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Child Care and Mothers' Mental Health: Is High-Quality Care Associated With Fewer Depressive Symptoms?

Authors


  • Department of Sociology, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244-5040.

  • Department of Sociology and Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607.

Department of Sociology and Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago, 815 West Van Buren St., Suite 525, Chicago, IL 60607 (ragordon@uic.edu).

Abstract

Finding high-quality child care may pose financial and logistical challenges and create ongoing emotional strains for some mothers. We use the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development to ask (a) are child-care settings that mothers select on the basis of their own perceptions of quality rated more highly by independent observers (and more often recommended by mothers to friends) than settings that mothers selected for other reasons? (b) Do mothers report fewer depressive symptoms when they use high-quality care, as they perceive it, as assessed by independent observers and as indicated by their likelihood of recommending it? We find that mothers' reports coincide with independent observers' ratings in some respects but diverge in others, and only mothers' reports significantly relate to fewer average depressive symptoms after adjusting for confounds. Future research and policy should consider how mothers evaluate care quality and how these evaluations affect their mental health.

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