The impact of child care choices on the social networks of working-class couples across the transition to parenthood

2003 2003

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Abstract (summary)

This study uses a targeted sample of 138 couples in Western Massachusetts to examine the impact of child care choices on social networks across the transition to parenthood and return to work. Dual-earner couples were interviewed separately during the third trimester of their first pregnancy and again near the child's first birthday. This study seeks to determine whether reliance on child care providers with different relationships to the couple influenced new mothers' and fathers' ability to maintain a diverse set of relationships with others. More specifically, it is hypothesized that as one draws on resources from a wider network to provide child care (expanding from the couple only to her kin, his kin, some combination of both sets of kin, and finally outward to non-kin providers), that one will have the ability to maintain a wider circle of contacts following the transition to parenthood and return to employment.

This research has uncovered significant differences in new parents' social networks. As predicted by previous research, women's networks were more strongly influenced by the transition than men's, and gender differences in network composition, especially the percentage who are coworkers, intensified. A prenatal gender difference in network size dissipated by the baby's first birthday, with men's network size decreasing more than women's to lead to similar size postnatally.

Regression results suggest that gendered patterns are influenced by choice of child care provider. Men's networks appear most restricted by a couple-only child care strategy, as men who used any other child care option reported ties with significantly more coworkers than men providing care while their partners worked. Women appear to have the least restrictions, and the most signs of diversity, when they chose a provider unrelated to either parent. At the second interview, women reporting use of a non-kin provider had significantly lower frequency of contact with others than those using their own kin, fewer partner's kin than those using their partner's kin for child care, and a higher percentage of coworkers than those using no child care.

Indexing (details)

Families & family life;
Personal relationships;
0628: Families & family life
0628: Personal relationships
0628: Sociology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Child care; Couples; Social networks; Transition to parenthood; Working class
The impact of child care choices on the social networks of working-class couples across the transition to parenthood
Haley, Heather-Lyn
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 64/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Model, Suzanne
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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