Selecting a child care center: What really matters to parents?

Leigh A. Leslie, Richard Ettenson, Patricio Cumsille

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Previous research on parents' decision making concerning child care centers has attempted to evaluate the importance of various characteristics of the centers by having parents evaluate them one at a time. In an effort to better understand how parents evaluate centers when they must consider all the characteristics of the center simultaneously as is done in real life, 235 parents who were in the process of finding child care for their children were surveyed. Utilizing conjoint analysis, parents were presented with profiles of child care centers in which eight center characteristics were varied. Parents evaluated all eight characteristics simultaneously and then indicated how likely they were to select each center. Results indicated that the characteristics of child care centers that most significantly affect parents' decision-making vary based on demographic characteristics of the parents. Single mothers attend most strongly to cost in their decision making, while married mothers attend to the child/staff ratio and married fathers give relatively equal attention to four factors; cost, convenience, child/ staff ratio and hours of operation. Further differences in parents' decision-making strategies were found based on parents' education and family income. These findings are discussed in light of the importance of developing child care programs which meets the needs of parents as well as children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-322
Number of pages24
JournalChild and Youth Care Forum
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Child care
  • Parental decision-making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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