Early childhood education and care : parent conceptions of ECEC services and choice of services

Noble, Karen (2005) Early childhood education and care : parent conceptions of ECEC services and choice of services. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This study details a phenomenographic and grounded theory investigation aimed at generating new knowledge of an under-researched area, namely that of parental choice of early childhood education and care services. Given the complexity and range of choice of early childhood services, and the diversity of family situations, research eliciting parent conceptions of their choices of early childhood services is both necessary and timely. Findings from this study may be used to inform early childhood professionals by expanding their awareness of the variation that exists in the way that parents conceptualise early childhood services and make choices for young children. This study addresses both the dilemmas of individual parents in conceptualising and choosing services for their children and the implications of their individual decisions in aggregate.

Single in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 23 parents from the local area of Boyne Island, Central Queensland, Australia. The sample of parents comprised mothers only, although mothers and fathers were invited initially to join the study. The parents were drawn from the four local early childhood education and care (ECEC) services that operate in this area. In the first stage of the analysis, a phenomenographic framework was used to develop an outcome space to describe the eight parent conceptions of ECEC services. These categories describe the way parents see ECEC services as:

Demographically convenient,

Safe, secure and hygienic,

Providing a routine,

Caring and nurturing,

Having trained and qualified staff,

Valuing parents and keeping them informed,

Preparing for further learning,

Providing socialisation.

These eight categories of description are understood and distinguished in terms of three dimensions, those being physical, personnel and personal. The physical dimension refers to the location and availability of services catering to the needs of the family. The personnel dimension refers to how ECEC services are judged according to the personnel who work within that environment. The personal dimension refers to how the ECEC service is judged according to how the individual children and their family are catered for and responded to within the environment.

In the second stage of analysis, an orthodox grounded theory approach was used to explore how parents understood their choice of ECEC services for their young children. This later analysis found that parent choice is influenced by:

Relationship with child;

Influence of significant others;

Understandings of childhood;

Maximising the child's potential.

The grounded theory that developed as a result of this stage of analysis was that parents make complex and pragmatic choices within social contexts.

An understanding of the relationships between parent conceptions and the influences that they consider when choosing ECEC services was used to develop a model. This model demonstrates the complexities of choice of service juxtaposed with parent conceptions of ECEC services. Tensions for parents and their choice of service arose when their conceptions of ECEC services were compromised. Therefore, central to the model presented is the understanding that the ECEC services were located within a specific societal context and as such, any one, or combination of, the dimensions of conceptions of service, impact upon choice.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16112
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Farrell, Margaret & Boulton-Lewis, Gillian
Keywords: early childhood education and care services, parent conceptions, choice, qualitative research, phenomenography, phenomenographic research, grounded theory, orthodox grounded theory
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Karen Noble
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:56
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:40

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