Type of child care and children's development at 54 months

Virginia Allhusen, Jay Belsky, Cathryn L. Booth, Robert Bradley, Celia A. Brownell, Margaret Burchinal, Bettye Caldwell, Susan B. Campbell, K. Alison Clarke-Stewart, Martha Cox, Sarah L. Friedman, Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Aletha Huston, Elizabeth Jaeger, Deborah J. Johnson, Jean F. Kelly, Bonnie Knoke, Nancy L. Marshall, Kathleen McCartney, Marion O'BrienMargaret Tresch Owen, Chris Payne, Deborah Phillips, Robert Pianta, Suzanne M. Randolph, Wendy Wagner Robeson, Susan Spieker, Deborah Lowe Vandell, Marsha Weinraub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


The types of non-maternal child care received by more than 1000 U.S. children were examined from birth to 54 months and related to family selection factors and to child outcomes. Individual children tended to experience a variety of different types of care and not to fit into clear patterns of either stable care types or progressive patterns of movement from less structured to more highly structured care settings. Across the entire sample, however, hours in center care were higher in the preschool period than earlier, whereas hours in relative care remained stable and hours in child care homes decreased. Mothers who were single, those with more education and less traditional beliefs about child rearing, and families with higher incomes and fewer children in the household were more likely to use more hours of center care than other families; single mothers and those with fewer children also used more hours of care in child care homes. Minority families, those with low incomes, and mothers with less education and fewer children used more hours of relative care. With family selection factors and quality of child care controlled, only hours in center care across the time period from 3 to 54 months were related to child outcomes. Children who experienced more center care were reported by caregivers at 54 months to have somewhat higher externalizing behavior problem scores than other children, although these scores were not in the clinical or at-risk range. Center care hours were also related to cognitive and language outcomes, with more hours in infancy associated with lower preacademic test scores and more hours in the toddler period with higher language scores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-230
Number of pages28
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Care setting
  • Child care
  • Development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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