Differential parenting of children from diverse cultural backgrounds attending child care

Research Paper No. 39 – April 2007

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Sample characteristics

Child care aspects

Of the total sample, 146 children were enrolled in centre care, 100 children were enrolled in family day care and 12 children were in informal care. Table 1 provides a breakdown of children by culture and child care type. It shows that the majority of Somali children used family day care, while the majority of Vietnamese, Anglo and diverse (non-Anglo) children used centre care. Of all children in the sample, 188 had carers who were from the same cultural background and 70 children had carers from a different cultural background. More specifically, 98.9% of Anglo children, 39.7% of Vietnamese children, 65.9% of Somali children and 100% of diverse (non-Anglo) children had carers from the same cultural background.

Table 1: Children from different cultural groups and their child care settings
  Centre care
n (%)
Family day care
n (%)
Informal care
n (%)
Anglo (n = 87) 57 (65.5) 30 (34.5) -
Vietnamese (n = 68) 42 (61.8) 22 (32.4) 4 (5.9)
Somali (n = 82) 29 (35.4) 45 (54.9) 8 (9.8)
Diverse (non-Anglo) (n = 21) 18 (85.7) 3 (14.3) -

Family characteristics

A number of family background characteristics were collected using a categorical response format. Cultural groups were therefore compared on these demographic variables using chi-square tests for relatedness. To ensure that the chi-square assumption that minimum expected cell frequencies were greater than 5 was met (Coakes & Steed, 2001), categories within each of the demographic variables were collapsed. The diverse (non-Anglo) sample was not included as a separate group in these comparisons because of their small number, and was not combined with the Anglo sample due to a number of differences between the two samples on characteristics such as family size, paternal and maternal education, income and maternal employment.

A number of significant differences between cultures were found on family background characteristics. There were significantly more children living in Somali families compared to Anglo and Vietnamese families, χ(4) = 78.35, p < .01. The majority of Somali and Anglo children were living in two-parent families, while over one-third of the Vietnamese mothers were unpartnered, χ(2) = 11.89, p < .05. Anglo children were significantly more likely to have mothers over the age of 34 years, while Vietnamese and Somali children were more likely to have mothers aged 34 years or less, χ(2) = 36.51, p < .01.

Anglo parents had achieved a higher level of education than Somali and Vietnamese parents, χ(8) = 39.11, p < .01 (mothers) and χ(6) = 59.21, p < .01 (fathers). Anglo families also reported a significantly higher household income than Vietnamese and Somali families, χ(8) = 126.48, p < .01. Somali parents were less likely to be in paid employment than Vietnamese and Anglo parents, χ(4) = 110.18, p < .01 (mothers) and χ(2) = 29.29, p < .01 (fathers).

In sum, Somali children lived in larger, lower-income families with parents who were less likely to be in the workforce, compared to children in Anglo and Vietnamese families. Mothers of Vietnamese children were more likely than mothers of Anglo and Somali children to be unpartnered.1

1 It should be noted that the high proportion of unpartnered Vietnamese mothers is an artifact of the non-random recruitment approach, rather than a true reflection of the Vietnamese community.