NZ research gives insight into how mothers choose and use ECEC
New research from New Zealand institution Auckland University, examining female workforce participation and decision making processes, has shown that mothers take an average of 25 weeks from work when they have a child, and that their use of teacher led early childhood education and care (ECEC) increases with the hours a mother works, and with the age of the child.
Further, the study found that income and hours of work affect uptake of ECEC services, as part of a broader examination, funded by the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) Children and Families Research Fund and conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Education, to examine the link between maternal workforce participation and the use of early childhood education services. The researchers also looked into the use of paid parental leave and uptake of bi-lingual, centre-based services.
MSD general manager, Rob Hodgson, said the Children and Families Research Fund supports policy-relevant research using data from the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study, and that the current research is “a useful input to understanding the tradeoffs and choices families make about ECEC when their children are younger”
The researchers said the findings showed there may be barriers to some groups accessing ECEC services, such as financial constraint, the location of ECEC services, and opening hours. Interestingly, the study also found a variance between the intentions of the mothers whilst pregnant, and the actual choices made once parental leave ended.
“Eighty four per cent of mothers who had indicated during pregnancy that they would use an ECEC service instead opted for an informal arrangement, such as care by a relative, by the time the child was nine months old. It was not until children turned two that mothers are more likely to engage with ECEC services,” said Dr Kane Meissel, University of Auckland researcher and co-author of the report. “The research shows there are a wide range of inter-related factors affecting ECEC choices.”
Dr Meissel also noted that the research revealed that choosing a bilingual or immersive setting for children was most likely a choice motivated by a developmental driver – such as improving a child’s language development – more than the ethnic background of the mother, which was found to be unrelated to centre choice.