Child Care Instability and Maternal Parenting Stress and Behaviors
Alejandra Ros Pilarz, University of Chicago
Heather D. Hill, University of Chicago
Prior research has found that child care instability is associated with adverse behavioral outcomes for young children. This relationship is presumed to operate at least partially through parenting stress and behaviors, yet little is known about how child care instability relates to parenting. This study examines the relationship between three types of child care instability—long-term instability, multiplicity, and back-up arrangements—and mothers’ parenting stress and behaviors, and whether these parenting outcomes mediate the relationship between child care instability and children’s behavior problems. Preliminary results suggest that overall child care instability is associated with higher levels of parenting stress, lower levels of maternal engagement, and a greater likelihood of using physical discipline, and that these effects are stronger among mothers without any college attendance and among low-income mothers. We also find evidence that parenting outcomes mediate the relationship between child care instability and children’s externalizing and internalizing behaviors.