Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Lamanna

Second Advisor

Dr. Littrell

Third Advisor

Dr. Abbott


This thesis addresses the issue of quality care from a parental perspective. It is based on interviews with thirty parents in a Midwestern city who have children in different forms of child care: 10 with children in agency child care; 10 with children in registered child care homes; and 10 with children in unregistered child care homes. Lengthy semi-structured interviews were conducted with the thirty parents. Questions explored the criteria parents used in deciding who was the right child care provider for them. Included in the interview were four hypothetical situations in which the interviewee was asked to advise other parents about choosing child care. The hypothetical situations were used to probe further into what a parent considers important in determining quality child care. Parents view quality child care differently than child care professionals and early childhood educators. The factors which professionals include in quality care are: group size; staff ratios; physical space; care-giver training; and curriculum. These factors are not the main indicators of quality care for the parents in this study. From this study it was determined that quality care for children is defined by parents according to their own values and perceptions about what is good for children. Parents who place children in agency day care want their child to be socially adjusted. It is important to them that their children learn to succeed in a group environment. They want their child to be given the best training for social adaptation. Parents who place children in unregistered child care want a home environment for their child. They are seeking a loving, caring environment. These parents want specific traits in a provider. The traits they sought were nurturing traits such as being loving, caring, understanding and compassionate. Parents who place children in registered child care also want a home environment with qualities similar to child’s home. They want to know that their child is being cared for by someone who loves and cares for the child. However, they also want certain health and cleanliness standards to be upheld. By seeking a registered home for their child's care, they know the state will guarantee that this home meets certain stipulations. Convenience and access were considerations, especially for single parents, but subsidiary to basic values about the appropriate environment for a child. Cost was not an important consideration, perhaps because the sample was above the U.S. median in income or because in this particular locale parents were able to find child care that was affordable for them. The study had certain limitations: only mothers participated; the sample was small and non-random; participants were almost entirely those who were favorable to their current child care provider; and the interviewing and interpretation of the data were the work of only one person. Nevertheless, the conclusion that parents' definitions of child care quality vary so dramatically from those of child care experts suggests the importance of further research, as well as a rethinking of child care policy.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Sociology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Ann Greathouse July 30, 1996.