Panel Paper: Examining the Quality of Caregiver Interaction With Infants and Toddlers

Friday, November 8, 2013 : 1:35 PM
Georgetown I (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sally Atkins-Burnett, Louisa Tarullo, Shannon Monahan, Elizabeth Cavadel and Yange Xue, Mathematica Policy Research
Responsive, nurturing caregiving is key to supporting early development (Halle et al. 2011, Shonkoff 2010). Currently, approximately 1/2 of infants and toddlers receive caregiving in weekly nonparental care (Mulligan et al. 2005) with government subsidizing the care of low income children yet little is known about the quality of interactions in these environments. Available measures used in infant-toddler care focus mainly on the environment and health and safety, while measures appropriate for assessing the quality of relationships are scarce.

The Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions with Infants and Toddlers (Q-CCIIT) project, funded by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) offers an opportunity to better understand the experiences of infants and toddlers in child care and how setting characteristics such as group size and teacher education relate to quality. The Q-CCIIT measure examines how the caregiver supports social-emotional development (e.g., responding contingently to distress, social cues, and emotional cues; building a positive relationship; supporting peer interaction/play, social problem solving, sense of belonging; using responsive routines and limits), language (e.g., use of varied vocabulary and questions, conversational turn-taking, extending children’s language; use of narratives; engaging children in books, building a positive attitude toward books), and cognitive development  (e.g., supporting object exploration and concept development; scaffolding problem solving; explicit teaching; extending pretend play; providing choices).  The measure also collects ratings on areas of concern (e.g., poor supervision, harshness; restricting children; favoritism; children overwhelmed, stressed, ignored, or unoccupied; use of TV; chaotic environment) and on the broader caregiving environment.

Pilot data from 60 settings indicated that across all settings and age groups, caregivers provided stronger support for social-emotional development than for language and cognitive development. Types of interactions varied across age groups and by settings, with more varied types of talk emerging in settings with older children (although reasoning and explanations remained low). Caregiver interactions in infant care were of lower quality in all areas than care for toddlers and mixed age groups.

Based on recent observations in more than 400 center-based classrooms and family child care settings in 10 communities across the country, we will describe associations between the quality of the support provided to children and caregiver (educational background and experience, salary and benefits, and mental health) and setting (ratio, type of setting) characteristics. Trained observers also rated 80 classrooms and 39 family child care settings using the Observational Record of the Caregiving Environment (ORCE) from the NICHD Study of Early Care, 65 classrooms using the Infant-Toddler Environment Rating Scales–Revised (ITERS-R), and 49 family child care providers with the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scales-Revised (FCCERS-R). We will discuss the associations found among these measures and caregiver and setting characteristics.