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Early childhood education decision-making among Latino foreign-born parents in the United States: A mixed-methods study


One in eight children in the U.S. live in an immigrant Latino family. The contexts common to their families include accumulated disadvantages that result in diminished educational attainment. High quality early childhood education (ECE) is increasingly seen as a cost-effective intervention that can mitigate negative educational outcomes for children, yet research has found that Latino immigrant families have lower utilization rates of center-based care, often associated with high quality, than other racial and ethnic counterparts. This research study aimed to better understand the ECE decision-making process of Latino foreign-born parents with children ages 3 to 5 through an examination of the accommodation model to develop a culturally-informed model that delineates family and community characteristics, parental preferences and perceived opportunities and constraints that relate to ECE selection for this population. This aim was addressed through a two phase, mixed methods study. Through group interviews with twenty-two Latino immigrant parents across four communities in the Greater New York City metropolitan area, Phase 1 sought to explore the decision-making process through which such parents pursue ECE decisions for their young children. Thematic analysis informed by grounded-theory identified seven themes central to these families: beliefs about development and parental goals, "cara vemos, corazon no sabemos"/trusting providers, understanding of ECE, perceived context of reception, informed preferences, opportunities and constraints, and evaluating ECE. The resulting culturally-informed model highlights the ways that the culturally-bounded contexts common to Latino immigrant families inform their mental representations of available ECE choices, parental beliefs and socialization goals, and social context to create a set of informed preferences that guide their decision-making. These findings highlight the importance of maternal employment and parental beliefs about development in constraining parent's informed preferences and ECE choice. Phase 2 aimed to test the overall integrity of the culturally-informed model of decision-making and assesses its prediction of Latino immigrant parents' ECE selection. Data were drawn from the Household and Center-based Surveys of the 2012 National Survey of Early Care and Education, with data on 744 children ages 3 to 5 years in Latino immigrant families. Measures from parent reports and administrative data operationalized six of the themes found in the first phase. Findings from multinomial logistic regression analyses found that maternal employment and child age moderated components of the model and ECE selection. Results also highlight the importance of culturally-bounded contexts of the ECE decision-making process of Latino immigrant families. Findings from each phase were compared through side-by-side analysis for convergence. Implications for future research, policy and the field are discussed. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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