and resources for play and learning in early education was described by two items for assessing
space (for independent learning areas and for quiet time/rest) and five items for assessing resources (to
develop activities responding to children’s interests and to cover specific aspects of the program). Specific
areas assessed were: a range of art and writing materials; a variety of books for independent access to
stimulate interest in reading; a range of materials to support fine motor and problem‑solving skill development
such as puzzles, blocks and construction materials; and a range of equipment to support gross motor skill
development such as climbing frames, materials for obstacle courses, balls and tricycles. Teachers were asked
to indicate how much they agreed/disagreed with seven statements describing the availability of space and
educational resources on a five‑point Likert scale, ranging from 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree.
Level 4: Organisational features of the program—the level at which teachers and carers in formal care/early
education settings rated the support they experienced at work and the effectiveness of management practices
for staff.
Supportive staff work environment was assessed by five statements describing aspects of the workplace,
which were adapted for centre and school‑based settings and home‑based settings as follows:
staff/I
can rely on colleagues for support and assistance when needed
staff/I
have a clear understanding of their/my roles and responsibilities
staff
are/I am able to contribute to decision‑making about policies and practices in the centre/family day care
scheme
staff/care
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providers go about their work with enthusiasm
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Contexts of care and early education
my
personal philosophy and goals are in agreement with those of the centre/school/family day care scheme.
An additional item was included for centre and school‑based settings:
the
centre/school environment provides a positive working environment for staff.
Staff were asked to indicate how much they agreed or disagreed with these statements on a five‑point Likert
scale, ranging from 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree.
Analyses
Information is presented for the different types of child care/early education settings used by the LSAC
infants and 4 to 5 year olds. Where appropriate, analyses test statistical differences in the reported and rated
indicators of quality across setting types. Significant differences between mean values are noted when of
interest, with the criteria for significance being the non‑overlap of their respective 95 per cent confidence
intervals (95% CI).
7.4 Contexts of care for the infant cohort
Respondents
Information on the context of infant care is based on 530 mail‑out questionnaires returned by the infants’
carers/teachers, which represented 44.6 per cent of the possible sample of 1,188. The distribution of returned
questionnaires by type of care setting is in Table 84. The rate of return was similar for long day care and
family day care settings (50.4 per cent and 49.0 per cent, respectively) and at a similar level for home‑based
relatives (45.2 per cent). The lowest rate of return was from informal non‑relatives (17.5 per cent), with
only 30 questionnaires returned. Data from informal non‑relatives, such as nannies, are included in the
following analyses, but any comparisons are treated with caution.
Table 84: Carers who returned questionnaire by type of main care
Carers who returned questionnaire by main care arrangement
Long day care
Family day care Informal—relative Informal—non‑relative
Overall %
39.7
14.0
Returned n
211
67
222
30
530
Possible n
419
151
498
120
1,188
% returned
50.4
49.0
42.3
45.2
4.0
Total
17.5
100
44.6
Carer demographic characteristics
Carer’s age
Age of the carer/teacher and experience with children are closely related. All respondents were asked their
age. Carers/teachers working in formal settings were asked to estimate the number of years they had worked
in child care settings and in their current position. Age and experience with children were strongly correlated
(r=0.62, p<0.001). The information from carers showed a wide variation in ages across all types of care, but
some patterns emerged for different care types. On average, carers in long day care centres were younger
(mean age=34.0 years) and carers who were relatives were older (mean age=55.8 years). This is likely due to
the large proportion of grandparents (more than 92 per cent) in the informal relative category.
101
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 85: Age of carer/teacher by type of main care
Age of carer/teacher by main care arrangement
Age of carer/teacher (years)
Long day care
Family day care
Informal—relative
Informal—
non‑relative
Mean
95% CI
34.0
32.4–34.5
41.9
39.3–44.5
55.8
54.4–57.1
40.0
36.3–43.3
Median
31
43
57
40
18–68
21–66
19–78
24–72
Range
Carer’s education
Regulations for long day care centres require a proportion of staff to have qualifications in early childhood,
either at diploma or degree level. Family day care homes and informal care do not have this requirement.
Results for long day care centres showed that the majority of the infants’ main care givers were qualified,
either at the certificate or diploma level (76.2 per cent) or degree level (22.1 per cent). A much lower number
of home‑based carers had completed university (Bachelor degree or above), or post‑secondary certificate
or diploma qualifications. Just over one‑half of family day carers (54.9 per cent) and one‑quarter of relatives
(26.6 per cent) had a certificate or diploma. Relatives were the least well‑educated group, with nearly
half (48.8 per cent) having only a Year 10 or less level of schooling. Non‑relatives were more likely to have
completed Year 12 or a post‑secondary diploma, but the small number of respondents in this category
precludes any reliable conclusions about this group.
Table 86: Education of carer/teacher by type of main care
Education of carer/teacher by main care arrangement
Long day care
Informal—
non‑relative
Total
Education level of
carer/teacher
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Year 10 or less
0.5
0.1–3.0
1
29.6
19.9–41.5
19
48.8
42.1–55.5
92
22.5
12.0–38.2
6
24.8
21.3–28.7
119
Year 11 or 12
1.2
0.4–3.6
2
12.9
7.2–22.1
8
16.3
12.3–21.2
31
19.6
8.8–38.1
6
9.8
7.8–12.2
47
Certificate or diploma
76.2
68.8–82.3
150
54.9
43.2–66.0
35
26.6
20.9–33.3
50
45.1
31.5–59.5
13
51.9
47.2–56.5
248
University
22.1
16.3–29.1
43
2.6
0.7–8.9
2
8.3
5.3–12.7
16
12.8
4.7–30.2
4
13.5
10.5–17.1
64
100
100
197
100
100
64
100
100
189
100
100
28
100
100
478
Total
Note:
102
Family day care Informal—relative
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Contexts of care and early education
Group demographic characteristics
Group size
Carers were asked to estimate the average number of children in the group that the LSAC infant attended.
Response options were: 1 (only the study child), 1 to 5, 6 to 10, 11 to 20, 21 to 30, and 31 or more. For informal
home‑based care settings, 62.3 per cent cared for the study child alone and 37.4 per cent had a group size
of 1 to 5. The majority of family day carers (78.0 per cent) had small groups of between 1 to 5 children. As
expected, group size was more variable in centre‑based care settings: only 5.0 per cent had 1 to 5 children in
the group; 62.2 per cent had 6 to 10 children; and 32.8 per cent had 11 or more children in the group the LSAC
infant attended.
Adult‑to‑child ratios
At the time of data collection most state/territory regulations specified a minimum requirement of one staff
member to every five children in care for infants and toddlers from birth to 2 years (note that Western Australia
and Queensland required a 1:4 ratio). More recently New South Wales has passed legislation to adopt a
1:4 ratio for under 2 year olds and Victoria is considering a 1:4 ratio for children under 3 years. Professional
organisations (for example, Early Childhood Australia and the US National Association for the Education of
Young Children) recommend a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio. A national workshop of experts hosted by the Academy of Social
Sciences in Australia—Childcare: a better policy framework for Australia—recommended ‘staff/child ratios of
at least one adult to three children for infants ’ and ‘at least one adult to four children for 1 to 2 year olds’
—Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA) 2006, p. 3.
Information on adult‑to‑child ratios was recorded for the LSAC long day care centres only. Ratios were
calculated from figures for the average number of children, number of paid adults and number of qualified staff
typically in the group that the study child attended (including staff with certificates, diplomas or above).
The results in Table 87 show one‑quarter of centres operated at better than regulatory requirements (less
than four children per staff member), one‑half achieved a 1:4 ratio, and one‑quarter were staffed at minimum
levels (more than four children per adult). However, for qualified staff‑to‑child ratios, only 40.7 per cent of
centres achieved the level recommended by professional organisations (less than or equal to four children
per qualified adult). The remaining 59.3 per cent operated with ratios ranging from more than four to more
than 10 children per qualified adult (Table 88).
Table 87: Paid adult to children ratio (centre based care only)
Number of paid adults to children ratio
1:1–3.9
%
95% CI
n
Note:
1:4
1:>4
Total
24.5
51.3
24.2
100
19.4–30.5
44.7–57.7
19.1–30.1
100
55
114
54
222
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals.
103
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 88: Qualified staff to children ratio (centre‑based care only)
Number of qualified staff to children ratio
1:1–3.9
1:4
1:4.1–10
1:>10
Total
10.2
30.5
47.5
11.8
100
6.9–14.8
25.1–36.5
41.4–53.6
8.4–16.4
100
22
67
104
26
219
%
95% CI
n
Program characteristics
Carer–child interaction
Carers’ estimates of how much of their usual daily work was described by direct involvement in
teaching/interaction, supportive organisational/supervisory tasks and managing problems are in Table 89.
The range of scores was from 1=not at all to 4=very much. The scores that differed across care type are
identified in bold.
Table 89: Mean ratings for care giving activities by main care type
Main care arrangement
Long day care
Family day care
Informal—
relative
Informal—
non‑relative
Care giving activity
Mean
95% CI
Mean
95% CI
Mean
95% CI
Mean
95% CI
Sitting and playing
3.1
3.0–3.2
3.2
3.0–3.3
3.2
3.1–3.3
3.4
3.2–3.7
No
Singing, telling stories,
reading books
2.9
2.9–3.0
3.0
2.9–3.1
2.9
2.8–3.0
3.2
2.9–3.5
No
Managing problem
behaviour
2.4
2.3–2.6
2.3
2.1–2.6
1.6
1.5–1.8
1.8
1.5–2.0
Yes
Routine care
3.4
3.3–3.5
3.5
3.3–3.6
3.3
3.2–3.4
3.3
3.0–3.5
No
Organising space,
equipment and so on
2.9
2.8–3.0
3.1
2.9–3.2
3.0
2.8–3.1
3.1
2.8–3.3
No
Teaching good health
2.8
2.7–2.9
3.3
3.1–3.5
2.7
2.5–2.8
2.8
2.4–3.1
Yes
Active outdoor play
2.8
2.7–2.9
3.1
2.9–3.3
2.3
2.2–2.5
2.6
2.3–2.9
Yes
Watching/supervising
3.6
3.5–3.6
3.8
3.7–3.9
3.3
3.2–3.4
3.5
3.3–3.7
Yes
Pretend play
2.8
2.7–2.9
2.8
2.6–3.0
2.6
2.5–2.8
2.5
2.1–2.9
No
p<0.05
Results showed that:
Direct
involvement with infants in play, reading, singing, routine care giving and pretend play was similar
across the different care types.
Time
104
spent in organising space and equipment was also similar for all carers, regardless of the type of care.
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Contexts of care and early education
Carers/teachers
in formal settings spent more time managing problem behaviours than carers in informal
settings. This is likely due to differences in group size. Long day care centres and family day care homes
have larger numbers of children. In informal settings, single children or small groups of children were more
common.
Family
day carers reported higher amounts of time spent teaching good health practices than any other care
type.
Carers/teachers
in formal settings reported spending more time in active, outdoor play than those in informal
settings. This is likely due to the requirement for formal care settings, whether home or centre‑based, to
provide equipment and space for gross motor play. The lower rate for the informal relatives group may also
reflect the age difference in this type of setting. Older carers, such as grandparents, may prefer to spend less
of the day in active forms of play.
Family
day carers reported spending more time supervising than those in informal settings.
Provision and resources for play and learning
All respondents, including carers/teachers in long day care centres, family day care providers and informal
carers (relatives and non‑relatives), were asked to rate the availability of resources for children’s play in the
care environment on a five‑point scale ranging from 0 to 4, where 0=not at all and 4=all day. Although the four
care contexts are substantially different, play provisions for the children would be expected to cover similar
areas of interest (motor skills, language, creativity and pretend). Setting‑specific provisions are also identified:
soft areas in centre care, and setting up for specific types of play in home care. Mean scores are in Table 90.
Table 90: Mean values of availability of resources by main care type
Main care arrangement
Long day care
Family day care
Informal—relative
Informal—
non‑relative
Mean
95% CI
Mean
95% CI
Mean
95% CI
Mean
95% CI
Language
3.8
3.8–3.9
3.7
3.5–3.8
3.1
2.9–3.4
3.4
3.0–3.7
Fine motor
3.8
3.7–3.9
3.6
3.5–3.8
3.5
3.2–3.7
3.7
3.5–3.9
Creative
2.4
2.3–2.5
2.9
2.6–3.1
2.7
2.3–3.0
2.5
2.2–2.8
Pretend
3.4
3.3–3.6
3.7
3.5–3.9
3.2
2.9–3.5
3.8
3.5–4.0
Open space for active
play—long day care
3.5
3.4–3.6
–
–
–
–
3.5
3.3–3.7
3.7
3.5–3.8
3.8
3.6–4.0
3.8
3.8–3.9
–
–
–
–
3.7
3.4–3.9
2.8
2.5–3.2
3.0
2.5–3.4
Environment
Active play—home care
Soft area—long day care
Space set up for one type
of play—home care
105
Child care and early education in Australia
Results showed that the type of care setting impacted on four of the six areas of providing for children’s play
and development. In each area, carers in formal care settings (long day care and/or family day care) rated their
play provisions more highly than informal home‑based care providers.
Child
care centre staff and family day carers reported having materials to stimulate language development
available for longer each day than informal relative carers.
On
average, creative materials were available for longer periods of the day in family day care settings than in
informal settings with relatives.
On
average, pretend‑play materials were available for longer periods of the day in centre‑based care and
family day care settings than informal settings with relatives.
Provisions
for active physical play and fine motor play were similar across all of the home‑based care types.
Family day carers were more likely to have different areas set up for specific types of play for more of the day
than relatives and non‑relative carers.
Supportive staff work environment
Carers/teachers in long day care centres and family day care schemes were asked to rate their level of
agreement with statements describing aspects of a supportive workplace. Factor analysis was conducted
separately for long day care and family day care staff, to compute a composite score for supportive work
environment.
Long day care
Using Pearson product moment correlations as input, a principal components analysis for the six items
revealed one factor accounting for 58.8 per cent of the common factor variance. Internal reliability was
assessed to be within the acceptable range (=0.86). Therefore, the six items were summed to form an overall
‘supportiveness’ variable. This produced a measure with a range of six (low supportiveness) to 30 (high
supportiveness). The mean score (26.4, equivalent to 4.4 out of 5) and distribution (Figure 5) showed that the
majority of long day care centre staff felt well supported in their workplace (score of 24 and above). However, a
small number reported low to moderate levels of support.
106
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Contexts of care and early education
Figure 5: Distribution of supportiveness in centre‑based care environment
80.00
Frequency
60.00
40.00
20.00
0.00
5.00
10.00
15.00
20.00
25.00
30.00
Centre based support work environment
Mean=26.3927
Standard deviation=3.3507
N=224
Family day care
Factor analysis procedures were followed as described above for the five items completed by family day
carers. One item (item 2: ‘I have a clear understanding of my roles and responsibilities’) was removed due
to low communality. Principal components analysis using the four items revealed one factor accounting for
56.6 per cent of the common factor variance. Internal reliability was within the acceptable range (=0.73) and
therefore, the four items were summed to form an overall ‘supportiveness’ variable. This produced a measure
with a range of four (low supportiveness) to 20 (high supportiveness). As was found for centre‑based services,
most carers felt well supported in their work environment (mean score of 17.1, equivalent to 4.3 out of 5). The
distribution (Figure 6) showed that the majority of carers had scores of 16 and above. However, a small but
sizable proportion reported low to moderate levels of support.
107
Child care and early education in Australia
Figure 6: Distribution of supportiveness in family day care environment
20.00
Frequency
15.00
10.00
5.00
0.00
10.00
12.00
14.00
16.00
18.00
20.00
Home based support work environment
Mean=17.1281
Standard deviation=2.36109
N=80
7.5 Contexts of care for the child cohort
Respondents
Information on the care/education context for 4 to 5 year olds was based on 3,242 mail‑out questionnaires that
were returned by the child’s teacher/carer. This represented an average 68.4 per cent return. The proportion of
respondents for each care setting roughly matches the proportion of study children in each care setting. There
was a slight overrepresentation of teachers/carers working in ‘preschool not in a school’ settings (74.6 per cent
return) and a slight underrepresentation of teachers/carers working in ‘long day care centres’ (61.8 per cent
return).
Table 91: Teachers/carers who returned questionnaire by type
Type of care/education setting
Pre‑Year 1
Overall %
29.1
Preschool not in a
school
30.7
Long day care
centre
22.7
Total
100
Returned n
567
944
993
737
3,242
Possible n
822
1,390
1,331
1,193
4,736
% returned
Note:
108
17.5
Preschool in a
school
69.0
67.9
74.6
61.8
68.4
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add exactly to totals.
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Contexts of care and early education
Teacher/carer demographic characteristics
Age
The age of teachers/carers differed across care groups. On average, those working in a preschool setting were
between 5 and 7 years older than those working in a centre‑based program. Pre‑Year 1 teachers fell midway
between the other two groups.
Table 92: Teacher/carer age and experience by type
Type of care/education setting
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Mean
95% CI
Mean
95% CI
Mean
95% CI
Mean
95% CI
Age
39.5
38.5–40.6
42.6
41.9–43.2
40.8
39.9–41.6
35.7
34.9–36.5
Experience (years)
14.6
13.8–15.5
16.5
15.9–17.1
15.3
14.6–16.0
11.0
10.4–11.7
Carer demographics
Experience
The years of experience of a teacher/carer mirrored the age of the teacher/carer, with the highest mean years
of experience being observed in those working in a preschool setting, the lowest in centre‑based care, and
pre‑Year 1 falling between the two.
Qualifications and educational achievement
The level of education of teachers/carers provides some indication of the educational program in the
centre. In most states and territories, the accepted criterion for a preschool program is the employment
of a university‑qualified early childhood or primary educated teacher, who is responsible for designing
and implementing an educationally appropriate program. Table 93 presents the number and proportion
of respondents for each level of education, from certificate to post‑graduate study. Of the 2,989 staff who
completed this component of the questionnaire, the majority held a university Bachelor degree or higher
(60.8 per cent) and had studied early childhood education (63.1 per cent). Table 94 presents the number and
proportion of respondents for the major fields of study that are deemed to be appropriate for early childhood
work.
Table 93: Education of teacher/carer
Education level of teacher/carer
Masters or doctoral degree
Frequency
%
58
1.9
425
14.2
1,336
44.7
Advanced diploma or associate degree
144
4.8
Diploma or associate diploma
817
27.3
Certificate
99
3.3
Other
79
2.6
None of the above
31
1.0
Graduate diploma or graduate certificate
Bachelor degree
Total
2,989
100
109
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 94: Field of study (for highest post‑secondary education)
n
%
170
6.1
1,808
63.1
Child care
197
7.1
Primary/secondary education
483
17.4
8
0.3
Special education
74
2.7
Other field
36
1.3
Field of study of teacher/carer
None/not completed
Early childhood education
Nursing
Total
100
2,776
Staff qualifications (university degree versus less than university degree) and field of study were then
compared across the four early education settings. Results indicated (Table 95) that school‑based settings,
pre‑Year 1 (77.5 per cent) and preschools in a school (73.9 per cent), were similar in the proportion of staff who
held university qualifications. Proportions of university qualified staff were lower for preschools not in a school
(56.8 per cent) and lowest in long day care settings (42.7 per cent).
In terms of their areas of study, teachers in pre‑Year 1 were least likely to have a qualification in early
childhood education (41.4 per cent), with just over half (51.4 per cent) being qualified in primary or secondary
education. Preschool teachers were most likely to be early childhood trained (77.7 per cent), whether working
in preschools in a school or not in a school. Long day care centres staff reported both early childhood
qualifications (51.3 per cent) and child care qualifications (25.3 per cent).
Table 95: Staff qualifications by type of care/education setting
Type of care/education setting
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a
school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
Diploma/certificate
or less
22.5
18.8–26.6
121
26.1
22.8–29.5
222
43.2
39.0–47.6
382
57.3
52.5–61.9
372
37.5
35.5–39.6
1,096
University
education
77.5
73.4–81.2
419
73.9
70.5–77.2
628
56.8
52.4–61.0
502
42.7
38.1–47.5
277
62.5
60.4–64.5
1,827
100
100
540
100
100
850
100
100
884
100
100
649
100
100
2,923
Qualification level
Total
Note:
110
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Contexts of care and early education
Table 96: Field of study by type of care/education setting
Type of care/education setting
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a
school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
41.4
37.0–46.0
218
77.7
74.4–80.7
614
77.7
73.7–81.3
668
51.3
46.8–55.9
308
65.1
63.1–67.1
1,808
0.0
0.0–0.0
0
0.5
0.2–1.1
4
4.7
3.1–7.2
41
25.3
22.2–28.7
152
7.1
6.2–8.1
197
51.4
46.8–56.1
271
13.5
11.1–16.3
107
6.7
4.6–9.5
57
8.1
5.8–11.2
48
17.4
15.8–19.2
483
Nursing
0.0
0.0–0.0
0
0.1
0.0–0.4
1
0.4
0.1–1.2
4
0.6
0.2–1.3
3
0.3
0.1–0.5
8
Special education
2.0
1.2–3.5
11
3.5
2.3–5.2
28
3.7
2.4–5.8
32
0.6
0.2–1.7
4
2.7
2.0–3.5
74
Another field
2.0
1.1–3.6
10
0.4
0.1–1.0
3
1.3
0.8–2.2
11
2.0
1.1–3.6
12
1.3
1.0–1.8
36
100
100
510
100
100
757
100
100
813
100
100
527
100
100
2,606
Field of study
Early childhood
education
Child care
Primary/secondary
education
Total
Teacher‑to‑child ratios
State and territory regulations for long day care centres for 4 to 5 year olds and preschool settings differ
in terms of the stipulated ratios of adults‑to‑children and qualified teachers‑to‑children (for example, at
Wave 1 of LSAC ratios were: 1:8 for long day care in South Australia; 1:10 in New South Wales and Tasmania;
1:15 in Victoria). Ratios also vary by type of educational setting, being higher once children reach school‑age.
Twenty children in a class is considered a good ratio (for example, New South Wales’ policy is ‘20 is plenty’ for
kindergarten classes in schools), but numbers may be higher in many school settings.
Ratios for the LSAC child’s pre‑Year 1 school classroom, preschool group and long day care centre were
calculated from figures for the average number of children, number of paid adults and number of qualified staff
typically working in the group that the study child attended. Results in Table 97 showed marked differences
in staff‑to‑child ratios across the different types of care/education settings. More than 50 per cent (51.6) of
long day care teachers reported a ratio of 1 adult to less than eight children compared with 38.4 per cent for
preschool in a school and 11.8 per cent for pre‑Year 1. Preschool not in a school was midway, with 43.2 per cent
reporting a 1:<8 ratio. High numbers of children to adults were a common experience in pre‑Year 1 classes:
53.8 per cent had ratios of more than one adult to 15 children. A small but significant number of long day
care centres (4.5 per cent) reported very poor ratios (over 1:15). This was far less likely in preschool settings
(1.2 per cent and 0.1 per cent, for preschool in a school and not in a school, respectively).
111
Child care and early education in Australia
Table 97: Paid staff‑to‑child ratios by care type
Type of care/education setting
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a
school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
11.8
9.3–15.0
67
38.4
34.9–41.9
360
43.2
38.4–48.2
424
51.6
47.6–55.6
370
38.1
35.9–40.4
1,219
8 to 15
34.3
30.3–38.6
193
60.4
56.8–63.9
567
56.7
51.8–61.5
555
43.9
39.9–48.1
315
51.0
48.9–53.0
1,630
15 or higher
53.8
49.7–58.0
304
1.2
0.6–2.5
11
0.1
0.0–0.5
1
4.5
3.0–6.7
32
10.9
9.8–12.1
348
100
100
564
100
100
938
100
100
979
100
100
716
100
100
3,197
Number of children
per adult
Less than 8
Total
Note:
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Equally telling of differences across service types were the ratios of qualified staff to children (Table 98). Again,
long day care staff reported better ratios; 28.3 per cent had one qualified staff member for less than eight
children, significantly higher than preschool settings not in a school (19.3 per cent) and pre‑Year 1 classrooms
(8.4 per cent), but not significantly different from preschools in a school (21.8 per cent). It is important to note,
however, that qualifications in long day care were more likely to include TAFE or diploma trained staff, whereas
qualifications in pre‑Year 1 were predominately at university level, making percentage differences across
settings difficult to interpret.
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Table 98: Qualified staff‑to‑child ratios by type of care/education setting
Type of care/education setting
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a
school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Total
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
%
95% CI
n
8.4
6.1–11.4
47
21.8
18.7–25.3
204
19.3
15.9–23.1
190
28.3
24.3–32.6
202
20.1
18.3–22.1
643
8 to 15
23.0
19.6–26.8
130
39.9
36.0–43.9
374
22.3
18.7–26.2
219
38.4
34.5–42.5
274
31.2
29.1–33.3
996
15 or higher
68.6
64.5–72.5
387
38.3
34.6–42.1
359
58.5
54.0–62.8
576
33.3
29.4–37.5
237
48.7
46.5–51.0
1,559
100
100
563
100
100
937
100
100
984
100
100
713
100
100
3,197
Number of children
per qualified adult
Less than 8
Total
Note:
This table contains population weighted data, so some of the components may not add exactly to totals. Due to
rounding, percentages may not add to 100 exactly.
Approaches to learning
The nature of the educational program in children’s care/education settings was described by the
usual amount of time spent on a typical day on four different activities (teacher‑directed whole group,
teacher‑supported small group, teacher‑supported individual and child‑initiated), each designed to illustrate
four approaches to learning. Mean ratings (1=never, 2=occasionally, 3=often, 4=always) are reported for each
type of early education settings.
Results showed modest differences in the type of activities children were exposed to on a usual day across the
four settings.
Children
in pre‑Year 1 were significantly more likely to experience higher levels (mean score of 3.7) of
teacher‑directed, whole‑group activities than children in prior‑to‑school programs (mean scores of 3.1 to 3.0).
This may be due to the different emphasis given to teaching and learning in pre‑Year 1 versus preschool/long
day care settings, or it may reflect the higher ratios of children to adults in pre‑Year 1 versus preschool/long
day care classrooms.
Prior‑to‑school
settings were similar in the amount of teacher‑directed experiences provided (mean scores of
3.1, 3.0 and 3.1 for preschool in a school, preschool not in a school, and long day care, respectively).
Teachers
in pre‑Year 1, preschool and long day care settings reported a similar amount of time spent on
teacher‑supported small group activities (mean scores of 3.3 to 3.2).
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Table 99: Description of approach to teaching by type of care/education setting
Type of care/education setting
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
Approach to teaching
Mean
95% CI
n
Mean
95% CI
n
Mean
95% CI
n
Mean
95% CI
n
Teacher‑directed
whole‑group activities
3.7
3.3–3.4
561
3.1
3.1–3.2
883
3.0
3.0–3.1
930
3.1
3.0–3.1
693
Teacher‑supported
small group activities
3.3
3.2–3.4
560
3.3
3.3–3.3
883
3.2
3.2–3.3
931
3.3
3.2–3.3
693
Teacher‑supported
individual activities
3.1
3.1–3.2
561
3.2
3.2–3.3
880
3.4
3.3–3.4
928
3.3
3.3–3.4
693
Child‑initiated
activities
2.9
2.8–2.9
560
3.6
3.6–3.7
883
3.8
3.7–3.8
931
3.7
3.7–3.8
693
On
the amount of time spent on teacher‑supported individual activities, teachers in pre‑Year 1 classes reported
lower levels (mean=3.1) than teachers in preschools not in a school (mean=3.4) and long day care (mean=3.3)
settings. Teachers in school‑based preschools had scores (mean=3.2) midway between pre‑Year 1 and
non‑school settings. While these ratings do not show large differences in providing teacher‑supported
individual activities, the differences that are apparent may be due to the higher ratios of children to adults in
school‑based programs.
There
was a marked difference in the amount of time spent in child‑initiated activities between formal school
and prior‑to‑school settings. On average, children in pre‑Year 1 were given less time during the day for
child‑initiated activities (mean score=2.9) than children attending the three types of preschool care and early
education (mean score=3.6, 3.8 and 3.7). Only marginal differences were noted in the level of child‑initiated
activities provided in the three types of prior‑to‑school settings.
Provision and resources for play and learning
Teachers/carers were asked to indicate the level of provision of space and resources available to support
the early education learning environment. Items 1 and 2 assessed the degree of space for independent
learning areas to be developed and for a permanent quiet time/rest area. Items 3 to 7 assessed the
provision of resources for art and writing, fine motor and problem‑solving skill development, gross motor
skill development, books for stimulating an interest in reading and the accessibility of resources to develop
activities in response to children’s interests. Responses were scored on a 1 to 5 scale (1=strongly disagree to
5=strongly agree).
Scores were subjected to factor analysis using Pearson product moment correlations as input in a principal
components analysis. Results revealed two factors accounting for 78.1 per cent of the common factor variance.
Item 3 (resources for children’s interests) was removed due to significant cross‑loading. The first factor was
made up of items 4 to 7 and broadly represented ‘resources/materials’. The second factor was made up of
items 1 and 2 and represented ‘space’. The internal reliability for both factors was acceptable (=0.89 and
0.73, respectively); therefore, two composite measures were computed.
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Results for the whole sample showed that the distribution of the ‘space’ and ‘resources/materials’ measures
was highly skewed, indicating that the majority of teachers felt positively about their environment in terms of
space and materials available to assist positive child development. Ratings for space received a mean score
of 8.0 out of a possible maximum of 10. Similarly, teachers’ ratings of the availability of resources/materials
for children’s learning and development were highly skewed towards a high level of provision (mean score of
18.5 out of a maximum of 20).
Teachers’/carers’ ratings of space and resources were examined across the four types of early education
settings. Results showed that teachers in pre‑Year 1 reported lower levels of space (mean score of 7.0) for
independent learning areas and for quiet time/rest areas compared to prior‑to‑school settings (mean scores of
7.8 to 8.6). There were also significant differences within prior‑to‑school program types: lowest ratings (mean
score of 7.8) for preschools in a school; middle ratings (mean score of 8.3) for preschools not in a school and
highest rating (mean score of 8.6) for long day care centres.
The pattern of results for teachers’/carers’ ratings of resources/materials was similar. Teachers in
pre‑Year 1 reported lower ratings (mean score of 17.1) for materials being easily available to enhance children’s
play and learning than the three prior‑to‑school settings (mean scores of 18.6 to 19.0). Ratings given by
teachers/carers in preschools and long day care centres were not significantly different from each other.
Table 100: Provisions for space and resources by type of care/education setting
Type of care/education setting
Pre‑Year 1
Mean space
95% CI
Mean resources
95% CI
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
7.0
7.8
8.3
8.6
6.8–7.2
7.6–8.0
8.2–8.5
8.5–8.7
17.1
18.7
19.0
18.6
16.9–17.4
18.6–18.9
18.8–19.2
18.4–18.8
Supportive staff work environment
Teachers/carers in early education settings provided ratings on six indicators of the supportiveness of their
work environment, on a scale of 1 to 5. Factor analysis using Pearson product moment correlations as input to a
principal components analysis revealed one factor accounting for 66.6 per cent of the common factor variance.
Internal reliability was assessed and found to be within the acceptable range (=0.90). Therefore, a composite
score was computed to describe supportiveness of the workplace. The overall mean and distribution of scores
for this measure showed that teachers rated their work environment as highly supportive. The overall mean
was close to 27 out of a maximum score of 30, which is equivalent to a score of 4.5 out of 5. However, as noted
for the infant cohort, a small proportion of staff indicated lower levels of supportiveness at work.
Ratings were then compared across the different types of care/education settings. Results showed that while
there were statistically significant differences in the ratings of supportiveness across care/education settings,
these differences were very small. In general, most teachers/carers indicated they found their workplace
to be a highly supportive environment. On average, staff who indicated the lowest levels of a supportive
work environment were those who worked in pre‑Year 1 in schools (mean score of 25.9). Teachers/carers in
preschool programs in not in a school settings reported the highest levels of supportiveness (mean score
of 27.4). Teachers/carers in school‑based preschools and long day care centres had mid‑range scores for
supportiveness (mean scores of 26.7 and 26.6, respectively).
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Table 101: Supportive work environment by type of care/education setting
Type of care/education setting
Teacher rating of
supportiveness
Mean
95% CI
Pre‑Year 1
Preschool in a school
Preschool not in a
school
Long day care
25.9
26.7
27.4
26.6
25.6–26.2
26.5–27.0
27.1–27.7
26.3–26.9
7.6Discussion
In this section we examined the context of infant child care and 4 to 5 year‑old children’s care and early
education settings in relation to four aspects of quality reported by the LSAC infant’s or child’s carer/teacher.
These included: structural features, which focus on carer/teacher demographics; positive practices in relation
to carer–infant interaction and approaches to teaching and learning in early education (teacher‑directed,
teacher‑supported, child‑initiated); provisions for space and resources that enhance infants’ and children’s
play, learning and development; and organisational features of the setting that support a positive environment
for staff.
Limitations
These data provide broad coverage of quality in care/early education, but they are limited to some extent by
the LSAC data collection procedures. Respondents were self‑selected as ‘the person who is the main carer’ in
the case of the infant cohort, or ‘the person who has primary responsibility for the planning and delivery of the
group program’ for the child cohort. While we can be confident about the demographic data that describes the
characteristics of the group—on group size and child to adult ratios—the data on carer/teacher qualifications
are limited to information on respondent only and do not describe the characteristics of the other staff in the
group. Furthermore, the respondent may not be the most qualified person in the setting. As a result, it is not
possible to compare LSAC information on staff demographics in child care/early education with other more
comprehensive surveys of staff qualifications (for example, FaCS 2005; OECD 2006).
A further limitation, especially for the infant cohort, is the small sample size, which may not be
widely representative of staff demographics or other indicators of quality in infant care. Of a possible
1,180 respondents (carers of infants attending non‑parental child care for more than eight hours per week),
just under one‑half (n=530; 44.6 per cent) returned the mail‑out questionnaire. Of these 530 carers,
40 per cent (n=211) were working in long day care centres and 60 per cent were providing home‑based care.
The majority of home‑based carers (42 per cent; n=222) were relatives of the LSAC infants; 14 per cent (n=67)
were family day carers; and 4 per cent (n=30) were non‑relatives. For descriptive purposes, and to provide a
complete picture of the nature of the LSAC infants’ care experiences, we have included these four groups in
our analyses, but the very small numbers of respondents in the family day care and non‑relative care groups
limit comparison across the four care types. A more meaningful approach, however, is possible by using a
two‑group categorisation of care: formal, which includes long day care and family day care, and informal,
which includes care by relatives and non‑relatives.
As noted in this and previous sections, informal home‑based care is normally not subject to legislative
frameworks, including the licensing standards of the state/territory governments and the national child care
accreditation system. Therefore, these care settings were expected to vary more in quality than formal long
day care and family day care. The analyses presented in this section provided mixed support for this position.
Structural indicators of quality: infant cohort
Demographic information confirmed that levels of education were generally higher for carers working in formal
care, the majority of whom held diploma or university‑level qualifications, compared to informal care settings.
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Relatives, usually grandparents, were on average older than other care providers, which may account for this
group being the least likely to have achieved a diploma or university qualification. On the other hand, a carer’s
age (which can be used as a proxy for years of experience as a care giver) was significantly lower for staff
working in long day care compared to informal home‑based carers as well as providers of family day care.
In terms of staff‑to‑child ratios, accurate figures were only available for long day care centres. We noted that
the average number of adults‑to‑children was 1:4, which approximates state and territory regulations for infant
care. However, there was considerable variation across the LSAC sample in relation to the ratio of qualified
staff‑to‑children: ratios varied from excellent (1:<4) to very poor (1:>10).
Practice indicators of quality: infant cohort
Process quality for infant child care was assessed by carers’ reports of their daily practices and the
provision of space and resources to support infant play and development. In general, carers’ level of
involvement in positive practices such as singing, playing and reading with children, or providing individual
attention in routine care, was similar across all four types of infant care. Carers in informal settings reported
being less involved in active outdoor play than carers in formal settings, which is likely due to the high
number of grandparents providing care. Interestingly however, provisions for active play, such as balls and
ride‑on or push‑along toys, were equally available to infants, regardless of the type of setting they attended.
This was not the case, however, for materials and resources to support language development or creative and
pretend play. For these three areas of learning, appropriate resources were less available to infants receiving
care in informal home‑based settings. The higher level of resources and great presence or access to materials
for infant learning in formal care settings is probably influenced by external requirements (national and
state/territory) for quality assurance, the input of qualified staff and parent support through fund‑raising.
Provision of materials for learning in informal care settings may also be limited by the financial capacities of
home‑based carers.
Carers were also asked to report the level of negative interaction, specifically time spent in managing problem
behaviour. Results showed that more time was spent on difficult interaction in formal care settings, which was
likely due to the higher number of children attending these settings compared to informal home‑based care.
Structural indicators of quality: child cohort
In comparison to the infant cohort, the 4 to 5 year‑old cohort provided a large, representative sample of the
main forms of early childhood education. More than 96 per cent of children were attending a formal centre
or school‑based care/education program and two‑thirds of their teachers/carers (n=3,242; 68.4 per cent)
completed and returned the mail‑out questionnaire. The proportion of teachers who returned their
questionnaires in each type of settings (pre‑Year 1: 17.5 per cent; preschool: 59.8 per cent; long day care:
22.7 per cent) matched the proportion of LSAC children attending these settings (pre‑Year 1: 16.5 per cent;
preschool: 54.6 per cent; long day care: 23.9 per cent).
All of these types of early education settings are subject to state and territory or Australian Government quality
assurance procedures, but requirements for staff numbers and qualifications are not consistent, either at a
national level or by jurisdiction (in a school setting versus not in a school setting). Not surprisingly then, there
was considerable variation in the demographic characteristics of the respondents across the four types of
care/early education settings. As reported for the infant cohort, carers/teachers in long day care were younger
and had fewer years experience in early childhood education and care than their counterparts in preschools
and schools. They were also less likely to have a university qualification. Only 42.7 per cent of respondents in
long day care held a university degree, compared to 56.8 per cent in preschools not in a school, 73.9 per cent in
school‑based preschools and 77.5 per cent in pre‑Year 1. This is of concern when viewed in light of international
research showing that quality education programs are more likely to occur when staff are experienced and well
qualified.
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Practice indicators of quality: child cohort
Process quality in early education settings was assessed by teacher‑reported practices, which described
approaches to learning on a continuum from teacher‑directed to teacher‑supported to child‑initiated, and
provisions within the classroom environment to support children’s independent learning through a range
of means. Practices in pre‑Year 1 settings favoured a teacher‑directed approach and gave less attention
to teacher‑supported individual or child‑initiated activities than in preschool and long day care centres.
Children attending preschools and long day care programs were more likely to have regular opportunities
for teacher‑supported individual and child‑initiated learning experiences. Similar findings were reported
for children’s access to space and materials for learning. Teachers in pre‑Year 1 reported lower scores than
teachers and carers in preschools and long day care.
Organisational indicators of quality
Organisational and management practices that support and empower carers and teachers are important
prerequisites for quality and consistency in the workforce. When staff feel valued and rewarded, they are more
likely to feel satisfied at work and maintain a positive commitment to the children in their care. In general,
carers and teachers in formal settings for infants and 4 to 5 year olds rated centre/school organisation and
staff morale at a good to high level (average scores of 4.3 to 4.7 on a five‑point scale). While results showed
statistically significant differences in the ratings of supportiveness across settings, the differences were
very small and, in general, most teachers indicated they found their workplace to be a highly supportive
environment.
Conclusion
Despite the limitations of sample size and selection of respondents identified above, the data presented in
this section provide initial support for the validity and robustness of the LSAC measures of quality in child
care/early education settings. This section also supports the appropriateness of including a selection of
these measures in multivariate analyses to assess the impact of care/early education on child outcomes
(where sample size permits). For Wave 1 analyses, this was appropriate only for the 4 to 5 year‑old cohort.
Items flagged for inclusion in multivariate analyses were demographic indicators of quality, such as teachers’
level of qualifications, specialist study in early childhood, years of experience and the ratio of qualified staff
to children. Program quality, as described by approaches to teaching and learning, was also identified as an
important variable for inclusion. The results of these analyses are reported in Section 8.
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8 Infant and child outcomes
8.1 Introduction
This section examines infant health and development outcomes, and child social and cognitive outcomes,
in a series of multivariable analyses designed to assess the contribution of children’s child care and early
education experiences. All analyses also account for child characteristics, family circumstances, and maternal
personality and wellbeing, which are expected to be important predictors of child outcomes.
Initial analyses focus on the information provided in the home interview by the primary care giver about the
child’s current care/early education (type, amount and stability as represented by the number of current
arrangements) and age of entry into first child care arrangement.
Secondary analyses focus on the information provided in the mail‑out questionnaire by the carer/teacher in the
child’s main care setting, to assess any additional contribution of quality of care/education. Due to the marked
differences in quality indicators (noted in Chapter 7), separate analyses were conducted for two subgroups of
children—the group attending pre‑Year 1 classes and the group attending preschool and long day care centres.
These secondary analyses are limited by the reduced sample size—including only children attending
care/education with carers/teachers who returned the questionnaire.
8.2Section summary
The multivariable analyses of infant and child outcomes produced a range of results.
For
infants, parent‑reported low physical health and incidence of acute infections were higher for those
attending long day care centres and those receiving more total hours of non‑parental child care.
When
the amount of infant care was examined in combination with specific types of care, poorer health
outcomes were associated with longer hours in centre‑based care. The reverse relationship was true in regard
to relative‑based care—up to 20 hours per week of care with a relative were associated with lower incidence of
infection.
No
consistent pattern of association was identified between infant communication skill and child care
characteristics. Falling within the ‘concern’ range was less likely for infants placed in informal care. An
increased chance of an infant falling within the ‘concern’ range was noted where infants were older when
starting their care placement and where centre‑based care was in the range of nine to 20 hours.
For 4 to 5 year
olds, pro‑social and problem behaviours, as rated by mothers, were not independently
associated with any feature of the child’s current or past care or early education. Significant predictors of
more problems were risk factors associated with maternal age, education, employment, wellbeing, number of
children in the family and family income.
Teacher/carer‑rated
pro‑social and problem behaviour differed by type of care/early education setting
(generally poorer outcomes in pre‑Year 1 and preschool settings), which may reflect teacher expectations and
the demands of the setting rather than child differences.
Children
who attended multiple care/education settings each week received poorer ratings on pro‑social and
problem behaviour outcomes from their teachers.
Children
whose main care/education setting was pre‑Year 1, preschool (only) or long day care only had higher
scores for receptive vocabulary when compared to children who attended long day care with other care.
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Child care and early education in Australia
Children’s
receptive vocabulary scores were negatively associated with the amount of weekly care/education
received, particularly as hours went over 31 to 40 or more than 40 hours per week.
Early
literacy and numeracy skills were highest in the group of children who had entered pre‑Year 1 at school.
Type of care/education setting for children not yet in pre‑Year 1 was not associated with differences in
children’s literacy and numeracy skills.
Attending
an early childhood program for more than eight hours per week, but less than 31 hours per week,
was associated with higher literacy and numeracy skills.
Indices
of care/education quality were moderately associated with child social and learning outcomes for
pre‑Year 1 classrooms, but only minimally for preschool and long day care settings. Mothers’ ratings of child
pro‑social behaviour were higher, and problem behaviour were lower, when the child’s teacher/carer held
a university qualification. Children’s scores on the PPVT were higher when pre‑Year 1 teachers held an early
childhood specialisation. Better ratios of qualified staff to children, particularly for pre‑Year 1 classrooms, were
associated with improved outcomes for mothers’ and teachers’ ratings of pro‑social behaviour and problem
behaviour, and for children’s performance on the PPVT test of receptive vocabulary.
Approaches
to learning, which measured teaching practices in the child’s group or classroom, also contributed
to social and learning outcomes. More frequent provision of teacher‑supported small group activities was
associated with higher ratings for child pro‑social behaviour in preschool/long day care and higher scores in
early literacy and numeracy in pre‑Year 1. In contrast, more time in child‑initiated activities was associated with
lower scores for literacy and numeracy, and poorer social and behavioural outcomes in pre‑Year 1, as rated by
mothers. For children in preschool/long day care settings, more time in teacher‑directed whole group activities
was associated with higher literacy and numeracy scores.
8.3Outcomes for the infant cohort
Overview of analytic approach
Several child care characteristics were modelled with respect to their association with measures of infant
wellbeing. Child care variables of interest included: care type, number of hours in care, number of regular
non‑parental care arrangements, hours of centre‑based care, hours of relative‑based care and the infant’s age
of entry into their first non‑parental care arrangement. To study the independent effects of these child care
characteristics, models were adjusted for the effects of selected family, maternal and child sociodemographic
characteristics and parenting variables. These covariates included: mother’s age at time of child’s birth, her
education and employment status, family type, household income, number of children in household, language
spoken at home, the study child’s age, sex, Indigenous status, and the mother’s level of psychological distress,
her separation anxiety, her parenting behaviour and her confidence in parenting.
Analysis of type of care/education was conducted on the whole sample of infants and children. Analyses
of amount and stability were conducted on the reduced sample of infants and children who were currently
attending non‑parental care/education. It should also be noted that it was anticipated that the relationship
between specific care characteristics (for example, quality of care received and ratio of staff to children) and
outcomes would be examined; however, due to the low numbers of infants in care and the low return rate of
carer questionnaires, multivariable modelling could not be conducted.
In preparing the data for analyses of the infant cohort, two issues needed to be addressed. First, in
cross‑classification analysis, several of the care measures revealed substantial collinearity; for example,
children attending a higher number of non‑parental care settings also received a higher number of hours
in non‑parental care. Second, some analyses were affected by small cell sizes when looking at particular
combinations of care variables, thus making it unfeasible to conduct a multivariable analysis to examine
the independent effect of each care variable on the infant wellbeing measures. To address these problems,
separate multivariable analyses were conducted for each care variable rather than modelling care
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characteristics simultaneously. This means that caution must be exercised when interpreting the effects of
predictors on child care variables, because the possible confounding effects of other care variables have not
been simultaneously modelled.
Outcome measures
For the infant cohort, three outcome measures were examined: two measures of physical health (the Physical
Outcomes Index and ongoing problems with diarrhoea or infections) and one measure of communication (the
Communication and Symbolic Behaviour Scale or CSBS).
The Physical Outcomes Index was used as an early indicator of the infants’ physical health. This measure
was constructed by combining parent‑response items, which rated the infants’ current overall physical health
and their special health care needs (for further information on this measure see Sanson et al. 2005 and
Wake et al. 2008). Specifically, it is a composite variable aggregating parent responses across selected items
pertaining to the health of the infant. These items included a single item rating the infants’ overall global
health (1=excellent to 5=poor); and a binary item denoting special health care needs (derived from six
component items indicating whether the infant needed medication or ‘more medical care than is usual for most
children of the same age’ because of a condition that had lasted or was expected to last 12 months or more).
Thus, the infant health outcome measure combines a non‑specific global health rating and a broad rating of
health indicators that reflect more chronic (in the sense of lasting 12 months or more) ill health. Due to the
skewed nature of the measure, it has been used as a binomial variable. Infants falling in the bottom 15 per cent
of the distribution were categorised as having ‘low’ physical health; those falling in the top 85 per cent were
classified as having ‘higher’ physical health. In the following analysis, the likelihood of low physical health has
been modelled.
A second measure of infant physical health was developed for this report, based on parental information about
ongoing problems with diarrhoea or infections. While demands on the range of LSAC content precluded greater
specificity of health content, three questions were asked pertaining to the ongoing presence of an infection
in the infant. These items, and their prevalence, included: diarrhoea or colitis (1.1 per cent), ear infections
(4.0 per cent) and other infections (1.0 per cent). These three items were summed as an indicator of acute
infection and used in supplementary analyses to assess the stability in our observed associations between
infant health and child care characteristics.
Infant communication was assessed using the Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales—Infant/Toddler
Checklist (CSBS) (Wetherby & Prizant 2001), which was completed during the parent interview. The scales
are normed on a nationally representative sample of 2,000 children from the United States. They comprise a
24‑item checklist for children aged 6 to 24 months covering key pre‑linguistic domains found to be predictive
of later language competence (emotion and use of eye gaze, use of communication, use of gestures, use of
sounds, understanding of words, use of words and use of objects). These were summed to communication,
expressive speech and symbolic composites with both standard scores and composites, as well as a total
score. The total score is used in this analysis and has been dichotomised by using the recommended
developmentally age‑appropriate cut‑offs to denote ‘no concern’ or ‘concern’ with respect to the infants’
communication and symbolic behaviour. For economy of reporting we refer to no concern or concern with the
infants’ emergent communication skill to denote outcomes on the CSBS total score.
As mentioned earlier, the relationship between each outcome measure and each care measure was examined
in a separate multivariable logistic regression analysis (adjusting for sociodemographic and parenting
variables). It should be noted that the samples on which these analyses were conducted were slightly different
depending on the care measure being examined. Multivariable analyses examining care type used the entire
available sample; those including number of care settings, hours in care (non‑parental, centre‑based or
relative) or age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement were conducted on a sample restricted to
cases in non‑parental care.
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The results of the logistic regression model are expressed in terms of odds ratios. The effects of the covariate
sociodemographic and parenting variables are discussed in the first table for each of the outcome measures
(care type); for the subsequent care measures these covariates are simply adjusted for and not discussed in
great depth (or provided in tables). This was done to reduce the length of the section and keep the focus on the
effects of care measures.
Interpreting odds ratios
In the logistic regression models, the odds ratio is calculated for each predictor variable. Where an odds
ratio is above one, it indicates an increased level of risk; whereas an odds ratio of less than one indicates a
reduced level of risk. The statistical significance of an odds ratio can be judged by whether the 95 per cent
confidence interval includes (or crosses over) the reference value of 1.00. Where this occurs, the odds ratio is
not significant.
Categorical predictors have one category to which the others are compared to generate odds ratios. This is
labelled the Reference Category (Ref.). For example, in the model predicting ‘low physical health’, ‘exclusive
parental care’ has been used as the reference category in the ‘care type’ variable. The odds ratio (OR)
(adjusted) for children who attended ‘long day care only’ was 2.215 (95% CI: 1.541–3.185). In this instance, the
confidence interval does not contain 1.00: thus the effect is considered statistically significant. This can be
interpreted as saying that children who attended long day care centres were 2.215 times more likely to have
low physical health than children who received exclusive parental care.
Results—physical health
The Physical Outcomes Index is reported in the following analyses as the likelihood of low physical health.
Care type (using entire sample)
Generally, exclusive parental care was associated with better infant physical health after adjusting for
sociodemographic and parenting variables (Table 102). Relative to infants in exclusive parental care, infants in
all other care arrangements apart from family day care were more likely to have low physical health outcomes
with odds ratios ranging from 1.33 to 2.22. For example, about 14 per cent of children receiving exclusive
parental care were reported by their parent to have low physical health compared with about 21 per cent of
children receiving long day care only. The physical health of infants receiving family day care with or without
long day care did not significantly differ from those in exclusive parental care.
Covariates showed relatively few significant associations. Higher proportions of male infants were rated less
healthy, Indigenous infants were significantly more likely to fall in the low physical health category and the
odds of an infant having ‘low’ physical health decreased with age. With respect to maternal characteristics,
the odds of the child being rated with low physical health decreased with maternal self‑efficacy and positive
parenting. Infants of mothers with diplomas or trade certificates were less likely to have low physical health
relative to mothers with Year 10 or less education; otherwise there was no notable trend in the relationship
between infant health and maternal education. Compared to infants who lived in a household without siblings,
those who had one or two other children in the house were slightly more likely to have low physical health.
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Table 102: Effect of care type on the likelihood of the study infant having ‘low physical health’ on the Physical
Outcomes Index (n=3,790)
Variable
Adjusted odds ratio
(95% CI)
Care type
Exclusive parental care
Ref
Long day care only
2.215
(1.541–3.185)
Family day care only or with long day care
1.550
(0.894–2.687)
Informal relative only
1.326
(1.012–1.737)
Informal non‑relative only or with relative
1.488
(1.024–2.163)
Informal plus formal
2.171
(1.431–3.292)
1.140
(0.847–1.535)
Maternal characteristics
Mother’s age at birth of child (years)
<25
25 to 34
35+
Ref
0.813
(0.643–1.027)
Mother’s education
Year 10 or less
Ref
Year 11 or 12
0.855
(0.617–1.183)
Trade certificate or diploma
0.674
(0.501–0.906)
University
0.793
(0.589–1.068)
Full-time
0.750
(0.518–1.088)
Part-time
0.870
(0.692–1.093)
Mother’s employment status
Not working
Ref
Mother’s psychological distress
Normal range (low)
Clinically significant distress (high)
Ref
1.096
(0.873–1.377)
Lower
1.382
(1.126–1.696)
Higher
Ref
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy
Mother’s positive parenting behaviour
Lower
1.294
Higher
Ref
(1.046–1.601)
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Mother’s separation anxiety
Low
Medium
High
0.952
(0.776–1.168)
Ref
1.057
(0.842–1.326)
Family characteristics
Number of children in the household
1
Ref
2
1.369
(1.118–1.676)
3
1.493
(1.157–1.926)
4 or more
1.479
(0.989–2.213)
Weekly household income ($)
Less than 600
Ref
600 to 999
0.888
(0.656–1.202)
1,000 to 1,499
0.779
(0.567–1.070)
1,500 to 1,999
0.773
(0.531–1.124)
More than 2,000
0.752
(0.503–1.124)
1.254
(1.052–1.495)
Study child characteristics and subgroups
Child’s sex
Male
Female
Ref
Child’s age (continuous variable)
Age in weeks
0.985
(0.977–0.993)
Indigenous status
Non‑Indigenous
Indigenous
Ref
1.520
(1.038–2.227)
0.997
(0.707–1.405)
Family type
Lone parent
Couple
Ref
Language spoken at home
English only
Other language
Note: Ref=reference category used to calculate odds ratio.
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Ref
1.163
(0.888–1.523)
Infant and child outcomes
Hours per week in non‑parental care (restricted to infants in non‑parental care)
Multivariable analyses (adjusting for sociodemographic and parenting variables) revealed an increase in
hours of non‑parental care associated with increases in the proportions of infants with low physical health.
Specifically, for every additional four hours an infant spent in non‑parental care, there was an increase of
about 10 per cent in the proportion of children with low physical health (Table 103). This finding was further
investigated by assessing hours in combination with type of non‑parental care.
Table 103: Effect of hours per week in non‑parental care on the likelihood of the study infant having ‘low physical
health’ on the Physical Outcomes Index (n=1,327)
Variable
Adjusted odds ratio
1.097
Hours per week in care (increments of four hours)
(95% CI)
(1.044–1.154)
Hours of centre‑based care
The relationship between low physical health and length of time in centre‑based care was assessed by
classifying the infants currently receiving some non‑parental child care into four groups: those with zero
hours of centre‑based care, those with one to eight hours, those with nine to 20 hours and those with 21 hours
or more. After adjusting for sociodemographic and parenting variables, infants who received 21 hours or
more per week of centre‑based care were more than twice as likely to be rated as having low physical health
outcomes relative to those who received zero hours (ORadj=2.22; 95% CI: 1.39–3.54; unadjusted figures:
77.0 per cent versus 84.8 per cent) (Table 104). However, children receiving less than 21 hours per week of care
were no more likely to be rated as having low physical health as children receiving no hours of centre‑based
care.
Table 104: Effect of hours per week in centre‑based care on the likelihood of the study infant having ‘low physical
health’ on the Physical Outcomes Index (n=1,327)
Hours per week in centre‑based care
Adjusted odds ratio
0
(95% CI)
Ref
1 to 8
1.565
(0.997–2.458)
9 to 20
1.378
(0.896–2.120)
21 or more
2.218
(1.388–3.544)
Hours of relative care
The relationship between low physical health and length of time in care from relatives was assessed by
classifying the infants into four groups: zero hours of relative care, those with one to eight hours, those
with nine to 20 hours and those with 21 hours or more. After adjusting for sociodemographic and parenting
variables, there was no statistically significant effect of hours of relative care on the proportions of infants
rated with low physical health (Table 105).
Table 105: Effect of hours per week in relative care on the likelihood of the study infant having ‘low physical health’
on the Physical Outcomes Index (n=1,327)
Hours per week in relative care
0
Adjusted odds ratio
(95% CI)
Ref
1 to 8
0.772
(0.535–1.114)
9 to 20
0.882
(0.590–1.320)
21 or more
0.634
(0.334–1.203)
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Number of regular non‑parental care arrangements per week (restricted to infants in
non‑parental care)
Estimates of the relationship between the number of non‑parental care arrangements and low physical health
were confined to comparisons of two groups of infants: those with one non‑parental care arrangement and
those with two or more such arrangements. Multivariable findings revealed no significant difference in the
proportions of infants with low physical health for those with one non‑parental arrangement and those with
two or more (ORadj=1.09; 95% CI: 0.78–1.53; unadjusted: 16.8 per cent versus 17.4 per cent) (Table 106).
Table 106: Effect of number of regular non‑parental care arrangements on the likelihood of child having ‘low physical
health’ on the Physical Outcomes Index (n=1,327)
Number of regular care arrangements per week
One
Two or more
Adjusted odds ratio
(95% CI)
Ref
1.094
(0.782–1.532)
Age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement (restricted to infants in non‑parental care)
The relationship between the age of the infant on entry to their first non‑parental care arrangement
and low physical health was assessed by classifying the infants into four groups: those aged birth
to 3 months, 3 to 6 months, 6 to 9 months, and 9 months and older on entry to their first non‑parental care
arrangement. After adjusting for sociodemographic and parenting variables, infants aged 9 months or older at
the time of entry into their first care setting were approximately one‑third (ORadj=0.32; 95% CI 0.16–0.64) as
likely to have low physical health than children who were aged birth to 3 months (Table 107). The unadjusted
figures were: 6.5 per cent in the ‘low physical health’ category for infants 9 months or older on entry to
non‑parental care versus 17.2 per cent for infants aged birth to 3 months.
Table 107: Effect of age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement on the likelihood of the study infant having
‘low physical health’ on the Physical Outcomes Index (n=1,327)
Age of entry into first non‑parental care
arrangement
Adjusted odds ratio
(95% CI)
0 to 13 weeks
Ref
14 to 26 weeks
1.338
(0.954–1.876)
27 to 39 weeks
0.934
(0.640–1.362)
40 weeks or older
0.321
(0.162–0.636)
Infant physical health—acute infections
Level of acute infection was derived from the sum of the incidence of diarrhoea, colitis, ear infections and other
infections.
Broadly, the pattern of associations found with acute infections and child care characteristics was similar
to that found with the infant Physical Outcome Index (Table 108). After controlling for sociodemographic
and parenting variables, care type was significantly related to whether a child had ongoing problems with
diarrhoea, colitis or other infections. Infants in long day care were almost twice as likely to have at least one
of these health problems as children in exclusive parental care (ORadj=1.93; 95% CI 1.19–3.12; unadjusted:
11.4 per cent versus 5.0 per cent. Similarly, the number of hours a child spent in long day care was significantly
related to whether that child had ongoing problems with diarrhoea, colitis or other infections. Compared
to children who attended only home‑based care settings (zero hours in centre‑based care), those who
spent 21 or more hours in centre‑based care were more than three times as likely to have ongoing problems
with diarrhoea, colitis or other infections (ORadj=3.22; 95% CI 1.72–6.03; unadjusted: 13.0 per cent versus
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4.6 per cent. In contrast, part-time hours of relative care decreased the risk of infection. After controlling for
sociodemographic and parenting variables, infants who spent one to eight or nine to 20 hours with relatives
were nearly half as likely to have ongoing problems with diarrhoea, colitis or other infections compared to
children who attended other types of care (ORadj=0.59; 95% CI 0.35–0.98 and ORadj=0.47; 95% CI 0.25–0.89;
unadjusted 5.0 per cent and 4.6 per cent versus 8.2 per cent, respectively).
Infants attending two or more care settings were less likely to have health problems than children
attending one care setting (ORadj=0.43; 95% CI 0.25–0.74; unadjusted: 3.5 per cent versus 7.1 per cent).
This counterintuitive finding is likely due to the fact that multiple care arrangements were primarily in
home‑based care settings, whereas when a long day care centre was used, it was usually the infant’s only
care arrangement. Thus, the effects are in keeping with the finding that poor health outcomes were principally
associated with attendance at long day care and longer hours in long day care. No association was observed
between infant infections and the age of entry into first non‑parental care.
Table 108: Effect of care measures on the likelihood of the study infant having an ongoing problem with diarrhoea or
infection
Variable
Adjusted odds ratio
(95% CI)
Care type (n=3,774)
Exclusive parental care(a)
Ref
Long day care only
1.930
(1.192–3.124)
Family day care only or with long day care
0.967
(0.461–2.205)
Informal relative only
Informal non‑relative only or with relative
Informal plus formal
0.788
(0.495–1.252)
0.748
(0.395–1.415)
0.744
(0.361–1.532)
1.058
(0.968–1.155)
Hours per week in care (increments of four hours) (n=1,323)
Number of regular care arrangements per week (n=1,323)
1
Ref
2 or more
0.428
(0.248–0.740)
Age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement (weeks) (n=1,323)
0 to 13
Ref
14 to 26
1.177
(0.709–1.954)
27 to 39
40 or older
1.306
(0.662–2.578)
0.625
(0.239–1.635)
Hours per week in centre‑based care (n=1,323)
0
Ref
1 to 8
2.107
(0.998–4.449)
9 to 20
21 or more
1.597
(0.847–3.008)
3.223
(1.721–6.033)
Hours per week in relative care (n=1,323)
0
Ref
1 to 8
0.589
(0.354–0.980)
9 to 20
0.467
(0.246–0.886)
21 or more
0.498
(0.183–1.352)
(a)
Adjusted for sociodemographic and parenting variables, but not other care measures.
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Results—communication
Infant communication skill is modelled as an emergent communication skill that falls below the ‘concern’
cut‑off.
Care type (using entire sample)
The association between infant communication skill and care type was assessed with multivariable logistic
regression. Infants receiving informal care were significantly less likely to fall within the ‘concern’ category
for emergent communication abilities relative to infants in exclusive parental care: non‑relative only or with
relative (ORadj=0.54; 95% CI 0.34–0.85; and relative only ORadj=0.69; 95% CI 0.50–0.95).
Covariate analyses showed an increased likelihood of an infant falling within the ‘concern’ range with
increasing family size, older maternal age, lower maternal separation anxiety and lower maternal self‑efficacy,
and a decreased likelihood of falling within the ‘concern’ range with higher separation anxiety (Table 109).
Table 109: Effect of care type (adjusted odds ratios) on the likelihood of child falling into ‘concern’ on the
Communication and Symbolic Behaviour Scale (n=3,349)
Variable
Adjusted odds ratio
(95% CI)
Care type
Exclusive parental care
Ref
Long day care only
0.962
(0.689–1.345)
Family day care only or with long day care
0.672
(0.355–1.271)
Informal non‑relative only or with relative
0.541
(0.344–0.852)
Informal relative care only
0.690
(0.501–0.950)
Informal plus formal
0.858
(0.526–1.400)
0.833
(0.606–1.145)
Maternal characteristics
Mother’s age at birth of child (years)
<25
25 to 34
35+
Ref
1.282
(1.031–1.594)
Mother’s education
Year 10 or less
Ref
Year 11 or 12
1.330
(0.915–1.934)
Trade certificate or diploma
0.975
(0.689–1.380)
University
1.058
(0.721–1.552)
Full-time
0.767
(0.502–1.173)
Part-time
0.964
(0.759–1.223)
Mother’s employment status
Not working
Ref
Mother’s psychological distress
Normal range (low)
Clinically significant distress (high)
Ref
0.944
(0.734–1.215)
Lower
1.560
(1.231–1.978)
Higher
Ref
Mother’s self‑efficacy
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Mother’s positive parenting behaviour
Lower
1.120
Higher
Ref
(0.904–1.389)
Mother’s separation anxiety
Low
Medium
High
1.528
(1.248–1.870)
Ref
0.694
(0.518–0.928)
Family characteristics
Number of children in the household
1
Ref
2
1.841
(1.443–2.348)
3
2.656
(2.026–3.481)
4 or more
2.723
(1.869–3.967)
Weekly income ($)
Less than 600
Ref
600 to 999
1.037
(0.726–1.480)
1,000 to 1,499
1.290
(0.904–1.841)
1,500 to 1,999
1.033
(0.684–1.559)
More than 2,000
1.171
(0.767–1.789)
1.038
(0.865–1.245)
Study child characteristics and subgroups
Child’s sex
Male
Female
Ref
Child’s age (continuous variable)
Age in weeks
1.009
(0.999–1.019)
Indigenous status
Non‑Indigenous
Indigenous
Ref
1.345
(0.843–2.146)
1.050
(0.683–1.613)
Family type
Lone parent
Couple
Ref
Language spoken at home
English only
Other language
Ref
0.749
(0.547–1.025)
Hours per week in non‑parental care (restricted to infants in non‑parental child care)
Multivariable analyses revealed that for every additional four hours a child spent in non‑parental care there
was no significant change in the proportion of infants falling within the ‘concern’ category for communication
(ORadj=1.06; 95% CI: 1.00–1.13). This result was further examined by assessing the amount of care in relation to
the type of care.
Hours of centre‑based care
The relationship between an infant falling into the ‘concern’ category for communication skill and the length of
time in centre‑based care was assessed by classifying the infants attending non‑parental child care into four
groups: those with zero hours of centre‑based care, one to eight hours, nine to 20 hours and 21 hours or more.
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Infants who received nine to 20 hours per week of centre‑based care were significantly more likely to fall within
the ‘concern’ range with respect to the communication skills relative to those infants receiving zero hours
(ORadj=1.78; 95% CI: 1.17 –2.72; unadjusted: 18.6 per cent versus 11.4 per cent).
Hours of relative care
The relationship between the emergent communication skill of study infants and length of time in the care
of relatives was assessed by classifying the study infants into four groups: those with zero hours of relative
care, one to eight hours, nine to 20 hours and 21 hours or more. There was no significant association between
communication skill of the infant and the number of hours spent in the care of relatives after adjusting for
covariates.
Number of regular non‑parental care arrangements per week (restricted to infants in non‑parental
child care)
Multivariable findings revealed no significant difference in an infant’s emergent communication skill associated
with attending one non‑parental care arrangement versus two or more such arrangements (ORadj=0.85; 95%
CI: 0.59–1.23; unadjusted: 12.7 per cent versus 12.1 per cent).
Age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement (restricted to infants in non‑parental care)
A significant association was observed concerning the relationship between the age of an infant when
they first entered non‑parental care and emergent communication abilities of the infant. After adjusting for
sociodemographic and parenting variables, infants aged 6 to 9 months at the time of entry into their first care
arrangement were significantly more likely to fall within the ‘concern’ category for their communication skill
(ORadj=2.08; 95% CI: 1.35–3.20; unadjusted: 18.5 per cent versus 10.7 per cent) relative to infants who entered
care aged birth to 3 months (Table 110).
Table 110: Effect of age of entry into first non‑parental care on the likelihood of the parent reporting ‘concern’ about
infant emergent communication skill (n=1,258)
Age of entry into first non‑parental care
arrangement (weeks)
Adjusted odds ratio
(95% CI)
0 to 13
Ref
14 to 26
1.008
(0.658–1.544)
27 to 39
2.080
(1.351–3.203)
40 or older
1.002
(0.525–1.911)
Infant outcomes—summary and discussion
The average age of the infant cohort at the time of interview was 8.8 months (range: 3 to 19 months). The
measures of infant physical health and communication skill are hardly ‘outcomes’ at this age and so the term is
being used in the widest sense.
Findings show relatively consistent patterns of associations between the ratings of the physical health of
infants and particular care characteristics. Broadly, infants in the exclusive care of their parents were rated as
having better physical health.
Higher proportions of infants had poorer health when they were in the following non‑parental care settings:
long day care, relative care, non‑relative care, and mixed formal and informal care. Infants in family day care
homes were no different to infants in exclusive parental care, in relation to their physical health outcomes.
Poorer health outcomes were noted for infants who were spending longer hours (21 hours per week or more)
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in centre‑based care. There was no association, however, between hours of care and poorer health for
home‑based care.
Infants who were older when first starting care were more likely to have higher physical health. There was no
noted association between the actual number of care arrangements and infant physical health.
These observations were supported by our specific analysis of acute infections. Exposure to long day care and
longer hours (21 hours per week or more) of long day care were associated with a higher prevalence of acute
infections in infants. In contrast, up to 20 hours per week of care with relatives were associated with a lower
prevalence of infection. Furthermore, there was an association between infants receiving multiple care (that is,
two or more arrangements per week) and a lowered incidence of infections. Note that multiple care was more
often a mix of informal arrangements, such as both sets of grandparents. The precise mechanism(s) of these
different effects on infant health is not addressed in the current analysis; however, the pattern observed was
one of home‑based care settings reducing risk and centre‑based care increasing risk. Certainly exposure to risk
of infection is implied in the sense that care in group settings exposes young infants to larger numbers of other
infants (and carers) and increases (at least) the opportunity for infection.
We noted no consistent pattern of association between infant communication skill and care characteristics.
Infant communication skill was less likely to be of ‘concern’ where infants were cared for in informal
arrangements with relatives or non‑relatives. More ‘concern’ was noted where infants attended centre‑based
care in the range of nine to 20 hours per week, or had started child care between 6 and 9 months of age.
Taken in combination, these findings are difficult to interpret. Interpretation is made more difficult given the
age of the infants, the nature of the rating scale for infant communication (collected via parent report rather
than independent observer or direct measure, and based on norms created in the United States) and the wide
variability in the emergence of speech and language in infants of this age. Follow‑up in subsequent waves may
provide greater clarity in considering these early observations. Importantly however, there are no striking early
associations in these data that would give rise to broader concerns about the impact of formal care on the
emergent language development of children receiving such care at this age.
8.4Outcomes for the child cohort
Overview of analytic approach
Several child care/early education characteristics were modelled with respect to their association with
measures of child social (pro‑social behaviour and behaviour problems) and cognitive (receptive vocabulary
and early literacy/numeracy skills) outcomes. The child care/education variables of interest included: care type,
number of hours in child care/education, number of regular child care/education arrangements and the child’s
age of entry into their first non‑parental child care/education arrangement. To study the independent effects
of these child care/education characteristics, models were adjusted for the effects of selected family, mother
and child sociodemographic characteristics and parenting variables. These covariates included: mother’s age
at time of child’s birth, her education and employment status, family type, weekly household income, number
of children in the household, language spoken at home, the study child’s age, sex and Indigenous status, as
well as the mother’s level of psychological distress, her parenting behaviour and her confidence in parenting
(Sections 5 and 6 fully describe these variables).
Separate models were computed using general linear modelling for each of six child outcome variables:
mother‑reported pro‑social and problem behaviour, teacher‑reported pro‑social and problem behaviour,
receptive vocabulary and early literacy/numeracy. Each model was assessed by simultaneous entry of the
predictor care/education variables and covariates, which were regressed on each child outcome measure.
Models were fitted with and without the care/education characteristics of interest, compared and the
proportion change in overall R2 assessed for significance and magnitude.
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The effects of child care/early education on child outcomes were examined in three stages. In the initial stage
of analysis, the sample used for examining the effects of these care/education variables was restricted to
children who received some form of non‑parental care (that is, the very small group of children in exclusive
parental care was not included). The sample was restricted because children who received exclusive
parental care, by definition, attended no hours of centre or school‑based care/education and no days/hours of
care/education per week, resulting in this subgroup having many cells containing ‘zero’ values when combining
the separate care variables. These missing cells could distort the model and produce confusing or misleading
results. Thus, to allow all child care/education variables to be entered simultaneously in each model, while
maintaining a model intuitive to interpret, the small group of children attending exclusive parental care was
omitted from the multivariable analyses.
In the second stage of analysis only type of care/education was examined, so that all children, including the
group receiving exclusive parental care, were able to be included in the model. These analyses were used to
determine whether similar effects on child outcomes would be observed when this group of children were
included, and also to examine the effects of attending child care/early education programs in relation to not
receiving any such care/education.
In the third stage of analysis, the impact of child care/education quality on children’s pro‑social and problem
behaviour (mother and teacher‑reported), receptive language and early literacy/numeracy was assessed,
based on information provided by the child’s teacher/carer. Separate analyses were conducted for the
group of children attending pre‑Year 1 and the group attending preschool and long day care centres. This
approach was taken because of the marked differences between pre‑Year 1 and other settings on measures
of teacher/carer characteristics, qualified staff‑to‑child ratios and approaches to learning (as noted in Chapter
7), and to allow for a more fine‑grained interpretation of the results. The care/education variables included
were: teachers’ education (university versus certificate/diploma), teachers’ field of study (early childhood or
child care specialisation versus other areas of study such as primary education), teachers’ length of experience
in years, the ratio of children to qualified staff (less than 8:1, 8 to 15:1, more than 15:1), and four measures of
approaches to learning (teacher‑directed whole group activities, teacher‑supported small group activities,
teacher‑supported individual activities and child‑initiated activities) and the usual amount of time spent in
these on a typical day (never/occasionally, often, very often). To study the independent effects of these child
care/education characteristics, models were adjusted for the effects of the same set of selected family, mother
and child sociodemographic characteristics and parenting variables described above. For the preschool/long
day care group, the model also accounted for the effects of program type (preschool in a school, preschool not
in a school, long day care).
Outcome measures
Measures of pro‑social behaviour and behaviour problems were derived from the five subscales of the
25‑item Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) (Goodman 1997). The SDQ comprises one subscale
assessing pro‑social behaviour (assessing the child’s propensity to be considerate and helpful to others)
with higher scores indicating greater pro‑social behaviour and four subscales assessing problem behaviour:
peer problems (assessing the child’s ability to form positive relationships with other children), emotional
symptoms (assessing the frequency of child displays of negative emotional states such as nervousness and
worry), hyperactivity (assessing fidgetiness, concentration span and impulsiveness) and conduct (assessing
the child’s tendency to display problem behaviours such as aggressiveness when interacting with others). All
subscale items are scored on a three‑point scale ranging from 1 (not true) to 3 (certainly true) and combined to
yield total subscale scores. The pro‑social subscale was used as the index of children’s pro‑social behaviour.
The four subscales assessing children’s problem behaviours were combined to create a behaviour problems
score, with higher scores indicating more problems. The SDQ was completed by the study child’s mother and
his or her main teacher or primary child care worker.
Children’s cognitive development was measured by direct assessment. Receptive vocabulary was assessed
using an abbreviated form of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT–III, Dunn & Dunn 1997) designed
for the LSAC study. This measure was administered directly to each child. For each word presented, the child
132
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Infant and child outcomes
is shown a card containing four pictures and asked to point to the picture corresponding to the word (for
example, ‘show me wrapping’). Scaled PPVT scores were used in all analyses (further details on PPVT scaling
are in Appendix B—LSAC Users Guide). Early literacy and numeracy skills were assessed by the Who Am I?,
an Australian instrument assessing a child’s ability to perform a range of skills underlying school readiness,
including reading, writing, copying and symbol recognition (ACER 1999). This measure was administered
directly to each child. See Appendix B for details on Who Am I? scaling.
Interpreting regression tables
In the general linear models, the effect of each characteristic of interest or variable can be estimated while
controlling for the effect of each other variable in the model. The overall variance explained by all variables
included in the model is represented by the R2 figure. The intercept (or the constant) is the expected mean
value of the outcome (Y) when X (predictor variable) equals zero.The extent to which each variable in the
model contributes to the prediction of the outcome is indexed by reference to the magnitude of the parameter
estimate. The direction and magnitude of effect of each variable is represented by the addition or subtraction
(–) of points from the intercept.
As with the logistic regression in the previous section, predictor variables are categorical and have one
category to which the others are compared. This is labeled the Reference Category (Ref.). For example, for
child’s sex, if the characteristic of interest is being male, then the reference category is being female. For
each category of the variable the estimate and the significance of the estimate (p) are provided, representing
the mean difference in the outcome between the relevant category of the characteristic of interest and the
reference category, and the significance of that difference. The lower the p value, the less likely it is that the
result obtained occurred by pure chance. In the following tables significance level of p<0.05 is used, to identify
significant differences in categories of predictor variables.
Results—pro‑social and problem behaviour
Results are presented for mothers’ ratings of pro‑social and problem behaviour for the sample of children in
non‑parental care/education arrangements, followed by results for teachers’ ratings for the reduced sample
(limited by the rate of return for teacher questionnaires). Children’s pro‑social and problem behaviours were
significantly correlated, being a weak negative correlation for mothers’ ratings (r= – 0.24, p<0.001) and a
moderate correlation for teachers (r= – 0.35, p<0.001). However, there were differences in the multivariable
models predicting these outcome scores.
The relation between characteristics of child care/education and children’s pro‑social and problem behaviour
was assessed using general linear modelling with the strengths and difficulties pro‑social behaviour score and
behaviour problems score as the outcome variables and controlling for the sociodemographic and parenting
variables described above. For each outcome, the results for the child care/education variables are presented
first, followed by the results for the covariates. Note that for positive outcomes, higher scores indicate a
better outcome, that is, more pro‑social behaviour, and for negative outcomes higher scores indicate poorer
outcomes, that is, more behaviour problems.
Mother‑rated SDQ pro‑social and problem behaviour—multivariable analysis
Pro‑social behaviour
Results for pro‑social behaviour are presented in Table 111, right‑hand column. The resulting model had an
intercept of 5.8 and accounted for 11.7 per cent of the variance in children’s scores (Table 111). None of the
care/education measures were significant predictors in the overall model and these variables accounted for
only 0.6 per cent of unique variance in scores. However, several differences were noted within the variable of
care type. Children enrolled in any type of preschool setting or in long day care with additional care (that is, not
long day care only or pre‑Year 1) were rated by their mothers as having lower pro‑social behaviour than children
receiving non‑parental care in informal settings (that is, not attending centre or school‑based care/education)
(–0.5 to –0.8 points). Amount of care/education received (hours per week) and age of entry to non‑parental
133
Child care and early education in Australia
care were not significant predictors of children’s pro‑social behaviour, as rated by their mothers. However,
children attending two care/education arrangements each week were rated somewhat higher than children
attending one arrangement (0.3 points).
In contrast to the minimal contribution of care/education variables, several sociodemographic and parenting
variables made a statistically significant contribution to the explained variance for this outcome. Lower
pro‑social behaviour was associated with having a mother who was either younger (<25 yrs: –0.2 points) or
older (>35 yrs: –0.2 points) than the majority of mothers (that is, 25 to 34 years). Lower pro‑social behaviour
was also predicted by higher maternal psychological distress (–0.2 points), less positive parenting behaviour
(–1.2 points), lower parenting self‑efficacy (–0.5 points) and being a male child (–0.4 points). The remaining
sociodemographic variables (mother’s education and employment status, number of children in the household,
weekly household income, child age, Indigenous status and language spoken at home) were non‑significant.
To determine whether similar results would be observed if the children in exclusive parental care were included
in the model, the above multivariable analysis was repeated with the reference group expanded to include
all children with no current experience of centre or school‑based care/education (that is, children receiving
informal care/education and children in exclusive parental care). Only the child care variable of care type was
included in this analysis, although the set of covariates in the model was unchanged. The results for care
type were statistically significant and similar to those in Table 111. Lower pro‑social behaviour was reported
for children in all of the centre or school‑based care/education settings compared to children not currently
attending such programs (Table 112). The pattern of findings for covariates was also similar to that reported
above.
Behaviour problems
Results for mother‑reported behaviour problems are presented in Table 111, column 1. The resulting model
had an intercept of 17.5 and accounted for 25.9 per cent of the variance in children’s scores (Table 111).
None of the care/education measures was a significant predictor in the overall model and these measures
accounted for only 0.6 per cent of unique variance in behaviour problem scores. However, within the variable of
care/education type, a few differences were noted. Children in the preschool only groups (either in a school or
not in a school) or in long day care were rated as having fewer behaviour problems (–1.6, –1.7 and –1.8 points
respectively) compared to children who did not attend a school/centre‑based care/education program. These
differences, although indicating more positive outcomes, were small, and it is important to note that the
overall care‑type variable was not significant (p=0.09) in the model predicting behaviour problem scores.
None of the other care/education variables showed a significant relation to children’s behaviour problems as
assessed by the SDQ after controlling for other sociodemographic and parenting variables.
In contrast, a large number of the sociodemographic and parenting variables were significant predictors of
children’s behaviour problems, as rated by mothers. Higher levels of behaviour problems were associated most
strongly with less positive parenting behaviour (3.9 points) and with mothers who were more psychologically
distressed (2.2 points). In addition, more behaviour problems were associated with lower parenting
self‑efficacy in the mother (1.6 points), with being a male child (1.0 points), and with maternal age, with
children whose mothers were under 25 years of age having more behaviour problems (1.6 points) compared
with children whose mothers were aged 25 to 34 at the time of their birth.
Variables predicting reduced levels of behaviour problems included higher levels of maternal education
(–0.7, –0.9 and –1.7 points for Year 11/12, trade certificate/diploma, university, respectively), a mother being
employed part‑time or full‑time (–0.7 and –0.6 points respectively) and an increase in household income
(–0.8 to –1.8 points for weekly incomes over $1,000). An increase in child’s age was associated with a slight
decrease in behaviour problems (–0.1 points per month).
Mother‑rated behaviour problems were not higher in certain potentially at‑risk groups—Indigenous children,
children from lone‑parent families, or families speaking a language other than English in the home.
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Infant and child outcomes
To determine whether similar results would be observed if the children in exclusive parental care were included
in the model, the multivariable analysis was repeated with the reference group expanded to include all
children with no current centre or school‑based care/education experience. Only the child care variable of care
type was included in this analysis, although the set of covariates included in the model was unchanged. The
results for type of care/education were different to those reported in Table 111. The addition of the children in
exclusive parental care raised the level of behaviour problems in the reference group, resulting in no significant
differences when comparing the ‘no centre or school‑based care/education’ group with children attending
the other care/education settings. However, the overall result for the type of care/education variable was
significant and within this variable a few significant differences were noted. Children in the preschool only
groups (either in a school or not in a school; estimates of –0.398 and –0.467) were rated as having fewer
behaviour problems than children in pre‑Year 1 and children in preschool with additional care/education
(estimates of 0.412 and 0.437) (Table 112). The pattern of findings for covariates was similar to that reported in
Table 111.
Table 111: Effect of type, amount and stability of current care/early education and age of entry to first care
on mother‑rated problem behaviour and pro‑social behaviour—children receiving non‑parental
child care/education
Variable
Type of care/early education
No centre or school‑based care/education
Pre‑Year 1 only or with other care/education
Preschool in school only
Preschool in school with other care/education
Preschool not in a school only
Preschool not in a school with other care/education
Long day care centre only
Long day care centre with other care/education
Hours per week of care/education
1 to 8 9 to 20
21 to 30
31 to 40
>40
Number of regular care/education arrangements per week
1
2
>2
Age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement (years)
<1
1 to <2
2 to <3
3 to <4
4 and over
Mother‑rated problem
behaviour
(n=3,612)
R2=0.259
Intercept=17.47
Mother‑rated pro‑social
behaviour
(n=3,612)
R2=0.117
Intercept=5.84
Estimate (p)
Estimate (p)
Ref
–1.107 (0.192)
–1.648 (0.044)
–1.159 (0.192)
–1.746 (0.033)
–1.459 (0.108)
–1.452 (0.069)
–1.834 (0.045)
Ref
–0.460 (0.066)
–0.513 (0.041)
–0.812 (0.003)
–0.598 (0.022)
–0.825 (0.002)
–0.395 (0.114)
–0.661 (0.013)
Ref
–0.241 (0.536)
–0.118 (0.781)
–0.128 (0.784)
0.665 (0.195)
Ref
–0.016 (0.903)
0.027 (0.861)
0.063 (0.698)
–0.157 (0.413)
Ref
–0.191 (0.594)
–0.270 (0.547)
Ref
0.313 (0.039)
0.279 (0.160)
Ref
–0.147 (0.461)
–0.424 (0.072)
–0.291 (0.202)
–0.328 (0.228)
Ref
–0.073 (0.312)
–0.112 (0.239)
0.051 (0.557)
0.123 (0.151)
1.586 (0.000)
–0.198 (0.019)
Maternal characteristics
Mother’s age at birth of child (years)
<25
135
Child care and early education in Australia
25 to 34
35 and over
Mother’s education
Year 10 or less
Year 11 or 12
Trade certificate or diploma
University
Mother’s employment status
Full time
Part time
Not working
Mother’s psychological distress
Normal range (low)
Clinically significant distress (high)
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy
Lower
Higher
Mother’s positive parenting behaviour
Lower
Higher
Ref
–0.070 (0.731)
Ref
–0.239 (0.001)
Ref
–0.693 (0.019)
–0.856 (0.002)
–1.730 (0.000)
Ref
–0.015 (0.877)
0.135 (0.143)
0.138 (0.157)
–0.639 (0.020)
–0.676 (0.000)
Ref
0.070 (0.493)
–0.041 (0.537)
Ref
Ref
2.159 (0.000)
Ref
–0.232 (0.003)
1.609 (0.002)
Ref
–0.515 (0.007)
Ref
3.941 (0.000)
Ref
–1.171 (0.000)
Ref
Ref
–0.221 (0.382)
–0.486 (0.072)
–0.667 (0.052)
Ref
–0.074 (0.445)
–0.162 (0.106)
–0.241 (0.052)
Ref
–0.452 (0.118)
–0.811 (0.009)
–1.133 (0.001)
–1.796 (0.000)
Ref
0.032 (0.758)
–0.014 (0.900)
0.017 (0.881)
0.158 (0.196)
1.048 (0.000)
Ref
–0.446 (0.000)
Ref
–0.080 (0.009)
0.008 (0.453)
Ref
0.801 (0.075)
Ref
0.012 (0.933)
0.183 (0.559)
Ref
–0.019 (0.865)
Ref
Ref
0.281 (0.174)
Ref
0.054 (0.494)
Family characteristics
Number of children in the household
1
2
3
4 or more
Weekly household income ($)
Less than 600
600 to 999
1,000 to 1,499
1,500 to 1,999
More than 2,000
Study child characteristics and subgroups
Child’s sex
Male
Female
Child’s age (continuous variable)
Age
Indigenous status
Non‑Indigenous
Indigenous
Family type
Lone parent
Couple
Language spoken at home
English only
Other language
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Infant and child outcomes
Table 112: Effect of type of current care/early education on mother‑rated problem behaviour and pro‑social
behaviour—all children
Mother‑rated problem
behaviour
(n=3,741)
R2=0.260
Intercept=17.91
Mother‑rated pro‑social
behaviour
(n=3,741)
R2=0.110
Intercept=5.60
Estimate (p)
Estimate (p)
Ref
Ref
0.412 (0.387)
–0.299 (0.041)
–0.398 (0.369)
–0.450 (0.001)
0.437 (0.366)
–0.486 (0.001)
–0.467 (0.318)
–0.552 (0.000)
0.144 (0.766)
–0.509 (0.000)
Long day care centre only
–0.071 (0.881)
–0.362 (0.011)
Long day care centre with other care/education
–0.111 (0.821)
–0.353 (0.019)
Variable
Type of care/early education
No centre or school‑based care/education
Pre‑Year 1 only or with other care/education
Preschool in school only
Preschool in school with other care/education
Preschool not in a school only
Preschool not in a school with other care/education
Teacher/carer‑rated SDQ pro‑social and problem behaviour—multivariable analysis
Note that the analyses based on teachers’/carers’ ratings of children’s behaviour were restricted to
children attending centre or school‑based care/education programs whose teachers/carers returned their
questionnaires.
Pro‑social behaviour
Results for teacher/carer‑rated pro‑social behaviour are presented in Table 113, right‑hand column. The
resulting model had an intercept of 4.3 and accounted for 11.2 per cent of the variance in children’s scores
(Table 113).
The child care/education variables were somewhat stronger predictors of teacher/carer‑rated than
mother‑rated pro‑social behaviour, accounting for 2.1 per cent of unique variance in scores. Results for
type of care/education (using pre‑Year 1 as the reference category) suggested that children in long day care
centres had higher pro‑social behaviour (0.7 points for long day care only and 1.2 points for long day care with
additional care/education) than children in pre‑Year 1 settings. The results for children in preschool settings
were more mixed, being significantly higher for children attending preschool with other care/education
arrangements (0.6), but not different for children attending preschool only or preschool in a school with other
care/education arrangements. It is unclear whether this result is due to characteristics of the children, or their
care/education experiences (for example, greater exposure to children of different ages in long day care), or
to biases in reporting due to the differing expectations held by teachers in long day care versus teachers in
pre‑Year 1 and preschool settings.
Of the other care/education measures, only stability was a significant predictor. Children in more than two care
arrangements had lower pro‑social behaviour (– 0.4 to – 0.7 points) than children in only one care arrangement.
Hours of care per week and age of entry to first care were not associated with differences in pro‑social
behaviour.
Results for the other covariates were similar to those reported for the model predicting mother‑reported
pro‑social behaviour scores for most of the family sociodemographic and parenting characteristics.
137
Child care and early education in Australia
Differences were noted for: mothers’ education—teachers’ ratings of children’s pro‑social behaviour were
higher when mothers were university educated; number of children in the household—teachers’ ratings were
higher for children in larger families; child age—teachers’ ratings were higher for older children; Indigenous
status—teachers rated Indigenous children as having lower pro‑social behaviour than non‑Indigenous children.
In addition, teachers’ ratings were not associated with mothers’ parenting self‑efficacy.
Behaviour problems
The resulting model had an intercept of 24.1 and accounted for 10.8 per cent of the variance in children’s
scores (Table 113, column 1). The care/education variables accounted for 1.4 per cent of unique variance
in behaviour problem scores. Two child care/education variables were significantly associated with
teacher/carer‑rated behaviour problems. Compared to children attending pre‑Year 1, children attending
preschool in a school, preschool not in a school with other care, or long day care with other care had fewer
behaviour problems (–1.0, –2.1 and –2.0 points, respectively). As with the findings for ratings of pro‑social
behaviour, it is unclear whether this result is due to characteristics of the children or to biases in reporting
due to the differing expectations held by teachers in pre‑Year 1 versus teachers/carers in long day care and
preschool settings.
In relation to other aspects of children’s attendance at care/education settings, only the number of settings
attended each week achieved significance. Behaviour problems were higher when children attended more
settings: 2 settings=1.1 points; 3 or more settings=1.7 points. Hours of care/education attended per week and
age of entering care were not associated with teacher/carer‑rated behaviour problems.
As with the results for teacher/carer‑rated pro‑social outcomes, there were many sociodemographic and
parenting variables that were statistically significant predictors. For the most part, the results for these
covariates were similar to those reported above for mother‑reported behaviour problem scores, except that:
mothers’ parenting self‑efficacy and families’ household income were not significant predictors of teachers’
ratings of children’s pro‑social or problem behaviour; an increased number of children in the household was
associated with an increase in ratings for pro‑social behaviour and behaviour problems; and Indigenous status
was associated with lower ratings for pro‑social behaviour and higher ratings for behaviour problems.
Table 113: Effect of type, amount and stability of current care/early education and age of entry to first care on
teacher/carer‑rated problem behaviour and pro‑social behaviour—children in centre or school‑based
child care/education
Variable
Type of care/early education
Pre‑Year 1 only or with other care/education
Preschool in school only
Preschool in school with other care/education
Preschool not in a school only
Preschool not in a school with other care/education
Long day care centre only
Long day care centre with other care/education
Hours per week of care/education
1 to 8
9 to 20
21 to 30
31 to 40
>40
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Teacher/carer‑rated
problem behaviour
(n=2,506)
R2=0.108
Intercept=24.14
Teacher/carer‑rated
pro‑social behaviour
(n=2,507)
R2=0.112
Intercept=4.30
Estimate (p)
Estimate (p)
Ref
–0.999 (0.019)
–1.001 (0.084)
–0.707 (0.106)
–2.087 (0.000)
Ref
0.265 (0.204)
0.137 (0.564)
0.242 (0.228)
0.589 (0.012)
–0.382 (0.367)
0.726 (0.000)
–1.978 (0.000)
1.188 (0.000)
Ref
0.260 (0.619)
0.602 (0.273)
0.371 (0.554)
–0.011 (0.989)
Ref
0.170 (0.497)
0.022 (0.933)
0.280 (0.318)
0.341 (0.285)
Infant and child outcomes
Number of regular care/education arrangements per week
1
2
>2
Age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement (years)
<1
1 to <2
2 to <3
3 to <4
4 and over
Maternal characteristics
Mother’s age at birth of child (years)
<25
25 to34
35+
Mother’s education
Year 10 or less
Year 11 or 12
Trade certificate or diploma
University
Mother’s employment status
Full-time
Part-time
Not working
Mother’s psychological distress
Normal range (low)
Clinically significant distress (high)
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy
Lower
Higher
Mother’s parenting behaviour
Lower
Higher
Family characteristics
Number of children in the household
1
2
3
4 or more
Weekly household income ($)
Less than 600
600 to 999
1,000 to 1,499
1,500 to 1,999
More than 2,000
Child characteristics and subgroups
Child’s sex
Male
Female
Ref
1.148 (0.019)
1.688 (0.005)
Ref
0.039 (0.891)
0.210 (0.541)
0.292 (0.362)
0.300 (0.393)
0.508 (0.119)
Ref
0.650 (0.009)
Ref
–0.394 (0.054)
–0.689 (0.007)
Ref
–0.005 (0.970)
–0.070 (0.627)
–0.159 (0.281)
–0.080 (0.586)
–0.202 (0.183)
Ref
–0.357 (0.002)
Ref
–0.672 (0.068)
–0.793 (0.023)
–1.155 (0.001)
Ref
0.150 (0.319)
0.199 (0.181)
0.337 (0.027)
0.409 (0.261)
–0.694 (0.008)
Ref
–0.030 (0.856)
0.178 (0.115)
Ref
Ref
0.862 (0.003)
–0.336 (0.011)
0.416 (0.527)
Ref
–0.177 (0.520)
Ref
1.041 (0.001)
Ref
–0.424 (0.000)
Ref
Ref
–0.914 (0.011)
–1.020 (0.007)
–1.223 (0.004)
Ref
Ref
0.398 (0.027)
0.350 (0.064)
0.571 (0.007)
Ref
0.151 (0.668)
0.250 (0.527)
–0.230 (0.559)
–0.415 (0.296)
Ref
–0.123 (0.456)
–0.056 (0.742)
0.038 (0.830)
2.113 (0.000)
Ref
–1.085 (0.000)
–0.100 (0.012)
0.052 (0.006)
0.115 (0.555)
Ref
Child’s age (continuous variable)
Age
139
Child care and early education in Australia
Indigenous status
Non‑Indigenous
Indigenous
Family type
Lone parent
Couple
Ref
1.671 (0.041)
–0.855 (0.003)
Ref
0.713 (0.069)
Ref
–0.178 (0.286)
Ref
Ref
–0.218 (0.469)
–0.220 (0.063)
Language spoken at home
English only
Other language
Ref
Results—cognitive outcomes
Receptive vocabulary
The relation between characteristics of child care/early education and children’s receptive vocabulary was
assessed using general linear modelling with PPVT raw scores as the outcome variable and controlling for
the full range of sociodemographic and parenting variables. The resulting model had an intercept of 33.2 and
accounted for 18.8 per cent of the variance in children’s receptive vocabulary scores (Table 114).
Two child care/early education variables were significant predictors in the model, however, all the
care/education variables together accounted for only 1.4 per cent of unique variance in PPVT scores. The
association between type of care/education and children’s receptive vocabulary was significant, but the
choice of reference category (‘no centre or school‑based care/education program’) did not allow significant
differences between groups to be seen. Therefore, we repeated the analysis again with ‘long day care with
other care’ as the reference category, since this was the only category with a negative coefficient. The results
indicated that in comparison to this group, the care types of pre‑Year 1 (only or with other care), preschool
in a school (only), preschool not in a school (only), or long day care (only) were associated with statistically
significant increases in the PPVT scores (2.5, 1.9, 1.6 and 1.4 points, respectively). Where children were
in mixed care/education arrangements, that is, preschool in a school (with other care) and preschool not
in a school (with other care), PPVT scores did not differ significantly from children in long day care with
other forms of care. Overall, these results suggest that there is more similarity than difference in language
outcomes for children attending school, preschool and long day care settings. Rather, it is additional other care
arrangements that negatively affect outcomes.
The findings for type of care/education were supported by results showing that an increase in hours spent
in non‑parental care/education settings was associated with a decrease in PPVT scores, specifically for
the two categories for longest hours. Receptive vocabulary scores were reduced by 1.8 points for children
receiving 31 to 40 hours per week of non‑parental care/education and by 3.0 points for children receiving more
than 40 hours per week.
Age of entry to care/education was a significant predictor of language outcomes, but only for the oldest age
group. Children who started care/education at age 4 years of older had slightly lower scores (–0.9). The number
of care/education settings attended per week was not significantly associated with language outcomes, after
accounting for the effects of all other variables in the model.
Many sociodemographic and parenting variables were statistically significant in predicting children’s PPVT
scores. The predictors of lower receptive vocabulary, from the strongest to weaker, were: being from a family
speaking a language other than English in the home (–4.0 points); having more than two children in the
household (3 children: –2.1 points, 4+ children: –3.2 points); being male (–1.3 points); and when the mother
was younger than 25 years (–1.4 points) or reported more psychological distress (–1.7 points) or lower positive
parenting behaviour (–1.3 points). The predictors of higher receptive vocabulary scores were: having a family
income higher than $600 per week (range=1.3 to 2.4 points as income increased from $600–$999 to over
$2,000 per week); mothers’ having higher than a Year 10 education (range=1.1 to 2.9 points as education
increased from Year 11/12 to university); and children being older at the time of testing. Child’s Indigenous
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Infant and child outcomes
status and being from a lone‑parent family were not significantly related to children’s receptive vocabulary
scores in the multivariable model.
In order to determine whether similar results would be observed if the children in exclusive parental care were
included in the model, the multivariable analysis was repeated with the reference group expanded to include
all children with no current experience of centre or school‑based care/education, that is, including children
in exclusive parental care. Only the type of care/education was tested in this analysis, although the set of
covariates included in the model was unchanged. The results for care type were statistically significant and
followed a pattern similar to those reported in Table 114; however, stronger differences between with no centre
or school‑based care/education and children attending pre‑Year 1 or preschool programs (only or with other
care/education) were noted. Children attending these settings had higher scores on the PPVT than children
not attending such programs: range=1.4 to 2.3 points (Table 115). On the other hand, language outcomes for
children attending long day care centres (only or with other care/education) were not significantly different
from language outcomes for children not attending centre or school‑based programs. In this model, the pattern
of findings for covariates was similar to that reported in the initial multivariable analysis (Table 114).
Early literacy and numeracy
The relation between characteristics of child care/early education and children’s literacy and numeracy skills
was assessed using general linear modelling with Who Am I? scores as the outcome variable and controlling for
the full range of sociodemographic and parenting variables. The resulting model had an intercept of 25.4 and
accounted for 26.7 per cent of the variance in children’s school readiness scores (Table 114).
Care/education variables accounted for 4.1 per cent of unique variance in Who Am I? outcome scores. Of these,
type of care/education, amount of weekly hours of care/education and age of entry into first non‑parental
care setting were significant predictors. Compared to the reference category of no centre or school‑based
care/education, attendance at pre‑Year 1 was associated with a relatively large increase in Who Am I? scores
(3.7 points). This finding is not unexpected, given the focus on explicit teaching of literacy and numeracy in
pre‑Year 1 at school. We noted, however, that using the no centre or school‑based care/education group as
the reference category did not allow for the effects of different care types to be explored. Consequently, the
analysis was repeated with the reference category changed to pre‑Year 1 with or without other care. The results
indicated that every other care/education category was associated with a lower Who Am I? score: the point
differences ranged from –3.7 to –5.4.
The overall association of hours in care with Who Am I? scores was not significant, but there were
some differences between the groups. Compared to one to eight hours in care per week, the categories
of 9 to 20 and 21 to 30 hours were associated with slightly higher Who Am I? scores (1.3 and 1.2 points,
respectively).
Age of entry into first non‑parental care setting was a significant predictor of Who Am I? scores,
although findings were difficult to interpret. Children who first entered non‑parental care/education
between 2 and 3 years of age had lower Who Am I? scores (–1.3 points) relative to children entering prior
to 1 year of age. Similarly, slightly lower scores were found for children first entering care/education
between 3 and 4 years of age; however, the difference for this group did not reach statistical significance
(–0.6 points, p=0.06). In other words, children who started care before age 1 year had higher scores on the
Who Am I? relative to children who started care between 2 to 4 years. A possible explanation for these results
may be drawn from findings reported for the infant cohort, which showed that families who were using
non‑parental care were more likely to be more economically advantaged (that is, mothers were employed,
weekly income was higher, fewer children in the family). These factors, along with the greater stimulation
that may be associated with longer exposure to child care/education settings, may account for the observed
differences for age of entry to care.
There were many sociodemographic and parenting variables that were statistically significant in predicting
children’s Who Am I? scores. In general, lower literacy/numeracy scores were associated most strongly with
141
Child care and early education in Australia
being a male child (–4.4 points), with being of Indigenous status (–1.6 points), with being from a lone‑parent
family (–1.2 points) and with having more than two children in the household (three children: –0.8 points;
four or more children: –1.3 points). In contrast, higher scores were associated with higher levels of maternal
education (range=1.2 to 2.6 points) and speaking a language other than English at home (1.6 points). The latter
result may be due to the relatively high rate of attendance of LOTE children attending pre‑Year 1 programs.
In order to determine whether similar results would be observed if the children in exclusive parental care were
included in the model, the initial multivariable analysis was repeated with the reference group expanded to
include all children, that is, including children receiving exclusive parental care. Only the type of care/education
was included in this analysis, although the set of covariates included in the model was unchanged. The results
for care type were statistically significant, although some differences in the pattern of results were noted as
a result of the lower Who Am I? scores for the reference group with the addition of the children in exclusive
parental care. Children in pre‑Year 1 programs still had the highest Who Am I? scores compared to children
with no current experience in centre or school‑based care/education programs. In addition, Who Am I? scores
for all other care/education groups were higher than the reference group. Effects were larger for children
attending preschool in school (only and with other care) and long day care only (estimates: 1.135, 1.239, 1.157,
respectively) and even achieved a trend level of significance (ps<0.10) (Table 115). Outcomes for children
attending the other care types (preschool not in a school, with or without additional care, and long day care
with other care) were similar to Who Am I? scores received by children not attending school or centre‑based
care/education. The pattern of findings for covariates was similar to that reported in the initial multivariable
analysis in Table 114.
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Table 114: Effect of type, amount and stability of current care/early education and age of entry to first care on
receptive language (PPVT) and early literacy and numeracy (Who Am I?) outcomes—children receiving
non‑parental care/education
Peabody Picture
Vocabulary Test
(n=3,248)
R2=0.188
Intercept=33.163
Who am I? test of
literacy/numeracy
(n=3,569)
R2=0.267
Intercept=25.440
Estimate (p)
Estimate (p)
Ref
Ref
Pre‑Year 1 only or with other care
1.999 (0.104)
3.652 (0.003)
Preschool in school only
1.381 (0.267)
–0.427 (0.719)
Preschool in school with other care/education
0.459 (0.725)
–0.804 (0.535)
Preschool not in a school only
1.058 (0.390)
–0.540 (0.647)
Preschool not in a school with other care/education
0.262 (0.833)
–1.891 (0.153)
Long day care centre only
0.658 (0.589)
–0.223 (0.849)
–0.502 (0.699)
–1.383 (0.295)
Ref
Ref
9 to 20
–0.726 (0.224)
1.252 (0.020)
21 to 30
–1.166 (0.069)
1.168 (0.048)
31 to 40
–1.847 (0.006)
1.045 (0.096)
>40
–3.030 (0.000)
1.042 (0.173)
1
Ref
Ref
2
0.867 (0.126)
0.393 (0.430)
>2
0.276 (0.678)
0.750 (0.227)
Ref
Ref
1 to <2
–0.544 (0.099)
–0.257 (0.396)
2 to <3
–0.670 (0.060)
–1.268 (0.000)
3 to <4
–0.014 (0.969)
–0.596 (0.063)
4 years and over
–0.868 (0.028)
–0.476 (0.144)
–1.388 (0.000)
–0.500 (0.125)
Variable
Type of care/early education
No centre or school‑based care/education program
Long day care centre with other care/education
Hours per week of care/education
1 to 8
Number of regular care/education arrangements per week
Age of entry into first non‑parental care arrangement (years)
<1
Maternal characteristics
Mother’s age at birth of child (years)
<25
25 to34
Ref
Ref
0.325 (0.238)
0.047 (0.856)
Ref
Ref
Year 11 or 12
1.096 (0.005)
1.232 (0.001)
Trade certificate or diploma
1.450 (0.000)
1.745 (0.000)
University
2.914 (0.000)
2.579 (0.000)
35+
Mother’s education
Year 10 or less
143
Child care and early education in Australia
Mother’s employment status
Full-time
0.215 (0.595)
0.146 (0.730)
Part-time
0.220 (0.430)
0.282 (0.294)
Ref
Ref
Ref
Ref
Not working
Mother’s psychological distress
Normal range (low)
–1.656 (0.000)
–0.010 (0.972)
Lower
0.503 (0.451)
–1.123 (0.095)
Higher
Ref
Ref
Clinically significant distress (high)
Mother’s parenting self‑efficacy
Mother’s positive parenting behaviour
Lower
–1.333 (0.000)
–0.691 (0.021)
Higher
Ref
Ref
1
Ref
Ref
2
–0.624 (0.112)
–0.348 (0.362)
3
–2.126 (0.000)
–0.843 (0.052)
4 or more
–3.203 (0.000)
–1.329 (0.005)
Ref
Ref
600 to 999
1.256 (0.008)
–0.505 (0.246)
1,000 to 1,499
1.808 (0.001)
0.148 (0.747)
1,500 to 1,999
2.160 (0.000)
0.493 (0.326)
More than 2,000
2.448 (0.000)
0.351 (0.483)
–1.262 (0.000)
–4.449 (0.000)
Ref
Ref
0.414 (0.000)
0.713 (0.000)
Ref
Ref
–0.692 (0.365)
–1.557 (0.005)
–0.252 (0.598)
–1.170 (0.004)
Ref
Ref
Ref
Ref
–4.040 (0.000)
1.626 (0.000)
Family characteristics
Number of children in the household
Weekly household income ($)
Less than 600
Child characteristics and subgroups
Child’s sex
Male
Female
Child’s age (continuous variable)
Age
Indigenous status
Non‑Indigenous
Indigenous
Family type
Lone parent
Couple family
Language spoken at home
English only
Other language
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Table 115: Effect of type of current care/early education on receptive language (PPVT) and early literacy and
numeracy (Who Am I?) outcomes—all children
Peabody Picture
Vocabulary Test
(n=3,355)
R2=0.194
Intercept=35.899
Who am I? test of
literacy/numeracy
(n=3,696)
R2=0.271
Intercept=25.471
Estimate (p)
Estimate (p)
Ref
Ref
Pre‑Year 1 only or with other care
2.289 (0.000)
5.362 (0.000)
Preschool in school only
2.049 (0.001)
1.135 (0.064)
Preschool in school with other care/education
1.473 (0.019)
1.239 (0.056)
Preschool not in a school only
1.859 (0.002)
0.977 (0.106)
Preschool not in a school with other care/education
1.440 (0.016)
0.202 (0.765)
Long day care centre only
1.138 (0.064)
1.157 (0.065)
Long day care centre with other care/education
0.198 (0.766)
0.610 (0.368)
Variable
Type of care/early education
No centre or school‑based care/education
Results—quality of care/early education
The final regression analyses examined child outcomes in relation to characteristics of the education
program attended by the study child. These data were provided by teachers/carers and therefore the sample
size is restricted to the sample of children attending centre or school‑based care/education settings whose
teachers/carers returned their questionnaires. Models were tested separately for children in pre‑Year 1 and
preschool/long day care.
The relation between eight indices of care/education quality and each of the six child outcome variables was
assessed using general linear modelling and controlling for the full range of sociodemographic and parenting
variables. Quality of care/education indices included education level of the teacher (university versus less
than university), teachers’ field of study (early childhood education and care versus other), teachers’ years
of experience, ratio of qualified staff to children in the room and levels of provision of four approaches to
learning (teacher‑directed whole group activities, teacher‑supported small group activities, teacher‑supported
individual activities and child‑initiated activities). In additional, the type of program (preschool in school,
preschool not in a school, long day care centre) was included as a control variable for analyses testing
outcomes for children attending preschool/long day care.
Overall, effects were larger and more significant for the subgroup of pre‑Year 1 children and smaller for
children in preschool/long day care settings. In general, however, where effects were observed, they were in
the expected direction; that is, indicators of higher quality were associated with more positive outcomes for
children. Setting differences were noted in relation to the approaches to learning taken in the classroom, with
the pattern of results being consistent with pre‑Year 1 and school‑based preschool having a more structured
approach than preschools not in school and long day care.
Mother‑rated SDQ pro‑social and problem behaviour
For pre‑Year 1, 4.4 per cent of the variance of mother‑reported pro‑social behaviour was uniquely accounted
for by the block of variables measuring classroom quality (relative to the 24.3 per cent predicted by the entire
model). Statistically significant effects were observed for three predictors (Table 116, right‑hand column).
Pro‑social behaviour was higher when the ratio of qualified staff to children was lower (0.4 to 0.7 points) and
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Child care and early education in Australia
less time was spent in child‑initiated activities (–0.6 points). Teacher experience was also associated with
pro‑social behaviour, as perceived by mothers. Ratings improved when teachers had less experience in early
childhood, which is perhaps due to their being younger and more recently trained.
The pattern for mother‑reported behaviour problems was somewhat similar, with 4.5 per cent of the variance
uniquely accounted for (relative to the 38.4 per cent predicted by the entire model). Problem behaviour was
higher when teachers were not university qualified (1.5 points) and when more time was spent in child‑initiated
activities (1.1 points). The ratio of qualified staff to children was a strong predictor, with lower ratios resulting
in lower ratings for problem behaviour (–2.7 and –1.8 points) (Table 116, column 1).
Weaker effects were noted for the larger group of children who had not yet entered pre‑Year 1. Only 1.7 per cent
of the variance of mother‑reported pro‑social behaviour (relative to the 15.7 per cent predicted by the entire
model) and 0.6 per cent of mother‑rated behaviour problems (relative to 29.6 per cent for the entire model)
were uniquely accounted for by the block of variables measuring the quality of a child’s preschool or long
day care setting. Significant effects for pro‑social behaviour were: teachers holding a university qualification
(0.2 point increase); lower qualified staff to child ratios (0.1 to 0.4 point increase); and more frequent provision
of teacher‑supported small group activities (0.1 to 0.3 point increase). Mother‑reported behaviour problems
were only related to one of the quality indices: more frequent provision of teacher‑supported individual
activities (0.7 to 0.9 point increase).
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Table 116: Effect of quality of current care/early education on mother‑rated problem behaviour and pro‑social
behaviour—children in pre‑Year 1 classes only
Mother‑rated problem
behaviour
(n=386)
R2=0.384
Intercept=20.341
Mother‑rated pro‑social
behaviour
(n=386)
R2=0.233
Intercept=7.779
Estimate (p)
Estimate (p)
Ref
Ref
1.511 (0.031)
–0.106 (0.593)
Early childhood education/child care
Ref
Ref
Other (including primary education)
–0.095 (0.876)
0.127 (0.463)
0.022 (0.397)
–0.021 (0.042)
1:<8
–2.658 (0.001)
0.725 (0.040)
1:8–15
–1.752 (0.003)
0.431 (0.052)
1:>15
Ref
Ref
Ref
Ref
Often
–0.848 (0.442)
0.278 (0.315)
Very often
–0.471 (0.695)
0.456 (0.089)
Ref
Ref
–0.011 (0.987)
0.174 (0.597)
0.357 (0.767)
–0.120 (0.727)
Ref
Ref
Often
–0.592 (0.409)
–0.123 (0.556)
Very often
–1.289 (0.131)
0.002 (0.993)
Ref
Ref
Often
1.118 (0.037)
–0.604 (0.003)
Very often
0.395 (0.572)
–0.475 (0.090)
Variable
Education level of teacher/carer
University qualification
Diploma/certificate or less
Field of study
Number of years experience in early childhood
Ratio of qualified staff to children
Level of teacher‑directed large group activities
None/occasionally
Level of teacher‑supported small group activities
None/occasionally
Often
Very often
Level of teacher‑supported individual activities
None/occasionally
Level of child‑initiated activities
None/occasionally
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Child care and early education in Australia
Teacher‑rated SDQ pro‑social and problem behaviour
For pre‑Year 1, 3.3 per cent of the variance of teacher‑reported pro‑social behaviour was uniquely accounted
for by the block of variables measuring the quality of the classroom setting (relative to the 21.8 per cent
predicted by the entire model); however, only one predictor achieved statistical significance. Pro‑social
behaviour was higher in classrooms that had better qualified staff to child ratios (0.6 points) (Table 117, column
2). A similar finding was observed for teacher‑reported behaviour problems: 4.6 per cent of the variance was
uniquely accounted for by the block of variables measuring the quality of the classroom setting (relative to the
21.8 per cent predicted by the entire model) and behaviour problems were lower when the qualified staff to
child ratio was lower (1.6 to 2.6 points) (Table 117, column 1).
For children attending preschool and long day care, quality variables uniquely predicted only 1.3 per cent of the
variance of teacher‑reported pro‑social behaviour (entire model: 11.9 per cent) and 0.8 per cent of the variance
of teacher‑reported behaviour problems (entire model: 11.2 per cent). After accounting for the effects of type
of setting (preschool in a school, preschool not in a school and long day care) and other predictors, there
were no significant effects of quality on teachers’ ratings of child pro‑social behaviour. Behaviour problems,
on the other hand were uniquely predicted by teachers’ years of experience, with more experienced teachers
reporting fewer behaviour problems (0.03 points).
Table 117: Effect of quality of current care/early education on teacher/carer‑rated problem behaviour and pro‑social
behaviour—children in pre‑Year 1 classes only
Teacher/carer‑rated
problem behaviour
(n=386)
R2=0.180
Intercept=20.341
Teacher/carer‑rated
pro‑social behaviour
(n=379)
R2=0.218
Intercept=13.017
Estimate (p)
Estimate (p)
Ref
Ref
0.775 (0.204)
–0.203 (0.500)
Early childhood education/child care
Ref
Ref
Other (including primary education)
0.609 (0.281)
0.169 (0.533)
0.007 (0.847)
–0.011 (0.987)
Variable
Education level of teacher/carer
University qualification
Diploma/certificate or less
Field of study
Number of years experience in early childhood
Ratio of qualified staff to children
0.357 (0.767)
1:<8
–2.624 (0.043)
0.365 (0.430)
1:8–15
–1.644 (0.011)
0.566 (0.044)
1:>15
Ref
Ref
Ref
Ref
– 0.856 (0.442)
–0.060 (0.831)
0.965 (0.407)
–0.144 (0.711)
Level of teacher‑directed large group activities
None/occasionally
Often
Very often
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Level of teacher‑supported small group activities
None/occasionally
Ref
Ref
Often
–0.522 (0.669)
0.686 (0.073)
Very often
–1.306 (0.320)
0.761 (0.073)
Ref
Ref
Often
–0.011 (0.987)
0.280 (0.294)
Very often
–1.138 (0.206)
0.549 (0.086)
Ref
Ref
Often
0.745 (0.213)
–0.443 (0.121)
Very often
0.320 (0.716)
–0.012 (0.973)
Level of teacher‑supported individual activities
None/occasionally
Level of child‑initiated activities
None/occasionally
Cognitive outcomes
Results for the cognitive outcomes also differed for children in pre‑Year 1 and preschool/long day care settings
in terms of magnitude and the variables that were significant predictors.
For pre‑Year 1, 4.1 per cent of the variance of children’s receptive vocabulary (PPVT) scores was uniquely
accounted for by the block of variables measuring classroom quality (relative to the 31.5 per cent predicted
by the entire model). Statistically significant effects were observed for two predictors (Table 118, column 1).
Receptive vocabulary was higher when teachers held a qualification in early childhood (2.2 points) and when
classrooms had a lower ratio of qualified staff to children (2.3 points).
Pre‑Year 1 results for the Who Am I? also explained a sizable amount of variance (5.3 per cent for quality; entire
model: 30.1 per cent) but with a different pattern of predictors (Table 118, column 2). Approaches to learning
made the primary contribution: higher levels of teacher‑supported small group activities were associated
with increases in Who Am I? scores (2.5 to 3.6 points), whereas higher levels of child initiated activities were
associated with decreased scores (–1.8 to –4.3 points).
For children attending preschool and long day care settings, very small effects were observed for quality.
The total block of quality‑related measures uniquely accounted for only 0.6 per cent of the variance for
receptive vocabulary (entire model: 18.6 per cent) and for only 0.8 per cent of the variance for the Who Am I?
(entire model: 19.2 per cent). None of the indices of quality was a significant predictor for the PPVT. For the
Who Am I?, a higher frequency of teacher‑directed whole group activities was associated with higher scores
(0.7 to 0.9 points).
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Child care and early education in Australia
Table 118: Effect of quality of current care/early education on receptive language (PPVT) and early literacy and
numeracy (Who Am I?) outcomes—children in pre‑Year 1 classes only
Peabody Picture
Vocabulary Test
(n=370)
R2=0.315
Intercept=20.282
Who am I? test of
literacy/numeracy
(n=384)
R2=0.301
Intercept=13.089
Estimate (p)
Estimate (p)
Ref
Ref
–1.122 (0.271)
0.101 (0.907)
Early childhood education/child care
Ref
Ref
Other (including primary education)
–2.231 (0.020)
0.457 (0.571)
0.016 (0.721)
–0.056 (0.172)
–0.180 (0.906)
0.739 (0.710)
1:8–15
2.319 (0.033)
–1.215 (0.237)
1:>15
Ref
Ref
Ref
Ref
Often
1.746 (0.156)
0.523 (0.617)
Very often
2.377 (0.073)
0.448 (0.728)
Ref
Ref
Variable
Education level of teacher/carer
University qualification
Diploma/certificate or less
Field of study
Number of years experience in early childhood
Ratio of qualified staff to children
1:<8
Level of teacher‑directed large group activities
None/occasionally
Level of teacher‑supported small group activities
None/occasionally
Often
–0.243 (0.871)
2.511 (0.031)
Very often
–0.116 (0.952)
3.648 (0.015)
Level of teacher‑supported individual activities
None/occasionally
Ref
Ref
Often
–1.390 (0.197)
0.868 (0.426)
Very often
–2.076 (0.223)
1.945 (0.140)
Ref
Ref
Level of child‑initiated activities
None/occasionally
150
Often
1.907 (0.126)
–1.750 (0.048)
Very often
1.374 (0.324)
–4.285 (0.001)
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Infant and child outcomes
8.5 Child outcomes—summary and discussion
Some relations were observed between children’s experiences in early childhood care and early education
settings and their developmental outcomes, as assessed by measures of pro‑social and problem behaviour,
receptive vocabulary, and early literacy and numeracy skills. However, the specific findings varied considerably
with the different outcomes assessed, and in all analyses the combined contribution of maternal, family
and child sociodemographic variables and parenting measures was much more strongly predictive of child
outcomes than any individual or combined set of child care/early education variables.
Overall, based on analyses conducted on the full sample, none of the care/education measures (type of
care/education arrangement, hours in care/education, number of current care/education arrangements and
age of entry into first care/education arrangement) was a significant predictor of mother‑reported pro‑social
behaviour or behaviour problems. This lack of association may be due to mothers’ ratings being based on child
behaviour in settings other than school, preschool or child care. However, analyses conducted on a subgroup
of children, for whom quality indices for their main care/education were available, identified significant
predictors. In particular, children who attended centres with lower ratios of qualified staff to children were
seen by their mothers as being more socially competent.
Teacher/carer‑reported indices of children’s social competence, on the other hand, were predicted by families’
decisions about their child’s early education and care (care type and multiplicity of arrangements) as well
as by the quality of the program. With respect to care type, children with higher teacher‑reported pro‑social
behaviour were more likely to attend either long day care centres only or with other care, and preschool not
in a school with other care, than pre‑Year 1 or preschool in a school. Furthermore, children in preschool in a
school, preschool not in a school with other care and long day care with other care were rated by teachers
as having fewer behaviour problems when compared to children in pre‑Year 1. The interpretation of these
findings is unclear, since they could be the result of differences in children’s experiences or differences in
the expectations of teachers, which may also reflect the demands for social functioning placed on children in
these different care/education settings. Particularly with respect to behaviour problem outcomes, teachers
in pre‑Year 1 school programs may have higher expectations for the social behaviour of children in their
classrooms, and these more structured school settings may place higher demands on the social adaptive
functioning of children than less structured preschool and long day care settings.
Less stability of care/education as indexed by attendance at two or more arrangements per week was
associated with lower pro‑social behaviour and higher problem behaviours as rated by their teachers/carers.
Children may find adjustment to the social demands of care/education settings more difficult when they have
to adapt to multiple groups of peers and different teachers and carers on a regular basis. Increases in the
number of peers and teachers/carers encountered each week may result in an overall less predictable care
environment that could act to stress children’s social adaptive skills.
Social outcomes, as rated by teachers, were minimally related to classroom quality; however, where effects
were observed a key index was the ratio of qualified staff to children, with better ratios in pre‑Year 1 being
linked to lower problem behaviours. In preschool and long day care settings, behaviour problems were reduced
when teachers/carers had more years of experience.
The child care/early education factors that predicted children’s receptive vocabulary and early
literacy/numeracy outcomes were different from those associated with the development of the children’s social
skills. In relation to type of early childhood setting, children attending pre‑Year 1 at school or preschool/long
day care without additional care achieved higher receptive vocabulary scores than children who attended long
day care with other care. Children who had entered a pre‑Year 1 program had higher literacy and numeracy
skills, but this is to be expected as these settings include the direct teaching of English and mathematics.
Added to this is the finding that a greater focus on teacher‑supported small group activities in pre‑Year 1 made
a significant contribution to children’s achievement in literacy and numeracy; whereas children who attended
pre‑Year 1 classrooms with more child‑initiated activities had lower scores on this outcome.
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Children’s receptive vocabulary and literacy/numeracy outcomes were also predicted by the number
of hours children spent in care/education each week, independently of the type of care/education they
attended. Children who spent moderate hours in the setting (9 to 30 hours per week) had better Who Am
I? scores than children who spent only short hours (1 to 8 hours per week), indicating that there may be a
minimum level of exposure necessary to get the benefits of attendance at these group settings. However,
there was also data to indicate that benefits of attendance did not simply increase the longer children attended
care/education. Children who attended long hours of care/education each week (30 to 40 hours per week
or more than 40 hours per week) had poorer receptive vocabulary than children who attended fewer hours
each week. Moderate hours of care/education may provide children with a level of stimulation appropriately
matched to their attention and learning skills, while very long hours may simply overtax the adaptive capacities
of these young children.
Finally, for the children attending preschool and long day care, relations between cognitive outcomes and
indices of quality suggested that early literacy and numeracy skills were higher in programs that often
provided teacher‑directed activities. This finding warrants further investigation using direct observational
measures of program quality which were not possible to include in the LSAC design.
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9 Overview
9.1 Introduction
The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) provides the first opportunity to profile infant and
childhood experiences of non‑parental child care and early childhood education on a national level. In the
period preceding and accompanying the preparation of this paper, no less than 10 reports or policy statements
have been released on topics of direct relevance to this report. In April 2006, for example, the Australian
Institute published the findings of a national survey of staff working in long day care centres (Rush 2006).
In June 2006, the New South Wales and Queensland Commissions for Children and Young People, and
the National Investment for the Early Years (NIFTeY), launched their Policy directions for improving the
experiences of infants and young children in a changing world (Press 2006). In July 2006, Council of Australian
Governments (COAG) met to consider reforms in priority areas including:
early
childhood—with the aim of supporting families in improving childhood development outcomes in the
first five years of a child’s life, up to and including school entry
child
care—with the aim of encouraging and supporting workforce participation of parents with dependent
children (COAG Communique, cited by the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia workshop).
Also in July 2006, the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia hosted a workshop on child care policy that
identified Ten policy principles for a national system of early childhood education and care and subsequently
published Kids count. Better early childhood education and care in Australia (Hill, Pocock & Elliott 2007). In
August 2006, the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) released Starting strong
II, Early childhood education and care (ECEC), which reviewed access and provision of ECEC in the context of
women’s labour force participation and parental leave, quality‑assurance mechanisms and OECD‑identified
areas for policy attention across 20 countries, including Australia.
In December 2007, the COAG formed the Productivity Agenda Working Group ‘to pursue substantial reform
in the areas of education, skills and early childhood development’ (COAG December 2007 Communique).
The working group released a discussion paper (‘A national quality framework for early childhood education
and care’) in August 2008 to progress these reforms (COAG 2008). In November 2008, the COAG endorsed a
new National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education with a commitment to ensuring that all
children will have access to a quality early childhood education program by 2013, delivered by a four‑year
university‑trained early childhood teacher, for 15 hours a week, 40 weeks a year, in the year before formal
schooling. Subsequently the Office of Early Childhood Education and Childcare released a series of documents
to support the development of the National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care, the
National Early Years Workforce Strategy and the Early Years Learning Framework.
The following summary, discussion and interpretation of results from Wave 1 of the LSAC study draw on these
contemporary reports in considering how the research can inform Australian government and non‑government
organisations (NGOs) as they continue the process of early childhood education and child care policy review,
reform and implementation.
Broadly, the preliminary findings in this report echo the findings of recent international research studies
that show close associations between family circumstances and the use of child care and early childhood
education (ed. NICHD–ECC 2005), along with the stronger relationship between developmental outcomes and
family characteristics than child care experiences (NICHD‑ECC 2006). In other words, it is clear that family
demographics and socioeconomic and psychosocial factors affect the child care choices parents make (that
is, to use or not use care, and, if so, what type and what amount per week) and the development of the child.
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The approach we have taken in this final section places families at the centre of the discussion about the use
and impact of child care and early education on child outcomes.
This section consolidates the findings presented in Sections 3 to 8. We highlight convergent themes within
the infant and child cohorts, and across age groups. Where appropriate, we refer to links between the LSAC
findings and existing research to identify areas of convergence and divergence. Where there is divergence, we
speculate on what might explain the differences between international and Australian results. In reviewing
key findings from LSAC, we identify links to current issues and policy discussions in early childhood education
and care. The section concludes with comments on future directions for research and analysis, both within the
LSAC data set and beyond.
9.2Summary and review of key findings
Infant child care and developmental outcomes
In relation to the infant cohort, we noted that, as in the US NICHD–ECC study, the primary driver for using
child care for infants was parents’ work or study commitments, but that the decision to return to work was
related to maternal psychosocial characteristics (for example, lower separation anxiety) and socioeconomic
and demographic factors (for example, higher weekly income, fewer children in the household). Availability
of suitable child care, although not directly addressed in the LSAC interview, is also a likely factor in mothers
returning to work. A key finding was that infant child care, used by just over one‑third of the LSAC families, was
primarily accessed within the family network, through grandparents or other relatives. These forms of informal
home‑based care settings, together with family day care homes, constituted the care experience received
by 71.7 per cent of infants in care, whereas long day care centres were used by only 28.3 per cent of infants.
Maternal characteristics associated with the use of long day care centres were: having a university education,
working full‑time, and reporting lower levels of social support, parenting self‑efficacy and positive parenting.
Infant communication and home‑based care
Associations between child care characteristics and ‘concern’ regarding infants’ emerging communications
skills were very small. In general, the experience of non‑parental child care did not appear to be related to
the development of infant communication skills, but results suggested a consistent pattern that favoured
home‑based care settings (informal and formal). Infants cared for by relatives or non‑relative informal carers
(such as nannies) were the group least likely to be identified as having poor communication ability. This
type of care setting is most likely to approach a ratio of one adult to one infant. The NICHD study noted that
‘… the closer the child–adult ratio is to 1:1, the higher was the probability of sensitive, positive caregiving’
(ed. NICHD–ECC 2005, p. 63).
The effects of quality, as measured by carers’ level of education, group size, adult‑to‑child ratios, carer–child
interaction and provisions for play and learning, could not be controlled for in the LSAC analyses of infant
outcomes (due to the small sample size for carers of LSAC infants who returned their questionnaires). However,
given the consistency with which quality care has been associated with cognitive developmental outcomes
in other studies, it is possible that the child care effects we have reported for infant communication reflect
differences in the quality of child care in different settings. As reported in the literature review, more positive
involvement by the care giver and a more stimulating verbal environment—key ingredients of high quality
care—have been associated with gains in language and cognitive outcomes in toddlers and preschoolers.
Self‑reports of activities from carers of the LSAC infants indicated they were involved with infants in singing,
telling stories, reading books and playing at a similarly high level across all types of care settings, both
home‑based and centre‑based. While this finding may indicate a limitation in the measure, that is, being
self‑report rather than observed ratings, it reinforces the importance of taking into account the number of
children placed with any single child care provider as this influences the nature and intensity of interactions
that take place between infants and adults.
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Low child‑to‑carer ratios in home care settings provide a greater opportunity for focused one‑on‑one
interaction, which is a likely contributor to the association with enhanced infant communication ability. As the
overall number of LSAC infants attending formal child care settings was relatively small, these findings can
only be regarded as preliminary. However, they do suggest that carer‑to‑child ratios and group size may well
moderate the effects on communication skills of child care experiences in the first year of life.
Infant physical health and centre‑based care
The results of multivariable analyses predicting parent‑reported low physical health and greater occurrence of
acute infections also favoured home‑based care settings. Infants attending informal home‑care arrangements
with relatives and non‑relatives, or formal family day care homes, were no more likely to have poorer health
outcomes or acute infections than infants in exclusive parental care. In contrast, centre‑based care was
associated with a higher likelihood of infants being identified as having ongoing infections and poorer health.
Further, more hours in centre‑based care increased the risk of ongoing health problems.
The NICHD-ECC longitudinal study has the best dataset for the purposes of comparison. As mentioned in
Section 1, the NICHD-ECC study showed that children looked after in groups of six or more were 1.4 to 2 times
more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal, ear or upper‑respiratory infections than children looked after in
smaller groups. It is likely that children attending group care settings with six or more very young children have
a much greater chance of getting an infection from another child, either by direct contact or from coming into
contact with viruses and bacteria spread through the air or onto objects such as toys. However, while common
infections such as coughs and colds can be uncomfortable for the child, they are rarely serious. In subsequent
waves of LSAC it will be possible to ascertain whether there is a relation between ongoing problems with
infections and other areas of infant development. Recurrent ear infections, for example, can lead to hearing
loss, and prolonged or intermittent hearing loss associated with ear infection can result in delayed language
acquisition. It is worth noting, however, that longitudinal data from the NICHD-ECC study suggests that health
status from birth to age 3 years was not associated with later child behaviour, language or school readiness.
Future analysis of subsequent waves of the LSAC data set will be needed to assess the possibility of a similar
pattern of results in Australia.
Child care/early education and development for 4 to 5 year olds
In relation to the child cohort, it was apparent that, as in the UK EPPE research (Sylva et al. 2003, the LSAC
families accessed a diverse range of programs for their child’s care and early education. These programs
differed by location (for example, school and non‑school settings), auspice (for example, community‑based
and privately owned), cost (for example, state or territory or Australian Government subsidies), hours
and days of opening (for example, school hours/terms, part‑time hours, full‑time long day care), staffing
requirements (for example, staff‑to‑child ratio, university versus TAFE qualified staff), curriculum (for example,
teacher‑directed versus child‑initiated approaches to learning), environment (for example, children’s access
to educational resources) and support for staff (for example, professional development, decision‑making
processes). While all state and territory governments in Australia have some commitment to supporting
children’s access to one year of preschool in the year before they start formal school (pre‑Year 1), the states
and territories differ in the extent to which this policy is enacted. The primary mode is through government
funding of preschool programs in schools and non-school settings. A less common approach is through
educational programs available through other formal schemes such as long day care centres.
Earlier reports on the Wave 1 data set for 4 to 5 year olds have noted that some of the variation in the use of
preschool education programs and the affordability of these programs for the LSAC families was related to the
state or territory in which they resided (Harrison & Ungerer 2005). Importantly, however, analyses undertaken
in this report focused on national trends.
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Use of early education and care programs and developmental outcomes
On average, 95.1 per cent of the LSAC families were using some form of centre or school‑based early childhood
education and care program for their 4 to 5 year‑old child. The remaining 4.9 per cent of children were
either cared for exclusively at home, or at a relative’s home, or by a family day carer. Compelling evidence
from international studies of the long‑term benefits of attending an early childhood education program in
the years before entering formal school (Gormley Jr et al. 2005; Magnuson et al. 2003; Manuson, Ruhm &
Waldfogel 2004; NICHD & Duncan 2003; Sylva et al. 2003) is consistent with findings presented in this report
showing poorer outcomes in language, literacy and numeracy for children receiving exclusive parental care
or home‑based care only. We felt it was critical, therefore, to identify the factors associated with families not
using a school/centre‑based early childhood program.
Seventeen separate measures indexing family background, including child and maternal sociodemographic
characteristics, family finances, community disadvantage, maternal employment, social support, personal
wellbeing and parenting, were assessed in relation to the type of care/early education. Of the 17 measures
tested, 12 were significantly associated with reduced likelihood of children’s non‑attendance at a school or
centre‑based care/early education program and 11 could be seen as ‘risk factors’ for poorer child outcomes.
These consisted of: lower maternal education, lower family income, more financial stresses, more children in
the household, unemployed mother, living in a less‑advantaged neighbourhood, growing up in a lone‑parent
or Indigenous family, speaking a language in the home other than English, and having a mother with higher
levels of psychological distress or poorer parenting behaviour. These analyses showed that families more at
risk were not only least likely to use formal care/early education services, but also more likely to use programs
on offer at school settings. Low fees and ease of access to these programs (in states and territories with
universal preschool provision within the public school system) are likely to make them attractive options for
less economically advantaged families.
Further related to children’s experience of early childhood were findings showing that for 20 per cent of
children, entry into their first non‑parental child care/early education setting occurred after age 4 years. This
added a further dimension to our exploration of the LSAC families’ use of care/early education settings, by
raising the question of whether pre‑Year 1 in school might be the first encounter many children have with a
formal early childhood setting. Unfortunately, the limitations of the Wave 1 data set for the 4 to 5 year‑old
cohort did not allow us to address this question; however, future waves of data collection for the infant
cohort will be able to fully and prospectively record children’s experiences of care/early education in the years
before entering pre‑Year 1 at school. A key question for future investigation is whether children who enter
pre‑Year 1 without previously attending a centre or school‑based care/education program experience more
difficulty in adjusting to school than their peers. Related to this is the question of whether duration (in years)
of experience in formal care/preschool education programs influences child outcomes in school, as has been
noted in the UK EPPE study.
In relation to child developmental outcomes, results for language ability showed that children attending a
school or preschool program were more competent, as measured by receptive vocabulary, than children who
did not attend an early childhood program, including school, preschool and long day care. For children who
attended such a program, the three main types of care/early education—pre‑Year 1, preschool and long day
care centres—were equally beneficial for their language competence. Similar findings were noted for the
broader construct of school readiness, as assessed by the Who Am I? test of early literacy and numeracy.
Apart from pre‑Year 1, which was associated with higher test results, children were equally well prepared by
their prior to school care/education experience in preschool or in long day care settings.
Amount of care/early education and developmental outcomes
Just as accessibility and cost of care/education are linked to state and territory policies for the provision of
preschool education for 4 year olds, so is the amount of time children can attend these settings per week. For
example, universal fully funded preschool is available for 10 to 12 hours per week in six of Australia’s eight
states and territories (Press 2006). Not surprisingly then, preschool was the most commonly used type of
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care/education in the LSAC sample (54.6 per cent). When preschool was the only setting the child attended,
this was for an average of 12 to 14 hours a week. For many families (32.0 per cent of the sample) these hours
were enough. But for others, longer weekly hours were used, either by adding other care arrangements to
preschool (22.6 per cent) or by using a long day care centre, on its own or with other care (23.9 per cent).
These combinations of arrangements resulted in children being in care/education settings for an average of
24.4 to 26.0 hours/week (preschool with other care) or an average of 33.9 hours a week (long day care with
other care).
Results for children’s cognitive outcomes showed mixed effects for the amount of weekly care/education. An
unexpected finding, not evident in previous research, was that receptive vocabulary scores were negatively
associated with longer weekly hours of attendance at care/education, particularly as hours reached 31 to 40 or
more than 40 hours a week. In other studies, cognitive and language outcomes have typically been
associated with quality and type of care (NICHD-ECC) or duration (in years attended) of preschool experience
(Sylva et al. 2003), rather than weekly hours. Given that quality ratings were similarly good across the three
main types of early childhood programs, the explanation for the LSAC findings may lie in the combinations of
care and education used by families needing longer hours. It was common for families to add informal care
from relatives and non‑relatives to increase their child’s weekly hours of care. These types of settings were
found (in the infant cohort) to be less well equipped than formal settings with resources to support children’s
language, and creative and pretend play. If the 4 to 5 year‑old children have attended these informal settings
for an extended period of time, it may be that this prolonged exposure to a less stimulating environment has
contributed to lower receptive vocabulary scores. This possibility is supported by other Australian research
that has linked informal care in the first 2.5 years to poorer academic adjustment at school (Love et al. 2003).
An alternate explanation for the association between longer hours of care/education and poorer language
competence is needed, however, for children whose additional care was provided through other formal
settings (that is, preschool with long day care). In this case, it may be that longer hours in multiple group care
settings are overtaxing the adaptive capacities of the children. At this stage, it is not possible to determine
whether the association is explained by the child’s current care/education attendance or by previous child care
experiences. Future waves of LSAC will shed light on this question.
A different pattern of results was noted for amount of care/education and the broader construct of school
readiness, as tested by children’s scores on the Who am I? test. Attending an early childhood program for more
than eight hours per week, particularly for the categories of 9 to 20 or 21 to 30 hours a week, was associated
with higher scores for early literacy and numeracy.
The associations between amount of care/early education and child cognitive outcomes warrants closer
examination. It was clear from parents’ reasons for using additional care/education for their child that for
most families (69.7 to 72.3 per cent) longer hours were needed to enable them to meet their work or study
commitments. This was a common experience across most of the LSAC families. We noted few associations
between amount of care/education and family demographic or socioeconomic characteristics or maternal
wellbeing. Where there were significant findings, they pointed to more economically advantaged families using
longer hours of care, but additionally, lone parents and families speaking a language other than English also
used longer hours. For the latter group, the most common arrangement used for the child was pre‑Year 1 plus
additional child care.
The use of multiple care/education arrangements may be evidence that the current care/education system
is not working for some families. Using two or more different weekly care settings to cover the hours of a
part‑time or full‑time job is a likely stressor for families and possibly also for children (Bowes et al. 2004).
Large families are a particular case in point. As the numbers of children in the household increased, families
tended to use shorter hours of care. It was not possible in the current analyses to determine whether this was
due to issues of affordability of care or of accessibility to the different care/education settings that children of
different ages can attend. The findings are reminiscent of McDonald’s (2000a, 2000b) earlier work on family
size, which identified the diminished capacity of large families to balance work and family responsibilities due
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to limitations on what care/education services parents are able to access in terms of location or affordability,
or the services they elect to use.
These findings illustrate the possible difficulties families may have in finding a good match between their
child’s care/education and their own work arrangements. They also underline the interconnections between
the amount and stability (multiplicity) of care, both of which have been associated with more negative
outcomes for children, particularly in the social and emotional domain (Harrison & Ungerer 2000; NICHD-ECC
2001, 2003). Similar findings are noted in this report, not for amount (in hours of care used per week), but for
multiplicity of settings and/or programs used by any one child/family during a given week. Teachers reported
more behaviour problems and lower pro‑social behaviour in children attending more care/education settings
per week.
Contexts of care and early education
Studies from a variety of locations, internationally and within Australia, have underlined the importance
of quality in child care and early education programs. The LSAC study gathered details on the structural
indicators of quality (adult‑to‑child ratios, carer/teacher level of education and experience), but was limited by
not being able to gather observational measures of process quality. Carer/teacher self‑report provisions were
included to approximate these measures and have generated valuable information on aspects of infant care
and educational programs for 4 to 5 year olds. LSAC also has obtained linked data from the National Childcare
Accreditation Council (NCAC) for Quality Improvement and Accreditation System (QIAS) ratings for formal long
day care centres and family day care schemes attended by the LSAC infant and child. Analysis of these NCAC
data was not possible within the present report, but in future it will be possible to examine child outcomes in
relation to these externally assessed aspects of child care quality.
Structural indicators of quality
Infant care settings and care/education programs for 4 to 5 year olds were described in terms of carer/teacher
age, experience, level and field of education and ratios of children to staff. For infant care, staff in long day
care centres were the more qualified, but also the youngest, and therefore the least experienced, carers. In
contrast, informal home‑based carers were older, and thus potentially more experienced, but had lower levels
of formal education (for example, 48.8 per cent with Year 10 or less). The quality of informal care settings
becomes critical when examining the pattern of usage across the LSAC samples. The findings presented in this
report showed that about one‑quarter of infants (24.3 per cent) and children aged 4 to 5 years (25.6 per cent)
received regular care from relatives or non‑relatives. Subsequent longitudinal analyses on the use of
non‑parental care have shown that informal care was used by approximately one‑third of LSAC families when
infants were aged 1 to 2 years (31.3 per cent) (Blakemore 2007) and 2 to 3 years (33.9 per cent) (Harrison 2007,
2008). These four data collection points of LSAC provide strong evidence for a continuous use of informal care
throughout the prior‑to‑school years.
Research has shown that care givers’ education level and receptive vocabulary are key predictors of child
language and cognitive outcomes (ed. NICHD-ECC 2005). Is there cause for concern, therefore, in that a
significant proportion of LSAC children are receiving informal care from carers who, in general, have achieved
only minimal levels of school education? Results pointing to higher outcomes for infant communication in
informal home‑based care suggest this may not be a problem for very young children; but results showing
lower receptive vocabulary for 4 to 5 year‑old children attending long day care or preschool with other care
are consistent with this concern. The possible associations between infant outcomes and quality of care
were not able to be tested due to the small numbers of infants in child care. However, multivariable analyses
of outcomes for 4 to 5 year olds were able to include carer/teacher education, and showed the benefits for
children of having more university qualified and more experienced staff. At this stage there is no evidence to
suggest that informal home‑based care is not appropriate or beneficial for infants’ development. The question
for future waves of the LSAC data analysis is whether this continues to be true for toddlers and preschoolers.
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For children aged 4 to 5 years, there were marked difference in teachers’ level of education across the
four types of early childhood settings. School‑based pre‑Year 1 (77.5 per cent) and preschool teachers
(73.9 per cent) were the most likely to be university qualified, compared to 56.8 per cent in preschools not
in a school and 42.7 per cent in long day care. Multivariable analyses predicting mother‑reported pro‑social
and problem behaviour identified that having a teacher with a university qualification was linked to improved
outcomes. Also notable were differences in teachers’ area of study. Less than one‑half of pre‑Year 1 teachers
(41.4 per cent) held a specialist early childhood qualification; whereas this type of qualification was
typical of preschool (77.7 per cent). Long day care staff held either early childhood (53.1 per cent) or child
care (25.3 per cent) qualifications. Multivariable analyses for the subgroup of 4 to 5 year olds attending
pre‑Year 1 identified the benefits for children’s language development of having an early childhood qualified
teacher.
On the whole, however, the data suggested that preschool and long day care services were more similar than
different on these indices of quality. This is the likely explanation for the LSAC care quality measures not being
strong predictors of child developmental outcomes (which differs from US results). Studies have shown that
the level of observed quality achieved in Australian early childhood services is significantly higher and less
variable than levels observed in US settings (Harrison et al. 2006).
Process indicators of quality
Carers and teachers reported on their involvement, the types of experiences being provided and level of
resources for infant and childhood play and learning. Again, it was not possible to include the infant indicators
in the outcome analyses, but descriptive comparisons indicated important differences in practices across
formal and informal home‑based care. These data alert us to the limited provisions for infant play and learning
that may be typical of informal care settings, and while informal care with relatives was found to be a positive
influence in infancy, it remains to be seen if this type of setting continues to meet the developmental needs of
children as they become more physically mobile, and more socially and linguistically active.
For the child cohort, different teaching practices were associated with different aspects of child development.
Teacher‑supported small group activities were linked to improved social outcomes for preschool and long day
care settings, and to improved literacy and numeracy for pre‑Year 1 classrooms. Teacher‑directed whole group
activities were beneficial for children’s academic outcomes. Child‑initiated activities, seen by many educators
to be an important part of new approaches in early childhood education, such as emergent curriculum (for
example, the NSW Department of Community Services 2003), were negatively associated with academic and
social outcomes, but only for children in pre‑Year 1 classes. It will be interesting to follow up the longer‑term
outcomes of this approach in analyses of Wave 2 when all children will have entered formal school settings
and data collection is expanded to include a wider range of school adjustment measures, such as children’s
attitudes to school and ability to work independently.
Organisational indicators of quality
The measures selected for the LSAC study also address the importance of quality of good employment
practices in early childhood settings. ‘High quality care depends upon stable, qualified, appropriately
rewarded staff’ (ASSA Principle 6). A measure of workplace supportiveness for staff was included for long
day care centres and family day care homes attended by infants and for all care/education programs attended
by 4 to 5 year olds. Interestingly, the information received from staff was very positive—average ratings were
over four on a five‑point scale, and only a very small number of staff rated their centre’s supportiveness at
three or under. Long day care scores were almost identical for carers of infants and teachers of 4 to 5 year olds
(means of 26.4 to 26.6 out of 30). For teachers/carers in centre and school‑based settings for 4 to 5 year olds,
slightly lower ratings of support in the workplace were reported in school settings.
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9.3Emergent themes
Quality issues for infant child care
This section considers mechanisms to support the provision of high quality infant child care. It is an artefact of
the study design that LSAC has limited data on structural indicators of quality in infant care. Indeed, group size
and child‑to‑staff ratios were only available for formal child care settings. The effects of these aspects of child
care quality can thus only be controlled for in analyses involving the small subset of infants attending formal
child care. Carer age, experience and education, carer–child interaction and provision of resources for play
and learning were available for all child care settings, but it was not possible to control for child care quality in
analyses involving infants across the full range of care arrangements as well as infants in exclusive parental
care. It was also difficult to quantify the exact impact of the observed differential between the care providers
in terms of their education/training and age/experience with child rearing. However, from a policy perspective,
the need for ongoing professional development for all care providers across all areas of early childhood care
and education requires serious consideration. The following sections highlight key themes for policy makers
and professional practitioners.
Child‑to‑carer ratios
The large majority of LSAC families chose to use small group, home‑based child care for their infants, most
often provided by relatives. The associated advantages for infant health and communication development
raise the issue of infant‑to‑carer ratios and how these vary across different types of care. As noted in Section 7,
in a recently proposed set of principles for child care in Australia, experts recommended that ratios for infant
care be no more than three infants to every carer (ASSA Ten policy principles for a national system of early
childhood education and care). Furthermore, studies have identified lower ratios with more positive care
giving. Findings from the LSAC study showed that for the majority of centres, the reported staff‑to‑child ratio
was 1:4. Although ratios were not recorded for home‑based care, it is likely that many infants in informal care
arrangements were cared for in one‑to‑one arrangements or with their siblings. For those in family day care
services, the number of children per carer is likely to be higher (on average, around Australia family day care
regulations stipulate a 1:5 carer‑to‑child ratio for children not yet at school; Press 2006), but services tend to
restrict the number of infants within this group to either one or two. A mix of age groups in family day care can
enhance the carer’s ability to provide one‑to‑one interaction with an infant while at the same time monitoring
and supporting toddlers’ and preschoolers’ play. Such a mix of ages is less common in long day care centres,
although this model (family grouping) may be a useful means for staff to work within the context of high ratios
of children to adults (4 or 5:1) usually found in long day care centres.
Infant health
Maintaining good health is an important aspect of high quality care. The data presented in this report have
shown that infants attending centre‑based care are at greater risk of having ongoing infections than infants
receiving home‑based care. The Australian Government’s QIAS addresses infection control within the ‘health’
quality area in long day care centres under quality principle 6.6—‘The centre acts to control the spread of
infectious diseases and maintains records of immunisations’. Ensuring that the recommended measures,
precautions and daily practices (for example, toy washing) underpinning these principles are implemented
should reduce the risk of infections. Interestingly, in respect of QIAS principle 6.6, the National Childcare
Accreditation Council (NCAC 2007) reported that 69 per cent of long day care centres had achieved high
quality, 14 per cent achieved good quality, 0 per cent were satisfactory and 17 per cent were unsatisfactory.
This was one of eight principles for centre‑based care identified as most often not achieving a satisfactory
rating. Maintenance of quality‑assurance processes in respect of health is critical if rates of infection among
children attending child care are to decrease. It may be possible to examine these questions in future analyses
of the LSAC infant cohort by analysing the linked dataset provided by the NCAC on QIAS ratings for principles
related to health in the long day care centres used by families in LSAC and family day care homes.
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Overview
The policy in long day care and family day care concerning the exclusion of children who are sick and infectious
from mixing with other children can be a difficult decision‑making process for carers/teachers. They might be
reluctant to send a child home when parents have no access to other forms of care, but have to balance the
care needs of one family against the health needs of the other children in the setting. In terms of policies for
recurrent infections, services might also consider advising parents of children who experience more frequent
infections that substituting time spent with large groups of children with time in a small group care setting,
such as family day care or other regulated home care service, may prove beneficial. We note that, within the
field, it is recognised that finding appropriate day care services for children when they contract infectious
diseases is an ongoing policy challenge for parents and policy planners.
Support for home‑based carers
Given the extensive use of informal care settings for infants, and the evidence that these carers are least
likely to have completed a high school education or undertaken training in early childhood care, it is important
to consider strategies that could enhance the level of professional support available to relatives and
non‑relatives providing these services. For example, the LSAC findings included a self‑reported lower level of
carer involvement in active outdoor play in relative and non‑relative home‑based care, and less availability of
resources for infant and toddler creative and pretend play.
It may be worthwhile to investigate options for extending the services provided by maternal and child health
nurses. For instance, grandparents, other relatives and non‑relatives caring for children could be encouraged
to participate in supported playgroups made available regularly in local neighbourhoods. These supported
playgroups could be coordinated by multidisciplinary teams involving education, health and welfare
professionals delivering formal services, as has been developed in the UK’s Children’s Centres program.
Support for long day care centre carers/teachers
Results showed that families using long day care centres for their infants’ child care tend to be more
economically advantaged, but also more psychosocially disadvantaged, than families using home‑based care.
In particular, mothers using long day care reported lower levels of social support, parental self‑esteem and
positive parenting than mothers using other forms of care. Given that these measures of maternal wellbeing
were also associated with poorer developmental outcomes for children—including infant communication
competence and physical health, and child social wellbeing and cognitive achievement—the implications
for centre‑based carers, teachers and managers need serious consideration. Promoting positive parenting,
supporting parents in their care giving role, and helping families to form social networks are key aspects of
high quality child care provision, but to achieve this requires targeted professional development for staff and
centre policies that include effective strategies to enhance the learning potential of parent users as well as
staff.
Quality in prior‑to‑school care and education
The 2006 OECD report, Starting Strong II, identified four policy issues for Australia, two of which referred to
quality. It identified the need for ‘firmer regulations about numbers of trained staff to be employed’ (p. 272).
Recent policy documents from Australian sources are similarly unanimous in highlighting the need for early
childhood services to not only employ university, TAFE and other appropriately qualified staff, but also
to maintain a high ratio of qualified staff to children. LSAC has provided data (albeit limited to the child’s
primary carer/teacher) showing inequities in the number of university qualified staff in the different early
childhood sectors: schools, preschools not in a school and long day care centres. The data also showed
that carer/teacher participants in long day care centres were younger than their counterparts in schools
and preschools, suggesting that long day care may comprise a relatively youthful workforce. Although not
assessed by the LSAC questions, this finding may indicate a higher level of staff turnover in long day care
compared to other early childhood settings.
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Child care and early education in Australia
Related to staff turnover is the second policy issue identified by the OECD report—the possible undermining
of quality by ‘the low pay, low status, and training levels of ECEC staff’ (p. 272). Although the workplace
conditions of pay and status were not addressed by LSAC, findings on staff perceptions of their workplace do
not bear out suggestions that poor workplace conditions are undermining quality. Staff who completed the
questionnaires gave consistently high ratings on items related to supportiveness of their environment, which
is a good indication that staff feel valued and able to contribute to decision‑making processes. However,
these results are limited to the single staff member who completed the LSAC survey and to conditions within
workplace settings; they do not speak for the wider population of child care workers or address the broader
issues of pay and status that may affect job satisfaction and performance. It may also be the case that
teachers/carers who worked in a more supportive workplace were more likely to have the time and motivation
to complete and return the questionnaire. The LSAC framework is, therefore, limited in the extent to which it
can help policy makers understand the impact of child care workforce and management practices on quality.
Comprehensive universal system of early childhood provision versus fragmentation
One challenge facing the LSAC families was to match their child’s use of care/early education with their work
or study commitments. We noted that mixed arrangements of care and education were used by many families
(rising from 23.2 per cent for the infant cohort to 35.8 per cent for families with a 4 to 5 year‑old child) and were
most evident in families requiring longer hours of care than may have been available through school, preschool
or long day care settings. The fragmented nature of these experiences appeared to have some negative impact
on older children, as indexed by a direct association with poorer social and behavioural outcomes, according
to their teachers/carers. Other factors that may have contributed to this association include more time spent
in multiple care overall, or having experienced more changes of care settings over time. The demands placed
on children attending different care arrangements, or care for very long hours, are a likely explanation for
results showing lower social developmental outcomes for children in mixed care settings and lower cognitive
outcomes for children in care for more than 31 hours per week. Although not directly assessed in the LSAC
protocol, it would not be unexpected for families to also feel more stressed by having to manage multiple care
arrangements across the week.
These findings echo policy discussions and recommendations on ‘coherence and coordination’ in early
childhood provisions (OECD 2006, p. 272) and the need for greater integration of services within ‘a
national, universal, and integrated early childhood education and care system’ (ASSA 2006, Principle 3).
In these debates, it is also important to note that 4.2 per cent of families identified ‘relationships with
grandparents/relatives’ as their reason for using multiple care. Consideration of families’ preference for
informal care within the extended family must also be addressed in future policy discussion.
Infants and children with additional educational needs
Findings for both infant and child cohorts highlighted differences in families’ use of care and education
settings, and in developmental outcomes, for children from special groups, notably Indigenous children and
children growing up in homes where a language other than English is spoken. Although LSAC is limited in its
ability to address specific issues related to special groups because of the relatively low level of representation
in the population and the LSAC sample, the information in this report identified issues of policy relevance,
particularly in relation to children from LOTE families. A consistent pattern that emerged for both infant and
child cohorts was the use of longer hours of child care and the use of informal family‑based care (with parents,
grandparents or other relatives) to meet this need. Added to this is evidence that LOTE families were more
likely than English‑only speaking families to enrol their child in a pre‑Year 1 program.
It has not been possible to undertake a deeper level of analysis of the data set to answer questions about
why LOTE families are using informal care and school, rather than prior‑to‑school preschool and long day care
programs. It would be interesting to know to what extent families from non–English speaking backgrounds
represent recently arrived immigrants and refugees with limited experience of formal services prior to
their arrival in Australia. Previous experiences with formal care/education services and the child rearing
practices of their own family context are likely influences on parents’ use of formal services for their own
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Overview
children. Further investigation is needed to ascertain whether LOTE families are opting out of the formal
child care/education system and, if so, whether this is due to cultural preference, affordability, or lack of
culturally‑responsive services.
The observed pattern for some LSAC children of having no experience of centre or school‑based early
childhood education before entering formal school was the least advantageous for children’s social, English
language, and early literacy and numeracy development. When considering the evidence for LOTE children, it
may be that pre‑Year 1 is not the best environment for these children to have their first opportunity to interact
with their English‑speaking peers. Raising awareness and understanding about these research findings can be
incorporated into resource and policy documents distributed to newly arrived immigrant and refugee families
with young children requiring access to early childhood care and education services.
Early childhood education and care as family support
Much has been written about the role of formal early childhood services as family support, particularly for
Australian children growing up in circumstances of disadvantage (Stanley, Richardson & Prior 2005). While this
issue was not in the scope of the present study, findings presented in this report are relevant. We noted that
families reporting a higher level of risk on a number of child, family and community factors were less likely to
be using care and education provisions for their child. Future investigations need to investigate the incidence
and implications of children growing up ‘outside the early childhood care and education system’ to identify
why the system is not working for them and how to best provide means of support. Matching needs according
to factors such as age, cultural background, languages spoken, religion and length of residence in Australia
may also enhance parents’ sense of security and self‑confidence in their caring and educating of their young
children.
For the infant cohort, the majority of mothers were not at work and were providing exclusive parental care.
However, whether this was linked to a lack of connection to the workforce, a preference for being at home with
their infants, or to availability of formal child care services or relatives as possible care providers could not
be identified at this stage of the study. Mothers of infants not in care did report higher levels of separation
anxiety and lower levels of social support. In these circumstances, it may be that other services, such as
supported playgroups, would be more appropriate sites to develop social networks and support. Monitoring
and evaluating the long‑term effectiveness of these structures also requires adequate resourcing.
For the 4 to 5 year olds, parental factors beneficial to children’s social and language development, such as
more positive parenting behaviour, were also linked to the use of formal care/education settings. Parents of
children not attending any centre or school‑based programs were more likely to report parenting difficulties
(that is, less warmth, more hostility, less consistency). While there may be other reasons for these findings,
they also support the positive impact on parenting that may arise from regular contact with formal early
childhood education services and the opportunity to discuss child rearing issues with the qualified staff who
work there. Early childhood education and care centres can also act as a hub to coordinate service delivery
by bringing together professionals from different disciplines, such as health workers and social workers, to
support families in a cohesive way.
9.4 Conclusions and future directions
Recent developments in Australia have seen a concerted focus on the early childhood years, both from
government organisations (for example, the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education,
the National Agenda for Early Childhood), government and non‑government representatives (for example,
What about the kids? published by the New South Wales and Queensland Commissioners for children with
NIFTeY), and experts in the field (for example, ASSA, Ten principles for a national system of early childhood
education and care and Kids count. Better early childhood education and care in Australia). The timeliness
of the release of the Wave 1 LSAC study data that informed this report cannot be overstated. The findings are
nationally representative, comprehensive and contemporary. Future waves of data will continue to inform
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Child care and early education in Australia
the nation about the ways families manage their child care needs and make provision for early education
experiences for their toddlers and preschoolers. Future waves will also provide the first national data on the
use of school‑age child care.
This report underlines the interconnections among family circumstances and children’s experiences of
non‑parental child care and early education. Most families of infants were providing exclusive parental care,
but when care was used it was primarily within informal arrangements with relatives. This form of infant care
was found to have benefits for the child’s physical health and communication; however, this finding must be
qualified by the limitations of the measures available for this young and varied age range, and by the small
numbers of infants enrolled in the different types of care settings. By age 4 to 5 years, 95.1 per cent of the
LSAC children were attending a formal early childhood program provided by qualified teachers/carers in a
school, preschool, or long day care centre. In the main, these centre and school‑based experiences were
found to enhance children’s development across social, language and learning domains. Some concern was
raised, however, for children accessing long hours of care additional to the primary early childhood program,
particularly in relation to their language development.
This report, while not claiming to represent early childhood care and education services, suggests that infants
and 4 to 5 year‑old children are receiving positive experiences in their care/education settings. Most carers
reported that they interact with infants in ways that stimulate play and development across all domains.
Similarly, teachers/carers in schools, preschools and long day care centres reported that they engage children
in a variety of curriculum approaches that support learning and social interaction. In addition, carers/teachers
reported a good to high level of personal support in the formal child care and preschool services where they
work. These are positive findings for the early childhood field.
The LSAC Wave 1 data have generated current, comprehensive information on the links between families, their
use of child care/early education services and children’s developmental outcomes. The findings have, in some
cases, affirmed previous Australian and international reports and, in others, identified new findings. There are
important implications to be drawn from this report into Child care and early education in Australia for policy
and professional practice in early childhood education and care.
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Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Appendix A
Appendix A: Summary table of research
studies informing the literature review
165
166
To examine how
variations in
non‑maternal
care are related
to children’s
social–emotional
adjustment,
cognitive
and linguistic
development, and
physical growth and
health
The NICHD Study
of Early Child
Care and Youth
Development
(NICHD–ECC)
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Phase III
(2000–2004)
through middle
childhood
Phase II
(1995–1999)
through
first grade
Phase I
(1991–1994)
birth to 3 years
Purpose
Study
Ten data
collection sites
located across
major regions
of the United
States
Location
Use of multiple
quality‑of‑care indices
Multiple measures
of social–emotional
development,
cognitive and language
development,
achievement, and
physical growth and
health
Extensive direct
observation of home,
child care and school
experiences.
Children followed from
birth
A sample large enough
to permit reasonably
precise estimations of
effect sizes
Inclusion of
ethnic‑minority,
lone‑parent and
low‑education families
at every site
Sites located across
major regions of the
country in urban,
suburban and rural
areas, representing
different populations
and widely varying
state child care
regulations
Longitudinal design
Design features
Retention rate
through phase
II=80.6 per cent
1,364 families
with healthy
newborns
Sample
Table A1: Summary table of research studies informing the literature review
Child care quality
(structural
aspects)
Carer parenting
attitudes
Carer
characteristics
Observational
record of the
care giving
environment
(ORCE)
Child care
measures
Multiple measures
of social–emotional
development,
cognitive and
language
development,
achievement, and
physical growth
and health
Child outcome
measures
Key references
Social/behavioural development
At 4 1/2 years, cumulative
experience in centre care
positively associated with
cognitive and linguistic outcomes
By age 3, greater cumulative
experience in centre care and
early experience in child care
homes both associated with
better cognitive and language
outcomes than other forms of
care
At age 2, children who were being NICHD–ECC
(2000b)
cared for in child care centres
and child care homes did better
on measures of cognitive and
language development than did
children in other forms of care
Cognitive/language development NICHD–ECC
(2006)
Quality of carer behaviour
Tran & Weinraub
positively related to cognitive
and linguistic abilities at ages 15, (2006)
24 and 36 months
NICHD–ECC
(ed. 2005)
3 year olds in classes that met
care giver training/education
NICHD–ECC
standards showed greater school
(1999)
readiness and better language
comprehension
NICHD–ECC &
Duncan (2003)
1
At 4 /2 years, overall quality of
child care experienced since
NICHD–ECC
infancy retained its positive
(2002)
association with children’s
NICHD–ECC
performance on tests of
pre‑academic skills and language (2000a)
Major findings
Child care and early education in Australia
Study
Purpose
Location
Design features
Sample
Child care
measures
Child outcome
measures
3 year olds in classes that met the
standards for care giver training
and higher education showed
fewer behaviour problems
Children in classes that met the
guidelines for child–staff ratios
had fewer behaviour problems
and more positive social
behaviours at 24 and 36 months
Poor quality child care related
to insecure infant–mother
attachment at 15 months, but
only when the mother was also
relatively low in sensitivity and
responsiveness
Over the first 3 years of life,
higher quality child care
associated with greater maternal
sensitivity during mother–child
interaction
At 36 months, higher quality
care was associated with greater
compliance and less negative
behaviour during mother–child
interactions and fewer care
giver‑reported behaviour
problems
At 24 months, children who had
experienced higher quality care
were reported to have fewer
behaviour problems by both their
mothers and their care givers
and were rated higher on social
competence by their mothers
Major findings
Key references
Appendix A
167
Study
Purpose
Location
Design features
Sample
Child care
measures
Child outcome
measures
168
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
At 4 1/2 years, cumulative
experience in centre care was
positively associated with care
giver reports of externalising
behaviour problems
At 24 months, more hours
in care were associated with
mothers’ reports of lower social
competence and carers’ reports
of more problem behaviours.
These associations were not seen
at 36 months, but there was a
reappearance of quantity effects
at 4 1/2 years, with more hours of
child care positively associated
with care giver‑reported
behaviour problems. At
kindergarten, quantity of care
was associated with both teacher
and mother ratings of problem
behaviours
Analyses of attachment at 15
months showed that children
who spent more hours in child
care and had mothers who
were relatively insensitive and
unresponsive were at heightened
risk for insecure infant–mother
attachments
When children spent more hours
in child care, mothers were less
sensitive in their interactions with
their children (at 6, 15, 24 and
36 months)
Major findings
Key references
Child care and early education in Australia
Study
Purpose
Location
Design features
Sample
Child care
measures
Child outcome
measures
Family influences are consistently
better predictors of children’s
outcomes than early child care
experiences alone
At age 2 (but not at age 3),
experience with more child care
arrangements was associated
with a higher number of
behaviour problems, as reported
by mothers and observed in the
child care setting
At 15 months, children who had
experienced more changes in
care arrangements and maternal
insensitivity were at heightened
risk of insecure attachment
Children with more cumulative
experience in group care showed
more cooperation with their
mothers in the laboratory at
age 2, less negative laboratory
interaction with their mothers
at age 3, and fewer care
giver‑reported behaviour
problems at both ages. However,
greater group experience before
12 months was associated with
more mother‑reported behaviour
problems at age 3
Major findings
Key references
Appendix A
169
170
2001 (ongoing)
Multiple aims,
United States
including exploration
of relationships
between children’s
developmental
outcomes and
their non‑parental
care and school
experiences
Early Childhood
Longitudinal
Study—Birth
Cohort (ECLS‑B)
Location
Purpose
Study
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Subsample of children
was selected for
observation in formal
child care settings.
Baseline data was
collected when children
were approximately 9
months of age (2001),
at 2 years of age (2003)
and pre‑school age
(year before school,
2005).
Asian/Pacific Islander
and Chinese children,
moderately low‑birth
weight children
(1,500–2,500 grams),
very low birth weight
children
(under 1,500 grams)
and twins were
oversampled.
Sample consists of
children from different
racial, ethnic and
socioeconomic groups.
Design features
Nationally
representative
sample of nearly
four million
children born in
the United States
in calendar year
2001, of which
approximately
10,221 children
were directly
assessed in
Wave 1.
Sample
Bayley Short Form
Direct cognitive
assessment
ITERS
ECERS
Direct assessment
Bayley Short Form
Physical
development
(TAS‑45)
Toddler–
Attachment Sort
Behaviour Rating
Scale
Two Bags Task
Nursing Child
Assessment
Teaching Scale
(NCATS)
Socio‑emotional
Cognitive
development
Child outcome
measures
Carer/teacher
interviews
Child care
measures
No published findings relating
to effects of child care on child
outcomes.
Major findings
N/A
Key references
Child care and early education in Australia
Purpose
To examine the short
and longer‑term
effects of child
care on children’s
development
between birth and
school entry
Study
Families, Children
and Child Care
Study (FCCC)
Two research
sites: North
London and
the other in
Oxfordshire,
UK
Location
Information about the
children was collected
at 3, 10, 18, 30, 36 and
51 months
Selective oversampling
of low socioeconomic
status mothers
Prospective
longitudinal
Design features
1,201 infants
(599 boys and
602 girls)
Sample
Bayley Mental
Scale
MacCarthur
Communicative
Development
Inventory
Care giver
Interaction Scale
(CIS)
Care history
and current
arrangements
Child observation
Strengths and
Difficulties Scale
Behaviour
Checklist (BCL)
Pre‑school—
Behaviour
Checklist (PBCL)
Inventory
Behaviour
Screening
Questionnaire
Quality (structural
Physical
aspects)
development
Parental
Poor health (for
satisfaction
example, illnesses)
Cost of care
Bayley subscales
Weekly child care
Socio‑emotional
log
development
Carer–parent
Adaptive Social
relationships
Behaviour
British Ability
Scales
Cognitive
development
Child outcome
measures
HOME
FDCRS
ECERS
Child care
measures
No published findings relating
to effects of child care on child
outcomes.
Major findings
N/A
Key references
Appendix A
171
172
To examine
the complex
relationships
between children’s
experiences in
centre‑based child
care and school
and their social,
emotional and
cognitive outcomes
Cost, Quality and
Child Outcomes in
Child Care Centres
Study (CQO)
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Changeable child
care includes the
changes to hours or
place of child care
as well as changes
within care settings.
Multiple care is
additional to the use
of formal child care
in long day care or
family day care.
Child Care Choices To examine the
use and effects
of multiple and
changeable child
care on children
under 3 years
Longitudinal
phase began in
1993
Purpose
Study
New South
Wales,
Australia
United States
Location
Sites located in
metropolitan Sydney
and the Central West
and Far West regions of
New South Wales
Longitudinal design
51 per cent retention
at fifth data collection
point
Information gathered
at five time points—
during children’s last
two years in child
care (pre‑school 1
and pre‑school 2),
kindergarten, first and
second grade
Design features
Peabody Picture
Vocabulary Test–
Revised (PPVT‑R)
Cognitive
development
Child outcome
measures
Teacher beliefs
awareness
Story and print
(Gresham & Elliot)
Student–Teacher
Relationship Scale Peabody Picture
(STRS)
Vocabulary
Test‑Revised at
Child care quality
age 3+
(structural
aspects)
Woodcock–
Johnson tests at
age 4+
Carer
characteristics
Parent and
carer‑rated social
competence
Parent‑rated
communication
(Vineland)
Student–Teacher Classroom
Relationship Scale Behaviour
(STRS)
Inventory (CBI)
Subtests from
the Woodcock–
Adult Involvement Johnson Tests
Scale (AIS)
of Achievement
Revised (WJ‑R)
Instructional
Environment
Social
Observation
development
Scales
Assessment of
Peer Play Scale
Social Behaviour
Care giver
Interaction Scale
(CIS)
ECERS‑Early
Childhood
Observation Form
(ECOF)
Child care
measures
699 children aged ITERS and ECERS
between birth and
Observational
4 years
ratings of care
quality
826 pre‑schoolers
in their
next‑to‑last year
of child care
Sample
No significant effects for
observed quality of child
care for social competence
or communication outcome
measures.
Greater time in care is related
to social competence, including
better adaptive play and more
angry/aggressive interactions
(different groups of children).
The quality of child care
classroom practices was
related to children’s cognitive
development, while the closeness
of the child care teacher–child
relationship influenced children’s
social development through the
early school years.
Children who have traditionally
been at risk of not doing well in
school are affected more by the
quality of child care experiences
than other children.
High quality child care continues
to be positively related to
children’s performance well into
their school careers.
Major findings
Wise et al. 2005
Ungerer et al.
(2006)
Bowes et al. 2009
Bowes et al.
(2004)
Peisner‑Feinberg
et al. (2001)
Key references
Child care and early education in Australia
1992
To describe and
New
analyse variations Zealand
and changes over
time in children’s
cognitive, social,
communicative
and
problem‑solving
competencies
and the impact
of children’s
early childhood
experiences,
family resources,
home activities,
relations with
peers and
engagement in
school on these
competencies
Competent
Children
Competent
Learners (CCCL)
Location
Purpose
Study
Phase VII—(age 16)
Phase VI—(age 14)
Phase V—(age 12)
Phase IV—age 10)
Phase III—(age 8)
Phase II—(age 6)
Phase I—(just before
age 5)
Design features
Phase I
participants: 307
children from the
Wellington region
recruited at near
5 years of age
and attending
early childhood
education
Sample
Staff–parent
communication
and parent
involvement
Curriculum goals
and approaches
Service type
Quality
(structural
indices)
Physical
environment,
resources and
safety
Program focus
Self‑esteem
Staff–child
interaction
Child care
measures
Competencies were affected by
the length of early childhood
education experience, the
quality of early childhood
education, type of EC service
attended and cost of service to
family.
Major findings
Independence, relations with
peers/adults
Observation ratings of
interactions with peers
and adults, level of play,
exploration of materials/
language and aggressive
behaviour
Socio‑emotional development
The Early LAP
South Australian Motor Skills
Test—The Carolina Curriculum,
Preschool Developmental
Profile
Physical development
Logical problem solving
(11 tasks from the ‘Ravens’
Coloured Progressive Matrices)
Children in early childhood
services which were rated low
quality were less likely than
Mathematics assessment
others to engage in exploration,
(derived from SENS
more sophisticated levels of
instrument—Beginning School play or have language extended
Mathematics program)
in interaction with adults. More
aggressive behaviour was also
Literacy (four of six reading
observed.
tasks taken from Clay, 1981
diagnostic tasks)
Spivack & Shure (1974)
task‑shortened version
Communication assessments
(receptive and expressive)
Observation ratings
of inquisitiveness and
perseverance
Cognitive development
Child outcome measures
Wylie,
Thompson
& Kerslake
Hendricks
(1996)
Key references
Appendix A
173
174
Sub‑study
(n=52) assessed
the short and
long‑term effects
of early child care
experiences on
children’s social
development
To determine the
long‑term effects
of early entry
into out‑of‑home
care on cognitive
abilities
Göteborg Child
Care Study
1982–1983
Purpose
Study
Göteborg,
Sweden
Location
Sample
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Phase 5—8 1/2 years
old
1 to 2 year‑old children 146 children
followed for seven
recruited from
years
waiting lists of
public child care
Phase I—12 to 24
facilities
months old
Between 12 and
Phase II—1 year later
24 months old,
first born, living
Phase III—2 years
with both parents
later
and not attending
Phase IV—prior to
regular day care
school (6 1/2 years old before the study
in Sweden)
Design features
Child outcome measures
Preschool Behaviour Q‑Sort
California Child Q‑Set
Social development
Numerical subscale of
Standardised School
Readiness Test (Ljungblad
1989)
Mathematical ability
Spot Observation Verbal ability
Checklist
Language subscale of Griffiths
Structural
Developmental Scales
aspects of child
Reading and vocabulary
care quality
subscales of a Standardised
Extent of care
School Readiness Test
(Ljungblad 1989)
Child care
measures
Broberg et al.
(1997)
Key references
Until social competence
stabilises between 31/2 and
6 years of age, amount and
quality of child care may play
an important role in shaping
children’s social skills.
Social competence with peers
was relatively stable from 31/2
to 15 years of age, regardless of
early child care experiences.
Cognitive abilities were
enhanced by increased paternal
involvement.
Process measures of quality
predicted verbal abilities
whereas structural measures
predicted mathematical
abilities.
For children who had spent
three or more years in child
care prior to school, the quality
of the service also impacted
cognitive development.
Campbell,
Lamb & Hwang
Children who spent more
(2000)
months in centre‑based care
before they were 40 months old
obtained higher scores on tests
of cognitive ability than other
children.
High quality child care has
positive effects on cognitive
development.
Major findings
Child care and early education in Australia
To examine the
consequences for
children’s social
development of
attending child
care centres that
varied widely
in quality; to
identify specific
indicators of
child care quality;
to determine
whether
associations
between quality
and child
outcomes are
determined by
children’s day
care experience
or family
background.
Bermuda Child
Care Study
Bermuda
Location
Japanese Study To compare
Japan
of Extended
effects of typical
Child Care
versus extended
hours of care
on children’s
development over
a two‑year period.
Purpose
Study
ECERS
Child–adult
verbal
interactions
Care giver
turnover
Director
experience
Staff–child ratios
Child care
measures
Length time in
care
Excluded children with
disabilities
Quality
Regularity of
attendance
Stability
Hours/day
648 children aged 0 Hours in care
to 5 years
(normal <12 vs.
extended 12+)
Ages 3 to 5 1/2 years
78 per cent black
Bermudians and
22 per cent white
Bermudians
166 children in nine
centres
Sample
Children recruited
from all 24‑hour night
care centres (n=41)
Two‑year study
3‑month study, each
centre visited three
times
Design features
Carer ratings of social
competence, communication
with carers and peers,
vocabulary, motor skills and
intelligence
Classroom Behaviour Inventory
Preschool Behaviour
Questionnaire
Preschool Language
Assessment Instrument
Peabody Picture Vocabulary
Test—Revised
Child outcome measures
Parent involvement and
activities with children was
a stronger predictor of child
outcomes than time in care.
Verbal intelligence and
language development was
affected by staff–child ratios.
Director experience was a
strong predictor of positive
child outcomes.
Amount of adult–child verbal
interaction was a strong
predictor of positive child
outcomes.
Age of entry and time in day
care were poor predictors of
children's development.
Quality of care was predictive
of verbal and intellectual
development.
Children in higher quality care
were rated by their teachers
as more intelligent, more task
oriented and more anxious.
Children in higher quality care
were rated by their parents as
more considerate and sociable.
Major findings
Anme & Segal
(2004)
Phillips, Scarr
& McCartney
(1987)
Key references
Appendix A
175
176
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
To determine
the long‑term
effects of day
care on children’s
cognitive, social
and personal
development
Stockholm
Child Care
Study
Sweden
To describe the
New South
use of child care
Wales,
over time and
Australia
examine the
effects of type,
amount and
stability of child
care on child
socio‑emotional
development and
school adjustment
Sydney Family
Development
Project (SFDP)
Location
Purpose
Study
Child outcomes
assessed at age 8
Retrospective child
care data collected for
first few years of life
128 families from
Stockholm and
Göteborg whose
child was between
3 and 4 years old at
Study completed when
the beginning of the
children reached age
study
8—retention rate=93
per cent
Families recruited from
eight neighbourhoods
representing low and
middle‑resource areas
136 children at age
2 1/2 years
Primiparous
mothers and their
partners recruited
in mid‑trimester of
pregnancy
127 children at
school‑age, end of
first year of school
145 infants
(12 months)
Sample
12‑year longitudinal
study
Design features
Structural
measures of
quality and
Belsky spot
check for quality
practices
ITERS
observations of
quality at age
2 1/2 years
Parent
descriptions of
care type (formal
and informal)
Child care
measures
Mother‑rated behaviour
problems were not associated
with care type, quality or
stability.
Infant–mother attachment
security was more positive for
children who had attended
formal child care settings.
Major findings
Teacher ratings of social skills
Teacher ratings of school
performance on reading,
writing, arithmetic, general
subjects, music and physical
education
Verbal and non‑verbal tests
Cognitive
Love et al.
(2003)
Harrison &
Ungerer
(1997, 2000)
Key references
Children who entered child
Andersson
care at an early age had higher (1989)
scores on cognitive tests and
were rated more positively on
social–personal attributes by
their teachers than children
who entered child care at a later
age or did not use child care.
Consistent pattern of more
changes to child care from birth
to age 6 was associated with
more disruptive behaviour at
school.
Teacher/carer‑rated adjustment
to the learning expectations
of school linked to attendance
Teacher–child relationship
(Student–Teacher Rating Scale) at formal child care in the first
2 1/2 years.
Peabody Picture Vocabulary
Longer hours of care in the
Test (6 years)
first 2 1/2 years linked to
Child‑rated School Liking and
poorer academic and learning
Avoidance
outcomes (teacher/carer‑rated).
Teacher/carer‑rated aspects of
school adjustment at 6 years
Parent‑rated behaviour
problems at 5 years (CBCL)
Observed child–peer and
child–carer interaction at 2 1/2
years
Infant–mother attachment at
12 months
Child outcome measures
Child care and early education in Australia
1998–2000
To make
recommendations
regarding new
family policy and
child care
To assess how
child care
may influence
youngsters’
development
To describe and
measure the
effects of welfare
reform on children
and their mothers
Growing Up in
Poverty
California,
Connecticut
and Florida,
US
To examine the
Norway
prevalence and
persistence
of behaviour
problems amongst
children at ages
4, 7, and 10
years; to assess
relations between
behaviour
problems
and maternal
employment,
preschool day
care, SES,
and child sex,
intelligence.
Norwegian
Study of
Maternal
Employment
and Child Care
Location
Purpose
Study
Assessments
conducted when
children were 21/2
years old (baseline)
and at age 4
Two‑year study
Prospective
longitudinal study
of children from the
preschool period until
10 years of age
Design features
Child care
exposure, type
and stability
451 families
participated in
both waves of data
collection
Quality
(structural
indices)
Arnett Scale
of Care giver
Behaviour
FDCRS
ECERS
Type of day care
from birth to
4 years; hours of
care
Child care
measures
140 children,
comprising
all children
born in 1981 in
the identified
municipality
Sample
Child behaviour Checklist
(CBCL)
Social development
Mother assessed school
readiness
Family and Child Experiences
Scale (FACES)
Bracken Basic Concept Scale
MacArthur Communicative
Development Inventory
Cognitive development
Behaviour Screening
questionnaire (Richman &
Graham 1971); McCarthy
Scales of children’s abilities;
Rutter Child Scales
Child outcome measures
Teacher education was
associated with stronger social
development.
Children who spent more
time enrolled in centres or
preschools, particularly those
rated more highly on observed
quality indicators, displayed
higher rates of cognitive
development, compared to
children who remained in
home‑based child care.
Higher levels of maternal
employment in the first 4 years
(when child care was typically
provided by kith and kin) were
associated with higher levels of
behaviour problems as reported
by teachers at age 10 years.
Day care centre experience
at a later age was associated
with lower levels of behaviour
problems, as perceived by
parents.
Major findings
Loeb et al.
(2004)
Borge &
Melhuish
(1995)
Key references
Appendix A
177
178
Purpose
Location
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
US Study of
To study younger United
Cortisol Activity children in child
States
care in order
to identify the
factors affecting
the rising pattern
of cortisol over
the child care day.
Haifa Study of
To examine
Haifa, Israel
Early Child Care the unique
contribution of
various child
care‑related
correlates to the
nature and quality
of infant–mother
attachment
security.
Study
Sub‑study (n =151)
involving children in
centre care
Participants covered
all SES groups
Inclusion criteria were
non‑risk pregnancy,
full term baby,
singleton (not twins,
and so on) and healthy
Design features
20 infants and
35 toddlers
in full‑day,
centre‑based child
care
758 infants
recruited over a
one‑year period
from three hospitals
in the Greater Haifa
Metropolitan Area
Sample
Staff‑to‑child
ratios
ECERS ratings of
quality
Full‑day child
care
Infant–adult ratio
Multiplicity
Stability of care
Extent of
non‑maternal
child care
between 3 and
12 months of age
Age of entry
Child care type
Child care
measures
The very high infant–care giver
ratio that accounted for the
increased level of attachment
insecurity among centre‑care
infants.
Centre‑care infants were
significantly more likely to
become insecurely attached to
their mothers as compared with
infants who were using other
types of child care and exclusive
maternal care.
Major findings
Quality of care determines
whether cortisol levels rise over
the course of the day in full‑day
child care.
Salivary cortisol collected at 10 Salivary cortisol levels increase
am and 4 pm at home and in
over the course of the day
child care
for most toddlers enrolled in
full‑day child care and decrease
Observations of behaviour,
in the same toddlers at home.
play, affect
Teacher‑reported social
Temperament (IBQ, TBAQ)
fearfulness predicted higher
afternoon cortisol and larger
cortisol increases across the
day at child care.
Infant–mother attachment
(Strange Situation)
Child outcome measures
Gunnar et al.
(2003)
Watamura,
Donzella &
Alwin. (2003)
Koren‑Karie,
Sagi‑Schwartz
&
Egoz‑Mizrachi
(2005)
Sagi et al.
(2002)
Key references
Child care and early education in Australia
Purpose
Western
Australia
Location
Children samples
across 16 centres
Design features
Early Childhood To evaluate
Washington, Data gathered when
Mental Health
the long‑term
US
children were 4 1/2
Program Study cumulative effects
years old
of child care on
children’s mental
development and
socio‑emotional
adjustment from
birth to 4.5 years
West Australia Impact of
Study of
relational
Cortisol Activity dimensions of
child care quality
on children’s
stress levels
Study
113 first‑born,
non‑risk,
middle‑class
preschool children
from Washington
area
117 3 to 6 year‑old
children attending
centres three days
per week
Sample
Child outcome measures
Preschool Behaviour
Questionnaire
Socio‑emotional adjustment
Child care history Language comprehension
(from birth to
Test of Language
time of data
Development—Primary
collection)
(TOLD‑P)
Mothers’ reason
Cognitive development
for using child
care
MacCarthy Scales of Children’s
Abilities
Subset of QAIS
Salivary cortisol
quality principles
(observation)
Child care
measures
Key references
For behavioural adjustment
outcomes, a higher child‑to‑care
giver ratio was associated with
fewer behaviour problems in
girls and more behavioural
problems in boys.
For cognitive outcomes, the
child‑to‑care giver ratio exerted
a positive effect on children
from higher SES backgrounds
versus no effect on children
from average or lower SES
backgrounds.
Hours of non‑maternal
care were not a predictor
of mental development or
socio‑emotional adjustment.
Levels in children attending
unsatisfactory programs
demonstrated an increase
across the day.
Bornstein et al.
(2006)
Sims, Guilfoyle
Cortisol levels of children
attending high quality programs & Parry (2006)
demonstrated a decline across
the child care day.
Major findings
Appendix A
179
180
Purpose
Location
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
aimed to examine
patterns of
ECCE used by
2 to 3 year
olds, the family
demographics
of children who
use the various
forms of care and
the association
between children’s
adjustment to
kindergarten
and their ECCE
experiences
Sub‑study
authored by
Kohen, Lipps &
Hertzman (2006)
To determine
10 provinces
the prevalence
across
of various
Canada
biological, social
and economic
characteristics
Cohort 1 (1994)
and risk factors
Cohort 2 (1998) of children and
youth in Canada,
Cohort 3 (2000) and the impact
of these risk
factors, life events
and protective
factors on the
development of
these children
National
Longitudinal
Survey of
Children and
Youth (NLSCY)
Study
In 1994 (cohort 1),
a random sample
of 15,579 Canadian
households with
at least one child
aged 0 to 11 years
was selected from
Statistics Canada
Labour Force Survey
for the NLSCY
Design features
Participants in
Kohen, Lipps &
Hertzman (2006)
subsample=1,207
Total sample
(3 cohorts)=30,800
Cohorts 2 and 3
(0 to 1 year old)
Cohort 1
(0 to 11 years)
Sample
Type of ECCE
attended
Hours of
participation in
ECCE
Child care
measures
No correlation between the
number of hours spent in child
care and school readiness.
No single form of ECCE
program was associated with
significantly greater or worse
child outcomes.
Children from low SES family
backgrounds who participated
in some form of ECCE programs
rated higher in teachers’
measures of competence and
academic skills and had lower
levels of behaviour problems
reported by parents than those
who did not participate in any
ECCE programs.
Major findings
Among children who did attend
child care, those from higher
Kindergarten teacher rankings
income families had better
Motor and Social Development cognitive outcomes than those
from lower income families.
(MSD) scores for 0 to 47
months
Physical development
Kindergarten teacher rankings
Ten‑item scale of pro‑social
behaviour
Checklist (CBCL)
Child Behaviour
Social/behavioural
development
Kindergarten teacher rankings
Number knowledge
assessments
Who am I?
PPVT‑R
Cognitive development
Child outcome measures
Kohen, Lipps
& Hertzman
(2006)
Borge et al.
(2004)
Gagne (2003)
Lefebvre &
Merrigan
(2002)
Key references
Child care and early education in Australia
Netherlands
Longitudinal
Twin Study
1998–2002
Longitudinal
Study of Child
Development
in Quebec
(QLSCD)
Study
Children followed until
aged 5 years
Annual data collection
Comparable and
complementary to the
Canadian NLSCY
Representative sample
of children born in
Quebec between 1
October 1997 and 31
July 1998
Cohort selected from
birth registry
Design features
Analyses based on
child care in first three
years
Behavioural data
collected when
children aged 3, 5, 7
and 10 years
Child care data
collected when
children were aged
5 years
Netherlands Families are
volunteers of the
Netherlands Twin
Register (NTR)
Quebec,
Canada
To understand
the precursors
that help children
adapt to school,
to define the path
of adaptation
and to evaluate
its medium and
long‑term effects
Genetic and
environment
influences on
the development
and behaviour
problems in
families with of
3 to 12 year‑old
twins
Location
Purpose
Approximately
9,000
2,223 children
sampled at
5 months of age
Sample
Behavioural development
Child Behaviour Checklist
(CBCL)
Age of entry,
frequency
Child outcome measures
Child care type
Child care
attendance
Child care type
FDCRS
ECERS
Child care
measures
Key references
Effect sizes between 1.2 and
0.2.
Children with larger amounts
of child care did not show more
behaviour problems.
At 3 years, children with
non‑parental child care
experiences had more
externalising problems than
children with exclusive parental
care.
Children from less privileged
backgrounds are more likely
to be in inadequate child care
facilities.
Children in families in the
lowest income bracket are less
likely to be in child care.
Van
Beijsterveldt,
Hudziak &
Boomsma
(2005)
61 per cent of child care
Japel, Tremblay
facilities met the minimal
& Côté (2005)
requirement, 12 per cent were
inadequate and 27 per cent
were rated as good or excellent.
Major findings
Appendix A
181
182
1998–1999
United
States
Four main research
themes:
Early
Childhood
Longitudinal
Study—
Kindergarten
Cohort
(ECLS–K)
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
(iv) relationship
between children’s
kindergarten experience
and subsequent school
performance
(iii) children’s transitions
to kindergarten, first
grade and beyond
(ii) children’s cognitive
development
(i) school readiness
Location
Purpose
Study
Sample
Approximately
22,000 children
enrolled in 1,000
kindergarten
Oversample of Asian
programs during
children and private
the 1998–1999
kindergartens
school year
Nationally
representative
sample
Design features
Approaches to
learning
Problem behaviours
Social skills
Socio‑emotional
development
Gross motor skills
Parent and child classroom visits prior to
the beginning of the year were found to
have the most significant positive effect
on later academic achievement.
The effect of transition practices on
academic achievement for children
from average to low‑income families
was stronger than those effects for
high‑income children.
Kindergarten transition practices were
found to have a modest positive effect
on both child academic outcomes and
parent‑initiated school involvement,
regardless of SES.
Major findings
Results for centre intensity vary by income
levels and race (for example, poor and
middle‑income children see academic
gains from attending centre care
intensively (more than 30 hours a week),
but wealthier children do not; and while
intense centre negatively impacts black
and white children’s social development,
it does not have any negative impact for
Hispanic children.
Starting centre care earlier than age 2
is related to more pronounced negative
social effects.
Attending centre care was associated with
Cognitive
positive gains in pre‑reading and math
Learning
skills, but negative social behaviour.
environment and development
school program Language and literacy
Across economic levels, children who start
centre care between ages 2 and 3 see
Mathematics
greater gains than those who start centres
General knowledge
earlier or later.
Physical,
organisational
and fiscal
characteristics
of the school
Classroom
setting
Teaching
experience
Height and weight
Teaching
practices
Fine motor skills
Physical and
psychomotor
development
Child outcome
measures
Teacher
demographic
background
Child care
measures
Loeb et al.
(2005)
Schulting,
Malone
& Dodge
(2005)
Key
references
Child care and early education in Australia
1997–2003
EPPE explored five
questions:
Effective
Provision of
Preschool
Education
(EPPE)
(iv) do the effects of
preschool continue
through ages 6 and 7?
(iv) what is the impact of
the home and child care
history on children’s
development?
(iii) what are the
characteristics of an
effective preschool
setting?
(ii) are some preschools
more effective than
others in promoting
children’s development?
what is the impact
of preschool on
children’s intellectual
and social/behavioural
development?
(i)
Purpose
Study
United
Kingdom
Location
2,800 children and
141 centres
Sample
Quality
(structural
indices)
Child care
measures
Cognitive
development
Child outcome
measures
Cognitive development
Major findings
For pre‑reading and early number
More than 300
British Ability
concepts, children from some ethnic
‘home’ children
Aims
Scales II
minority groups (including black
with no or minimal
Caribbean and black African), and
Policies
Verbal and non‑verbal
preschool
children for whom English is an additional
comprehension
language (EAL) made greater progress
Curriculum
Total sample=3,171
during preschool than white UK children
Spatial awareness
children
Parental
or those for whom English is a first
involvement
Early number
language.
concepts
ECERS–R
Results for children identified as ‘at risk’
Six main types of
Early literacy skills
of special education needs (SEN) show
Care
giver
provision were
much better attainment than similarly
Interaction Scale Social/behavioural
included combining
disadvantaged children in the home
(CIS)
outcomes
care and education
sample at the start of primary school.
Independence and
Centres were
The Home Learning Environment exerts a
concentration
selected randomly
significant and independent influence on
within each type of
Cooperation and
outcomes at 3 years and later at the start
provision in each LA
conformity
of primary school, and on progress over
Sampling
the preschool period. The specific centre
Peer sociability
designed to enable
attended affects cognitive progress.
Anti‑social/worried
comparison of centre
Centre effects are larger for pre‑reading
behaviour
and type of provision
followed by early number concepts,
possibly reflecting different emphases
Children and their
between individual settings in curriculum
families were
provision and the priority accorded to
randomly selected in
different types of activities.
each centre for the
research
Children who start preschool at a younger
age (below 3 years) had significantly
higher age‑adjusted cognitive outcomes
at age 3 than those who started at an
older age, and this advantage continued
through entry to primary school. However,
starting before age 2 was not more
advantageous than starting between
2 and 3 years of age.
Six English Local
Authorities (LAs) in
five regions chosen
strategically to
participate in the
research. Selected
to cover urban,
suburban and rural
areas and a range of
ethnic diversity and
social disadvantages
Design features
Sylva et al.
(2003)
Key
references
Appendix A
183
Study
Purpose
Location
Design features
Sample
Child care
measures
Child outcome
measures
184
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Social/behavioural development.
Home children’s cognitive outcomes at school
entry are poorer than those of children who
attended any of the six types of provision
studied.
Percentage of trained teacher staff hours
associated positively with progress in
pre‑reading.
Better adult–child ratios associated with
better early number concepts.
Outcomes better for integrated centres
(combined care and education) and nursery
schools. Both these types showed higher
scores in observed quality.
Quality effects were similar across SES and
educationally advantaged and disadvantaged
groups.
CIS subscale positive relationships related
to greater pre‑reading progress, while scales
assessing negative aspects of adult–child
relationships predicted poorer progress in
pre‑reading and number concepts.
Higher ECERS–E and subscale scores
positively related to pre‑reading, early
number concepts and non‑verbal reasoning.
The number of months children attended
preschool from entry to the study (age 3) to
starting school was positively associated
with cognitive outcomes. Intensity (that
is, full‑time versus part‑time) was not a
significant predictor of outcomes.
Major findings
Key
references
Child care and early education in Australia
Study
Purpose
Location
Design features
Sample
Child care
measures
Child outcome
measures
Home children’s social behaviour rated
as significantly poorer in terms of three
areas of social development than those of
children who attended any of the six types of
preschool provision studied.
Trained staff hours associated with decrease
in ‘Anti‑social/worried’ behaviour.
Significant positive relationship between
percentage of trained staff hours and young
children’s social/behavioural development.
Children who spent longer in preschool
(measured from start date at target preschool
centre to date started at primary school) were
rated by class teachers as showing more
‘Anti‑social/worried’ behaviour at primary
school entry. Higher quality reduces, but
does not eliminate, this effect.
Higher staff qualifications have a positive
influence on young children’s social/
behavioural outcomes.
Children attending integrated provision or
nursery classes had better outcomes.
CIS scores (especially positive relationships)
predicted better outcomes on 3 of the
4 social/behavioural scales (except
‘Anti‑social/worried’).
ECERS–R subscales (social interaction and
language and reasoning) are associated
with better social/behavioural outcomes at
primary school entry.
Higher overall ECERS–R associated with
better ‘cooperation’ and ‘conformity’.
The Home Learning Environment significantly
predicts social/behavioural development at
the start of primary school, and is generally
a stronger predictor than other family factors
(for example, mother’s education).
Major findings
Key
references
Appendix A
185
186
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Survey
pertaining to
children born
to NLSY79
female
respondents
first
administered
in 1986
NLSY
commenced
1979
In 1986, a battery of child
cognitive, socio‑emotional
and physiological
assessments was added
and is now administered
bi‑annually.
Information has been
collected from NLSY
mothers about the birth
and early childhood of
their children.
The NLSY mothers and
children provide data
about the linkages
between maternal–family
behaviours and attitudes
and subsequent child
development.
United
States
To study in detail the
longitudinal experiences
of a particular age group
of young Americans, and
analyse the disparate life
course experiences of
such groups as women,
Hispanics, blacks
and the economically
disadvantaged
National
Longitudinal
Survey
of Youth
(NLSY79)
1998
To examine the
Oklahoma,
overall effect of the
US
pre‑kindergarten program
(full day and half day)
on school readiness for
children of diverse race,
ethnicity and family
income
Study of
Oklahoma’s
universal pre‑K
program
Location
Purpose
Study
Nationally
representative
sample
Design features
12,686 young men
and young women
who were 14 to 22
years of age when
first surveyed in
1979
1,567
pre‑kindergarten
children and 1,461
kindergarten
children who had
just completed
pre‑kindergarten in
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Sample
Child outcome
measures
Child care
experiences
and child care
arrangements
during the first
three years
of life for all
children of at
least 1 year of
age
Key
references
Belsky
(1986,
1988b)
The pre‑kindergarten programs (full and half Gormley Jr
day) were found to enhance school readiness et al. (2005)
for children in all ethnic backgrounds and
income brackets.
Major findings
Children with early and extensive maternal
employment/child care experience were
Behaviour Problems
significantly more non‑compliant than age
Index
mates without such early experience.
Self‑Perception—
Profile for Children
HOME
Peabody Individual
Achievement Test
Number of hours
(PIAT)
and/or days
spent in child
care
Types of child
care payments
incurred
Types of child
care utilised
by female
respondents
Full or half day
Subtests from the
participation in Woodcock–Johnson
pre‑kindergarten Achievement Test
program
Child care
measures
Child care and early education in Australia
Appendix B
Appendix B: Extract from the
Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
data users guide version 2.1
Growing Up in Australia: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
Report on Adapted PPVT‑III and Who Am I?
Sheldon Rothman
Australian Council for Educational Research
Part A:Wave 1 scoring
The first wave of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) used two tests with the four‑year‑old
sample. The Adapted PPVT‑III is a shortened version of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Third Edition
(Dunn & Dunn, 1997), which is a test of receptive vocabulary used as a screening test of verbal ability. This
adaptation is based on work done in the United States for the Head Start Impact Study, with a number of
changes for use in Australia. Who Am I? (de Lemos & Doig, 2000) assesses the cognitive processes that
underlie the learning of early literacy and numeracy skills. One item was added to the standard Who Am I?
booklet for use in LSAC. Summary statistics for each test are shown in Table 1.
Table B1: Summary Statistics for Administration of Adapted PPVT‑III and Who Am I? tests as part of LSAC Wave 1
Adapted PPVT
Number of cases
Who Am I?
4407
4827
Mean scaled scores
64.2 (se=0.123)
63.8 (se=0.125)
Mean number of items correct/mean raw score
28.2 (se=0.086)
25.6 (se=0.103)
Minimum number of items correct
2
0
Maximum number of items correct
40
44
0.76
0.89
Reliability
Note:
For the Adapted PPVT‑III, it was assumed that children who were not required to answer 10 ‘basal’
items had answered these items correctly. Reliability reported here is the person separation reliability
(Wright & Masters, 1982).
Adapted PPVT‑III
The PPVT‑III was adapted for use in LSAC by altering the administration procedures, reducing the number of
items administered during testing. To determine which items to retain for the adapted version, 215 children
aged from 41 to 66 months (mean=54.7 months) were given the PPVT‑III, with test administrators following
standard procedures. After testing, a one‑parameter (Rasch) item response model was fitted to the data, which
consisted of correct and incorrect responses. The person separation reliability was 0.88. After determining the
‘best’ 40 items for use in a shortened version, the remaining items were then fit again to a one‑parameter item
response model; the person separation reliability decreased to 0.78.
187
Child care and early education in Australia
Development of the model suggested that 37 per cent of children would require only the core set of items,
5 per cent would require the core and basal sets, and 58 per cent would require the core and ceiling sets,
resulting in an average of 26.3 items administered. The Pearson product‑moment correlation between the full
PPVT‑III and the adapted PPVT‑III was 0.93 for all children, and 0.91 for four year‑olds.1
Scaling
The adapted PPVT‑III was scaled using a two‑stage process. In the first stage, only the core set of 20 items
was used, as these items had been administered to all children. For these core items, Rasch estimates were
determined for each item, providing an indication of their difficulty. In the second stage, all 40 items were
fitted, using the item estimates for the core items as anchors. This gave item estimates for the basal and
ceiling items relative to the core items. The final case estimates were then transformed to a scale with a mean
of 64 and standard deviation of 8.
Results
In Wave 1, 4,407 children were administered the Adapted PPVT‑III. Children ranged in age from 43 months
to 79 months (mean=57.3); 21 per cent were aged 60 months or older. Twenty‑one per cent of children were
administered only the core set, 1 per cent the core and basal sets, and 78 per cent the core and ceiling sets,
resulting in an average of 27.9 items. The test had a person separation reliability of 0.76.
Quality of the test
The statistics indicate that the core and ceiling items used for the Adapted PPVT‑III test fit the Rasch model
well. This is shown in Figure 6, the item fit map. The infit mean square ranged from 0.86 to 1.17 for items 11–30
(the core set) and items 31–40 (the ceiling set). On each of the items in the basal set (items 1–10), the infit
mean square was extremely low (0.49 or less) because only 30 children (1 per cent) were administered these
items; all other children were assumed to have correctly answered these items. The item map in Figure 6, which
shows the item estimates (difficulties) mapped against the case estimates (children’s ability levels), shows that
the basal items were appropriate for children given that set, but that the core and ceiling items were relatively
easy for those who were given those sets.
1
188
Rothman, S. (June 2003). An Australian version of the Adaptive PPVT‑III for use in research. Unpublished
paper. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Appendix B
Figure B1: Item fit map for all items on the Australian adaptation of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT‑III)
calibrated with all cases anchored to core items
Who Am I?
Who Am I? consisted of 11 pages on which children were to write their names, copy shapes and write words and
numbers. Each response was assessed on a four‑point scale relating to the skill required for the task. A score
of zero was assigned if no attempt was made on the item. The data were fit using a partial credit item response
model. The final case estimates were transformed to a scale with a mean of 64 and standard deviation of 8.
Summary statistics are shown in Table 4.
In Wave 1, 4,827 children were administered Who Am I? The test had a person separation reliability of 0.89.
189
Child care and early education in Australia
Quality of the test
The statistics indicate that the Who Am I? data fit the rating scale model well, with most items falling within
acceptable ranges, as shown in Figure B2. The most difficult item on the test was item 10, in which children
were asked to write a sentence. Only 9 children received 4 points for their response; more than one‑half of
children made no attempt on this item. This is also shown in the item fit map (Figure B2): item 10 (Sentence)
has an infit mean square of 1.67, while all other items ranged from 0.77 to 1.14.
Figure B2: Item fit map for all items on the Who Am I? test
Analysis of a partial credit model provides information on the thresholds required to move from any score to
a higher score on each item. This information is provided in Figure 6, the item map, and is plotted against the
distribution of case estimates. For all items, higher scores had higher logit values, indicating that higher scores
were achieved by children who had higher ability estimates. The item map also indicates that the distribution
of children (on the left) was only slightly above the distribution of the items (on the right), indicating that there
was a good match between the difficulty of the items and the children’s ability levels.
Correlation between the Adapted PPVT‑III and Who Am I?
The two tests had a Pearson product‑moment correlation of 0.309, based on 4,386 children who received
scores on both tests. While significant at the 0.01 level, this is considered a low‑to‑moderate correlation.
Sheldon Rothman
ACER, 16 March 2005
190
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Appendix B
Figure B3: Item map for all cases on the Who Am I? test
191
Child care and early education in Australia
Part B:Wave 2 PPVT development
This paper describes the procedures used to develop a shortened version of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary
Test (PPVT) for use in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), Growing Up in Australia. This
version of the test is to be used with six year‑olds as part of the second wave of LSAC and is linked to the
shortened version developed in 2003 for use with four year‑olds as part of the first wave of LSAC.2 The concept
of a shortened version of the PPVT is from work done in the United States for the Head Start Impact Study. The
original work was described in a draft paper by Philip Fletcher of Westat.
Procedures
All procedures described below are based on procedures used for the version used with four year‑olds. For that
version, four alternative sets of items were tested; one set was developed for use in LSAC. For the six year‑old
version, no alternative sets were used as the scope of the project was to develop a test that could be linked to
the four year‑old version.
As done for the test administered to four year‑olds, the purpose was to develop a test that would consist
of 40 items divided into a core set of 20 items, a basal set of 10 items for children who miss a minimum number
of items on the core set, and a ceiling set of 10 items for children who correctly answer a minimum number of
items on the core set. No child would take more than 30 items. It was also decided that at least 50 per cent of
children should be required to take the core set only.
Testing
A sample comprising 421 children was drawn from schools in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
During July and August 2005 the children were administered the full version of the PPVT‑III, Form A,
using the standard procedures for administering the test to six year‑olds. These children ranged in age
from 5 years, 7 months to 7 years, 11 months. Seventy‑eight per cent of the children were six years old,
and 18 per cent were 7 years old. All children were in the same classes at the schools involved in the data
collection. Subsequent examination of the data showed that the children from out‑of‑range ages did not
appear as significantly different cases.
Analysis
Test items were examined using a one‑parameter logistic IRT model with the software Quest. For items
below the PPVT basal set that were not administered, all were marked as correct. Items with a low number of
responses were eliminated from the IRT analysis. Overall, 132 items were used for analysis, as they covered a
range that would allow 40 items to be selected and included the items administered in the four year‑old test.
Selection of items
The properties of the items were then determined, based on the data available from the Quest output. The
first stage was to identify link items from the four year‑old test that could be used with the six year‑olds. For
the 20 items of the core set, 8 items that had appeared in the four year‑old test were selected. These items
were selected on the basis of infit mean square and outfit mean square close to 1.00 in both administrations,
the degree of difficulty on the items among both groups, the consistency of change between the administration
to the groups, and the ability to provide a reasonable spread across the core set. Two items from the four
year‑old test were selected for the basal set, and one item from the four year‑old test was selected for the
ceiling set.
2
192
Sheldon Rothman, ‘An Australian Version of the Adaptive PPVT‑III for Use in Research’, unpublished paper
(Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research, June 2003).
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Appendix B
After the link items were selected, the remaining items were selected using those with infit mean square and
outfit mean square close to 1.00, good discrimination and an ability to provide a reasonable range of item
difficulties (–2.50 to +2.50). Items were also selected according to their position in the original PPVT sets
and their parts of speech: nouns, verbs and adjectives. The final 20 core items were then positioned into two
sets of 10 items, with the first 10 items generally easier than the second 10 items, but with an overlap of item
estimates. Similar analyses were done to select the 10 basal and 10 ceiling items.
Table B2: Items selected for Adaptive PPVT‑III for use with 6 year‑olds in LSAC
Set
Core 1
Core 2
Basal
PPVT‑III Form A
item number
Item
Item
threshold
Infit
mean square
42
harp*
‑2.55
1.01
74
nostril*
‑2.29
0.96
56
furry*
‑2.08
0.96
52
diving*
‑1.99
1.02
78
horrified*
‑1.44
0.99
67
calculator
‑0.38
1.10
77
towing
‑0.12
1.02
91
clarinet
‑0.02
1.07
107
fern
0.53
1.03
118
archery
0.88
0.98
66
swamp*
‑0.47
1.13
90
interviewing*
‑0.20
1.00
96
vine*
0.10
0.97
88
surprised
0.61
1.02
68
signal
0.91
1.03
114
injecting
0.97
0.99
128
wailing
1.29
0.94
131
foundation
1.85
0.98
140
pastry
2.33
0.99
125
valve
2.74
0.98
45
juggling
‑4.98
0.74
32
fountain*
‑3.85
0.97
40
farm*
‑3.26
0.99
47
tearing
‑2.98
0.77
49
parachute
‑2.19
0.93
71
vegetable
‑1.70
1.04
57
drilling
‑1.62
0.92
61
vehicle
‑1.30
0.99
193
Child care and early education in Australia
Ceiling
75
vase
‑1.21
0.94
85
flamingo
‑0.52
0.97
dilapidated*
1.11
0.98
pedal
1.85
1.03
149
abrasive
1.97
1.09
143
pedestrian
2.07
0.97
117
microscope
2.15
1.07
153
detonation
2.69
0.94
151
cascade
2.96
0.91
139
consuming
3.57
1.04
148
replenishing
4.58
1.14
167
talon
‑‑
‑‑
122
97
*Link item included in test for 4 year olds
Note:Item threshold and infit mean square statistics are from the simulated test.
Simulations
Simulation results were then calculated in SPSS. With the objective of having approximately 50 per cent of
children requiring only the core set of 20 items, the items were checked to determine percentages of children
requiring the basal or ceiling sets. Rules governing the administration of the test, particularly those regarding
the number of correct items required for administration of the basal or ceiling sets, also guided the selection
of items. The simulation suggests that approximately 25 per cent of children will require the ceiling set,
10 per cent the basal set and 65 per cent the core only. It should be noted that similar targets for the four
year‑olds were not achieved in the first wave of LSAC, with more than 65 per cent of children requiring the
ceiling set.
Once the 40 items were selected, a new IRT analysis was conducted using only those items. Case and item
estimates showed that the model fit the data well.
Results for the two versions—the full PPVT and the adapted version—were then compared: the full PPVT raw
score with the case estimates from both the full test and the adapted test. The lowest correlation was 0.887;
most correlations were in the 0.93 to 0.97 range, suggesting that the adapted version of the PPVT provides
similar results to the full PPVT.
194
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Appendix B
Figure B4: Scatterplot showing joint distribution of scores on simulated adaptive PPVT‑III and scores on full PPVT‑III
for 6 year olds
Comment
The six year‑old version of the adaptive PPVT‑III for use in LSAC was developed so that it can be linked with
the four year‑old version of the test. This allows the measurement of growth between administrations of the
test. Forty items were selected for the test, with 20 items administered to all children as the core set (core
sets 1 and 2). For children who make 15 to 20 errors an additional basal set of 10 items is administered and
for children who make 0 to 6 errors an additional ceiling set of 10 items is administered. Simulations showed
that approximately two‑thirds (67 per cent) of children would require only the core sets, 7 per cent would
require the core and basal sets, and 26 per cent would require the core and ceiling sets; this distribution was
considered in the selection of items.
Sheldon Rothman
Principal Research Fellow
9 November 2005
195
Child care and early education in Australia
196
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Appendix C
Appendix C: LSAC Research Consortium
Members of the LSAC Research Consortium are:
Dr John Ainley, Deputy Director, Australian Council for Educational Research
Professor Donna Berthelsen, Centre for Applied Studies in Early Childhood, Queensland University of
Technology
Professor Michael Bittman, Department of Sociology, University of New England
Dr Bruce Bradbury, Senior Research Fellow, Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales
Associate Professor Linda Harrison, School of Teacher Education, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst
Associate Professor Jan Nicholson, Principal Research Fellow, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute,
Melbourne
Professor Bryan Rodgers, The Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, Australian National
University
Professor Ann Sanson, Network Coordinator, Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, and LSAC
Principal Scientific Advisor, Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne
Professor Michael Sawyer, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Department of
Paediatrics, University of Adelaide
Professor Sven Silburn, Co‑director, Curtin University of Technology, Centre for Developmental Health, Institute
for Child Health Research, Perth
Dr Lyndall Strazdins, Research Fellow, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian
National University
Associate Professor Judy Ungerer, Department of Psychology, Macquarie University
Professor Graham Vimpani (Representative of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth),
Director, Child Adolescent and Family Health Service, University of Newcastle
Professor Melissa Wake, Director, Research and Public Health Unit, Centre for Community Child Health, Royal
Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
Professor Stephen Zubrick, Co‑Director, Curtin University of Technology, Centre for Developmental Health and
Head, Division of Population Science, Institute for Child Health Research, Perth.
197
Child care and early education in Australia
198
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
Endnotes
Endnotes
1
Stability of care is also determined by the number of changes of care provider that the child experiences
within each care arrangement; however, this aspect of care could not be addressed within the LSAC design.
2
Two oft‑cited British studies that have been omitted in the current review include the National Child
Development Survey (NCDS), and the British Cohort Study (BCS70), both of which are conducted by
the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education in London. The NCDS is seeking to
follow the lives of all those living in Great Britain who were born between 3 and 9 March 1958. The first
data were collected in 1965, when the study children were aged 7 years. The BCS70, is a continuing,
multidisciplinary longitudinal study which takes as its subjects all those living in Great Britain who were
born between 5 and 11 April 1970. The first data were collected in 1970.
199
Child care and early education in Australia
200
Social Policy Research Paper No. 40
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Estimates of the costs of children in Australian families, 1993–94
National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (March 1999)
4
Social policy directions across the OECD region: reflections on a decade
David W Kalisch (February 2000)
5
Structural ageing, labour market adjustment and the tax/transfer system
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Trends in the incomes and living standards of older people in Australia
Peter Whiteford and Kim Bond (November 2000)
7
Updating Australian budget standards costs of children estimates
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8
Social indicators for regional Australia
J. Rob Bray (January 2001)
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Means‑tested benefits, incentives and earnings distributions
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20 Child poverty: a review
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David Johnson and Rosanna Scutella (April 2005)
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