Structural and process features in three types of child care for children from high and low income families

Chantelle J. Dowsett, Aletha C. Huston, Amy E. Imes, Lisa Gennetian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We use observations from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and, Youth Development (SECCYD) to compare structural and process characteristics of child care centers, family child care homes (nonrelative care in a home setting) and care by relatives for 2-, 3- and 4.5-year-old children. Type of care differences in structural and caregiver characteristics were consistent across ages: centers had higher child-to-adult ratios and bigger groups; centers had caregivers with better education, more training in early childhood, and less traditional beliefs about child rearing. Children in centers experienced more cognitive stimulation, less frequent language interactions with adults, less frequent negative interactions with adults, and less television viewing than did those in other types of care. In centers and family child care homes compared to relative settings, children engaged in more positive and negative interactions with peers and spent more time in transition and unoccupied. Curvilinear associations were found between structural features of care and family income, particularly for caregiver education and training. In contrast, process measures of caregiving rose monotonically with family income. Children from high-income families experienced more sensitive care, more cognitive stimulation, and fewer negative interactions with adults than did those from low-income families. We interpret the findings by linking the structural features and caregiver training to the cognitive and social processes observed in different types of care. Future research designed to understand the influences of child care on children's behavior might benefit from using this more nuanced description of child care experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-93
Number of pages25
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Caregiving quality
  • Child care
  • Early childhood
  • Income
  • Type of care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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