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AIFS Early Childhood Study Paper No 7


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Content type
Research report

December 1995

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The authors present the methodology, findings and conclusions of the Australian Institute of Family Studies' Early Childhood Study, designed in response to changes in early childhood care contexts and concern about their long-term effects. The study took a sample of children in their first year of school, identified the types of child care experienced in their preschool years, and assessed the links between differing child care contexts, cognitive skills, and social-emotional development. The authors' conclusion is that their analysis does not suggest that exposure to long hours of non-parental care in the first year of life, even when such care continues throughout the preschool years, is associated with long-term negative effects on Australian children. Family, mother and child characteristics were found to be more important in explaining both social-emotional and cognitive outcomes than child care contexts in the preschool years. They suggest that studies are needed which, rather than focusing on the long-term effects of non-parental care, instead take a holistic approach to the daily lives of children.


  1. Context of Change in Early Childhood
    • Child care contexts Non-parental child care Long-term effects of early childhood experience
  2. Factors Affecting Young Children
    • Infants and non-parental care
    • Family factors affecting children
    • Mothers' characteristics
    • Children's characteristics
    • Ecological approaches to research
  3. The AIFS Early Childhood Study
    • The AIFS Early Childhood series
    • Study objectives
    • Study design
    • Field work
    • The preliminary sample (Stage 1)
    • The main study (Stage 2)
  4. Multiple Child Care Arrangements
    • Case studies
  5. Child Care Contexts and Outcomes
    • Family background variables
    • Influence of parent-child characteristics
    • Early childhood care and development correlations
    • What are the 'best' predictors of child social-emotional and cognitive outcomes?
    • Does child care context predict child outcomes?
  6. Discussion and Conclusions
    • Conclusions
    • Future directions for research

    List of References
    AIFS Early Childhood Study