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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of family environment in an ecological study of preschool children attending family day care Shapiro, Ellen Sara


This thesis is an exploratory ecological study of the role of the family environment as it relates to a number of variables under investigation in the Vancouver Day Care Research Project's extensive contextual study of children enrolled in family day care settings. These variables include child language scores, indices of socio-economic status, conditions of maternal employment and attitudes related to maternal employment, other measures of the home environment, and parental attitudes to childrearing. In addition, the family environments of the family day care caregivers were examined in relation to the quality of care provided. The Moos Family Environment Scale (1986) was administered to parents and caregivers enrolled in the study. Scores from its ten subscales were correlated with measures of the variables of interest and then tested for significance. Data was then analyzed for important trends, patterns and highlights. Results showed that exposure of family members to stimulating ideas and activities is facilitative of child language skills, while an emphasis on achievement seems to have a negative effect. Families from higher socio-economic status homes seemed to be more likely to provide these opportunities for their children, particularly if they are well-educated. Findings also indicate that mothers who are satisfied with their employment tend to provide more positive family environments for their children than those who are working reluctantly. Mothers who worked part-time also appeared to provide better family environments than did those who experienced the increased stress of full-time employment. Adult-centered parenting values which stressed obedience were associated with family environments which were less facilitative of child cognitive development, whereas homes with child-centered parenting values appeared to be more positive. Family day care caregivers who provided superior childcare were found to be more organized in their own families, more supportive of one another, and more able to allow their family members to function independently than were other caregivers. There was considerable overlap in the results for each variable of interest; many similar features were found in the environments which were considered optimal in terms of language development, socio-economic factors, conditions of maternal employment, attitudes to childrearing, and high quality care for children. The study results strongly support the importance of exposure to a wide range of intellectual and cultural stimuli, participation in activities outside the home, expression of feelings amongst family members, and well-organized family functioning in the creation of optimal family environments; an emphasis on achievement, and the use of rigid rules and doctrine were found to be deleterious to the creation of positive home environments.

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