Program practices, caregiver stability, and child caregiver relationships

Applied Developmental Psychology 24 (2003) 497 – 516 Program practices, caregiver stability, and child–caregiver relationships Sharon Ritchie*, Carol...
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Applied Developmental Psychology 24 (2003) 497 – 516

Program practices, caregiver stability, and child–caregiver relationships Sharon Ritchie*, Carollee Howes Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1521, USA

Abstract In this article, we examine program practices, caregiver behaviors, and classroom climates associated with positive child – caregiver relationships. We used the presence or absence of these practices and our independent observations of child– caregiver interactions and classroom climates to predict children’s attachment security. Two hundred and fifty-six children (48% girls) from 22 programs serving underrepresented children and families in Los Angeles and rural North Carolina participated in this research. Three of the programs served only children from difficult life circumstances. Over half of the children experienced basic stability and uniform/consistent caregiving, while primary caregiver assignment and looping were rare. Programs specifically serving only children from difficult life circumstances were more likely to use relationship practices; 74% of them experienced all four practices, in programs for the other children, none of them experienced all four practices. The children from difficult life circumstances were in less acrimonious classrooms, and were more likely to be with teachers who interacted with them intensely and sensitively. Intense and sensitive interactions, and spending more time with the primary caregiver were most important in predicting child– caregiver attachment security. Secondary and negative predictors were membership in a caregiver direction cluster and being assigned to a caregiver. D 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Keywords: Caregiver stability; Caregiver behaviors; Child – caregiver relationships; Program practices

* Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: [email protected] (S. Ritchie), [email protected] (C. Howes). 0193-3973/$ – see front matter D 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/S0193-3973(03)00028-5

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1. Introduction Children in early childhood programs spend their days with a variety of caregivers. They often have different caregivers in the morning as they do in the afternoon, and move through multiple groupings and activities that are facilitated by different adults. Caregivers however are not interchangeable. Each child–caregiver relationship is with a particular caregiver. A child in a classroom may very well have different patterns of relationships with the morning caregiver, the afternoon caregiver, and the assistant caregivers. Every time the child experiences a new caregiver, both must then engage in the process of constructing a new relationship. The nature of the relationships that children construct with their caregivers influences children’s competence and learning while they are in their current program, and as they move along in school (Howes, 2000; Howes, Matheson, & Hamilton, 1994; Howes, Phillipsen, & Peisner-Feinberg, 2000). In this article, we examine program practices that inhibit or promote the development of secure attachment relationships between caregivers and children—caregiver stability, caregiver behaviors, and classroom climates associated with positive child–caregiver relationships. 1.1. Secure attachment with caregivers In general, child–caregiver attachment security is independent of child–mother attachment security (Goossen & van IJzendoorn, 1990; Mitchell-Copeland, Denham, & DeMulder, 1997; Pianta, Nimetz, & Bennett, 1997). Each new caregiver has the opportunity to construct a different relationship than the child has previously experienced. However, when children come from difficult life circumstances they may bring to new relationships prior histories of acrimonious, conflictual, neglectful, or unstable interaction and caregiving. These children who have experienced difficult life circumstance often tend to act towards new caregivers as if they too will be untrustworthy partners (Howes & Ritchie, 2002). Caregivers may have to be particularly sensitive and talented to construct a secure attachment relationship with a child with prior difficult life circumstances. Children who have been adopted from Romanian orphanages (Chisholm, 1998), and from the United States foster care system (Marcus, 1991; Ritchie, 1995) are able to construct secure attachment relationships with their new caregivers. The likelihood of achieving a secure relationship is increased when the caregivers are rated as highly sensitive, consistently positive, and committed to the loving caregiver role. Therefore, in our current work we were particularly interested in the relationships of the children enrolled in programs only for children with difficult life experiences. Ideas drawn from attachment theory and empirical research on child–caregiver relationships suggest that the particular nature of children’s social interactions with their primary caregivers and the emotional climate of these interactions (Boyce et al., 1998; Cassidy & Shaver, 1999; Howes, 1999) influence the nature of relationships. Thus, all children who have warm, responsive, and individualized interactions with caregivers in the context of a harmonious classroom emotional climate are more likely to form secure attachment relationships with their caregivers (Goossen & van IJzendoorn, 1990; Howes & Hamilton, 1992;

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Howes & Smith, 1995; Kontos, Howes, Shin, & Galinsky, 1995). These findings are consistent with a large and well established body of research on mother–child attachment relationships, which finds that warm, responsive, and sensitive mothers construct secure mother–child attachments with their children (Bretherton, 1985). Accordingly, we examined children’s experiences of caregiving with particular attention to the emotional quality of child–caregiver interactions. 1.2. Caregiver stability A body of literature suggests that children who experience instability in caregivers are less likely to form positive relationships with caregivers. The prototype context for this concern is foster care and adoption rather than childcare. Children who experience extremes of instability, particularly as infants, tend to have persistent problems with positive relationship formation (Marcovitch et al., 1997; Rutter, 1999). Because childcare environments frequently involve multiple caregivers and high turnover rates there has been some documentation of the negative impacts of instability of caregivers in childcare. The National Child Care Staffing Study (Whitebook et al., 1990), the Child Care Employee Project (Whitebook, Phillips, & Howes, 1993) and the NAEYC Accreditation as a Strategy for Improving Child Care Quality (Whitebook et al., 1997) have all established as best practice the need to reduce high turnover rates amongst teaching staff. Children in the National Child Care Staffing Study who were enrolled in centers with higher rates of caregiver turnover spent less time engaged in social activities with peers, more time in aimless wandering, and scored lower on assessments of language development (Whitebook, Howes, Phillips, & Pemberton, 1989). Furthermore, children who experienced more caregivers between the ages of one and four were more aggressive with peers than children who had fewer caregiver changes (Howes & Hamilton, 1993). Infants who spent more time with the same caregiver were rated (by the caregiver) as having a more secure attachment relationship with their caregiver (Raikes, 1993). The National Child Care Staffing Study, more than any previous research effort, made it apparent that as long as the early childhood field failed to resolve the staff compensation crisis that contributes to high turnover, that childcare’s capacity to nurture children and assist families would continue to be shortchanged (Whitebook et al., 1993). Childcare quality also has been found to affect turnover. Centers that retained a greater percent of highly skilled teachers are significantly more likely to receive good or better ratings on overall classroom quality (Whitebook et al., 1997). 1.3. Relationship-based practices The response of the early childhood field to the issues of high turnover rates and the importance of positive child–caregiver relationships has been to develop a number of practices designed to mitigate the potentially negative influences of caregiver instability and to enhance positive child–caregiver relationships. Although widely accepted as ‘‘best practice,’’ and drawn from years of experience, there have been few empirical tests of the efficacies of these practices. As part of our ethnographic work with programs designated by

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communities as successful in their work with children and families, we identified a number of practices the program participants believed to be important in the development of positive relationships. In this paper, we used the presence or absence of these practices as well as our independent observations of child–caregiver interactions and classroom climates to predict children’s attachment security. To reduce caregiver instability, programs attempted a number of strategies to keep instability to a minimum. At the most basic level caregivers were assigned to a group of children, usually a classroom, for 1 year. Caregivers were not rotated between groups and caregivers did not move to different classrooms or sites during the week. Programs who articulated a particular concern with relationship formation added at least one of the three following practices to their repertoire: primary caregiver assignment; uniform/consistent caregiving, and/or looping. When programs practiced primary caregiver assignment, the director or head caregiver assigned each child within a group to a particular caregiver. The assigned caregiver was to provide all emotionally salient caregiving for that child—greeting the child in the morning, helping the child with meals and toileting or diapering, putting the child to nap, and monitoring the child’s play throughout the day. Programs that practiced uniform/consistent caregiving believed that all caregivers in the program should share and practice a uniform/consistent philosophy. They made purposeful efforts in staff meetings and in-service training to insure that caregivers maintained shared beliefs around ideas of positively relating with children, language development, separation from parents, and child involvement in the program activities. In programs that practiced looping, a group of children were assigned to a head caregiver for more than 1 year. 1.4. Positive classroom climate The emotional climate of the classroom is a relatively recent addition to the construct of childcare quality. It refers to the tone of the classroom and can range from positive and prosocial to acrimonious and harsh. Early classroom climates in one study, predicted social competence with peers in second grade (Howes, 2000). Acrimonious interactions disrupt the learning of the child involved and at times, the entire classroom. Acrimonious interactions can involve conflicts between teachers and children or between children and children. They are often marked by verbal or physical aggression, disregard for classroom rules of conduct, or disputes over materials. We prefer to call them acrimonious rather than conflictual interactions because in these episodes children introduce disruptive behaviors and teachers can respond by escalating or de-escalating behaviors. For classroom interaction to be harmonious, there must be agreement on the rules of conduct, specifically the explicit and implicit rules for which behaviors are permitted and forbidden in classrooms. Important to examining the tone of a classroom is an awareness of the nature of the difficult relationships within it. Attachment theorists have described two attachment organizations associated with insecure relationships: avoidant and ambivalent/resistant (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978). Children with avoidant attachment organizations turn away rather than seek comfort from adults because they have experienced rejection and insensitivity from adults (Ainsworth et al., 1978). Since they expect the adult

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to reject them, they tend to make ‘‘preemptive strikes,’’ acting in a hostile fashion before the adult has an opportunity to be rejecting. Alternatively, they may avoid the adult to avoid being rejected. Children with avoidant maternal attachment histories tend to be rated by teachers as high in aggression and passive withdrawal (Renken, Egeland, Marvinney, Mangelsdorf, & Sroufe, 1989). Children with an ambivalent/resistant attachment organization also do not trust their attachment figure to provide comfort and emotional security. However, in contrast to children with avoidant attachments, their experience of the attachment figure has been inconsistent, and thus confusing (Cassidy & Berlin, 1994). Sometimes, the adult will be there for them and other times the adult will withdraw from the child. Children with ambivalent/resistant attachment organization tend to be dependent and hard to comfort. These children may appear to seek comfort, and then reject the adult’s attempts to provide it. Thus, these children are both ‘‘clingy’’ and difficult. Children with a history of ambivalent/resistant maternal attachment are characterized as fearful and inhibited in exploration with both peers and materials (Cassidy & Berlin, 1994). Children with ambivalent/resistant attachment organizations can also be disruptive within classrooms. Unlike the child with an avoidant attachment organization, the child with an ambivalent/resistant attachment organization uses disruptive behavior to draw the teacher into interpersonal conflict. In a positive classroom climate, the goal of teachers is to maximize harmonious interactions by keeping acrimonious interactions from becoming conflicts that disrupt learning. It would be logical to assume that children from difficult life circumstances would be in more acrimonious classrooms, as children who act out more could prompt more teacher frustration, more time-outs and reprimands. Consideration, however, of the teachers who choose to work in classrooms with these children in programs that have a philosophical base which supports the development of positive relationships can perhaps reduce the likelihood of acrimony for children who have likely already experienced far too much of it. 1.5. Summary As early childhood classrooms become increasingly burdened with federal and state mandates for child outcomes in literacy and math, it is essential to bear in mind the practices and program philosophies that may promote children’s success in school which are not directly linked to academic progress. This study examines the ground work, the basic principles and practices which allow children to form important relationships with their caregiver so that they are ready to take the opportunities to learn that are available to them in the programs they attend. It is essential to remain mindful of this idea as we explore the pathways that lead children to success. Educational policies that compel an academic agenda that forsakes the development of the whole child may be both shortsighted and counterproductive. Children with more positive child–teacher relationships appear more able to make use of the learning opportunities available in classrooms (Howes & Smith, 1995) and better adjust to the demands of formal schooling (Birch & Ladd, 1997). Awareness of the specific practices that may well be the precursors to success for children is important for the

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lives of the children in the programs as well as for the efficacy of the people who provide their care. In summary, we examined the prevalence of practices to mitigate against caregiver instability and enhance positive relationships in programs serving underrepresented children and families, associations among these practices, classroom emotional climate, caregiver behaviors, and the prediction of child–caregiver attachment security from practices, classroom emotional climate, and caregiver behaviors. Our design included assessing the integrity of classroom practices, conducting observation of children and caregiver behavior, and assessing child–caregiver attachment relationship quality.

2. Method 2.1. Participants 2.1.1. Selection of sites 2.1.1.1. Advisory board. Ten respected early childhood professionals identified 23 exemplary programs that worked with low income, minority children in Los Angeles and rural North Carolina. This was not a random sample, but rather one purposefully comprised of programs that earned the respect of the community they served. Baseline data on environmental quality was gathered at each nominated site (n = 23). Classroom scores on the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS) (Harms & Clifford, 1980) averaged 5.67 (SD = .75; range 5.41–6.35). No classroom had an overall score lower than 5. ECERS scores of 5 and above are considered to be good to excellent in quality. Additionally, researchers talked with caregivers and directors about who was served by the program and the purpose and mission of their program. Profiles for each site were developed and presented it to a community advisory board to structure a discussion on dimensions of quality. 2.1.1.2. Best practices programs. The final selection of 16 participating sites was made by the project staff based on the following criteria: service to low income children; representation of ethnic groups similar to that of Los Angeles County and rural North Carolina; a mix of centers serving children from predominantly one ethnic or home language group, and programs serving children from diverse backgrounds; representation of children with special needs both included into programs for typical children and in ‘‘stand alone programs’’; a variety of distinct practices including practices that appeared to be debatable within the childcare community (e.g., home language vs. English only; child initiated vs. didactic approaches to teaching). In a subsequent phase of the study, the advisory board and the original 16 sites nominated 10 additional partner sites. The criteria for participation included similar demographics to the original sites, and a willingness to engage in thinking and talking about their practices with researchers. Partnership sites were chosen to determine if those practices observed in the community nominated sites could be introduced into similar environments of overall lower

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quality as determined at baseline level by the ECERS. Although average environmental quality scores for these sites were good (mean ECERS score of 5.56), the range of ECERS scores (3.83–6.06) indicated not all classrooms were in the good quality range. The study was both a close examination of the process through which change occurs, as well as a look at the change itself. 2.2. Sample Two hundred and fifty-six children (48% girls) participated in this research. One hundred and eighty-three of the total sample of children were randomly selected to have approximately 25% of the children in each program participate. The remaining 77 children were selected from a pool of children at 12 of the Best Practices Programs whose parents volunteered to have them participate in a longitudinal study. Ninety-seven percent of the parents volunteered to participate. We randomly selected two girls and two boys from each of the 20 classrooms (n = 80) included in the 12 Best Practices Programs used in the longitudinal study. Three children were persistently absent reducing our n to 77. We used a MANOVA to examine age, gender, and ethnic differences in the sample of children randomly selected and those from parental volunteers and found no significant differences. Thirty-two percent of the children were African American, 39% Latino, 16% White, 7% Asian, and the remaining biracial. Sixty-two percent of Latino children, 52% of White children, and 81% of African American children were taught by teachers from their own ethnic backgrounds. The children averaged 50 months (SD = 10.8) at the time of the first observation and ranged in age from 15 to 82 months. A subsample of these children (n = 31) were enrolled in one of three programs that only included children with particular difficult life circumstances. By difficult life experiences we mean maltreatment, parental psychopathology or substance abuse, homelessness, and multiple placements. While we assume that there were children with difficult life circumstance in all programs, these three programs were exclusively for children with difficult life experiences: a therapeutic preschool; a program for emancipated teen mothers who lived with their children at the facility; and a program for the children of teen age parents who had experienced domestic violence. The programs we included in this subsample served children of teen parents who were themselves often struggling with substance abuse and/or domestic violence, poverty, and low education levels, as well as children who had been diagnosed as having special needs, (posttraumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety, attachment disorders, oppositional defiant disorder). Many of the children entered the programs with aggressive, depressed, or withdrawn behaviors, which suggested that their prior relationships with adults had been problematic. Many of the children in the programs continued to experience difficult life circumstances throughout their time in the programs. Only 41% of these children were girls because the therapeutic preschool enrolled more boys than girls. The ethnic distribution of this subsample was dissimilar to the larger sample by having somewhat more White (28%) and somewhat fewer African American children (28%) but similar proportions of Latino children (45%). The children in this subsample averaged 50.48 months (SD = 15.8) and ranged in age from 15 to 76 months.

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2.3. Procedure The study took place over the course of two school years. In each year, Time 1 data were collected in November, and Time 2 data in May. Eight trained observers conducted the observations. Additionally, a research partner acted as a participant observer for at least a year in the program. The participant observer spent one full day each week getting to know the programs and the staff, taking extensive field notes, interviewing staff, and in the end, helping to interpret and make use of the data. Each was comfortable in early childhood classrooms, and was matched to the ethnicity of caregivers and/or the majority of the children in the classrooms. In all cases, Spanish-speaking participant observers were in classrooms where Spanish was the primary language. On the basis of field notes and interview transcripts, programs were rated as ascribing, or not to practices. Members of the research team who had not served as participant observers in that particular program conducted the observations and assessments. Each data collector spent at least 4 h observing each study child and their primary caregiver at each data collection period. 2.4. Measures 2.4.1. Attachment Q-sort-security of attachment with primary caregiver To examine the relationships between individual caregivers and children, we used the Attachment Q-Set (AQS) (Waters, 1990).The AQS has good validity with the Strange Situation (Howes & Hamilton, 1992; van IJzendoorn, Vereijken, & Riksen-Walrave, in press). Following their observations, the observers sorted the 90 behavior descriptions that serve as items in the AQS, i.e., ‘‘this child turns to the caregiver when she is upset,’’ into nine piles of 10 items each. In this way the observers described the child–caregiver relationship according to the behavior descriptions. The particular behavior was given a score (1–9) corresponding to very characteristic (pile no. 9) to very uncharacteristic (pile no. 1). The item scores for each child–caregiver relationship were correlated with an ideal child–caregiver relationship (Waters, 1990) to determine the child’s security score. Scores may vary from 1.0 to 1.0. A higher score indicates greater security, with a .33 as the determinant for the lowest score describing a secure relationship. Subscale scores were developed based on clusters of AQS items (Howes & Ritchie, 1999). As a result each child–caregiver relationship could be described as high or low on the following subscales: avoidant, resistant, seeking comfort, using the caregiver as a secure base, and engaging in harmonious interactions. The avoidant and resistant subscales conceptually correspond to insecure attachment organizations. The other three subscales correspond to secure attachment organizations. We categorized each child’s child–caregiver attachment relationship based on a cluster analysis of AQS items (Howes & Ritchie, 1999). The categories of attachment organization were disorganized, avoidant insecure, resistant insecure, near secure and secure. Observers were trained to an 85% exact agreement criterion on each item prior to data collection with the gold standard trainer. Monthly observer–trainer reliability checks were conducted throughout data collection. Median interobserver reliability for exact item placement was Kappa = .87 (range Kappa = .79 to .96).

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2.5. Snapshot observations We used a ‘‘snapshot’’ (time sampling) procedure to capture aspects of adult–child interaction including time with caregivers and caregiver involvement and engagement with the child. We also examined the activities in which the children were engaged as the context for the adult–child interaction. Over the course of a program morning, 50+ snapshots were collected for each child. To complete a snapshot, the data collector observed a target child for 20 s, and then had 40 s to record presence of the variables described in the next sections. The observer then watched the next child and proceeded in the same manner to observe a total of four study children. This process was repeated throughout the program morning for a total of 4 h (50+ snapshots for each child). Observers were trained to an 85% exact agreement criterion on each item prior to data collection. Monthly interobserver reliability checks were conducted throughout data collection. Median interobserver reliability for exact item placement was Kappa = .84 (range Kappa = .79 to .93). Involvement and engagement were coded during the snapshot observations. 2.5.1. Involvement The adult involvement scale (Howes & Stewart, 1987) rates the intensity of child– caregiver involvement. Each time the caregiver was within 3 ft of the child, or a child– caregiver interaction occurred during the 20-s observation period, an aspect of adult involvement with the child was scored. Therefore, a child could have a maximum of 50 ratings (one for each snapshot scored). Only one of the following scale points could be recorded in each snapshot: (0) Monitor (caregiver is close to the child but does not engage in interaction); (1) Routine (caregiver touches the child for routine caregiving, or passes out materials, but has no verbal interaction with the child); (2) Minimal (caregiver touches the child only for necessary redirection, answers child requests in a few words, or makes a brief remark.); (3) Simple (caregiver provides helpful physical support, verbally answers the child in simple sentences, ‘‘Yes, you need to glue that piece.’’ or initiates simple social interaction such as ‘‘What book are you reading today?’’); (4) Elaborate (caregiver maintains close proximity to the child, responds to child’s statements without restating, or asks and answers complex questions); (5) Intense (caregiver hugs/holds the child, answers by restating the child’s statement, engages the child in reciprocal conversation, or plays interactively). The scale points for the adult involvement codes represent increasing complexity and reciprocity in adult–child interaction. We created a total score for adult–child involvement by summing the levels of involvement. We also scored the percent of time the caregiver was within 3 ft of the child during each of the six levels of involvement. Finally, we created a set of codes representing the proportion of each type of involvement over the total number of observations and scored ‘‘high’’ caregiver involvement as the proportion of simple, elaborated and intense involvement scores, and ‘‘low’’ caregiver involvement as the proportion of monitor, routine and minimal scores.

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2.5.2. Engagement During each observation we coded the type of engagement the caregiver had with the child. The caregiver was not required to be within 3 ft of the child, and more than one coding category could be recorded in each snapshot. The following categories comprised the engagement index: (1) Positive initiation (caregiver initiates positive physical/verbal interaction with the child without child’s solicitation); (2) Positive response (caregiver responds in a positive verbal/physical manner to the child’s social bids); (3) Positive management (caregiver verbally intervenes, redirects the child or reminds the child of the rules for behavior); (4) Negative management (caregiver handles problem/misbehavior in a harsh or negative manner, including time-out, yelling, belittling, spanking, or threatening); (5) Facilitate peer (caregiver promotes the child’s interaction with other children); (6) Language play (caregiver engages in language play with the child or group of children, including rhyming games, reading one-on-one, or a social conversation). 2.5.3. Learning and play activities This set of codes captures the activity that the teacher provides for the children. These categories were (1) Creative activities (fantasy play, blocks, and open-ended art); (2) Language arts (looking at or reading books to self, being read to, listening to a story, music activities, and circle time); (3) Didactic learning (teacher-modeled art projects or teacherdirected drill and practice of school skills); (4) Fine motor (use of art materials, puzzles, stringing beads, pegboards, or Legos); (5) Routine (transitioning to the next activity, grooming activities, meal, and snack time) (6) Unoccupied (child is not engaged with any other person, any object or any specific activity). During each snapshot, the observer selected only one activity that best fit what the child was doing. For analysis, each child received a score for the proportion of time they were involved in these activities. The proportion of time for each engagement category over the entire observation period was scored. In addition, the proportion of time of total engagement for each category was scored. 2.6. Time with primary caregivers Because each snapshot observation of a child that included adult involvement or engagement was linked to the identity of the adult, we were able to separately consider the children’s experiences with their primary caregiver, their other caregivers, or when there was no engagement with a caregiver. A primary caregiver was defined as the caregiver to whom the child was assigned, or as the head caregiver/lead teacher. 2.7. Classroom emotional climate We devised two sets of class scores to capture classroom emotional climate. ‘‘Acrimony’’ represented the degree of child–caregiver conflict, and the ‘‘nature of difficult relationships’’ represented the proportion of children in the room with each type of insecure attachment relationship (avoidant insecure, resistant insecure, near secure, and secure).

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2.7.1. Classroom interaction scale The classroom interaction scale (Arnett, 1989) is a 26-item 4-point rating scale completed by the observer of the head caregiver in the classroom at the conclusion of the observation period. It yields three scores: sensitive (warm, attentive, and engaged); harsh (critical, threatening, and punitive) and detached (low levels of interaction, interest, and supervision). Scores from this instrument have been found to predict childcare caregiver’s involvement with children and the children’s social competence (Howes, Whitebook, & Phillips, 1992) and attachment security (Howes & Hamilton, 1992). Median interobserver reliability was Kappa = .85 (range Kappa = .81 to .89). We created a classroom acrimony score by summing the standard scores for harshness and detachment with the standard score for proportion of adult engagement in negative management, from the adult engagement codes. 2.7.2. Attachment organization Based on our prior work that found children categorized as disorganized, resistant and avoidant in AQS attachment organizations to be higher in behavior problems than children categorized as secure or near secure in AQS attachment organization, we calculated the proportion of children in each room categorized as disorganized, resistant, and avoidant. This gave us the number of children who had difficult relationships with their teachers (Howes & Ritchie, 1999).

3. Results 3.1. Child–caregiver attachment relationships A security score of .33 and above indicates a secure relationship with the caregiver. Security scores for children in the study averaged .29 (SD = .24) and ranged from .52 to .74. The mean indicates low level secure relationships and the range indicates both some very difficult relationships as well as some that were very positive. There were no relations between age and security and no ethnic differences in security scores. Gender and ethnicity was determined by chi squares and an ANOVA was used to test age. As expected, children in the only difficult life circumstances programs had lower child–caregiver attachment security scores, M(difficult) = .16; SD = .27; M(other) = .31, SD = .23; t(254) = 3.31, p = .001. 3.2. Practices Sixty percent of the 256 children, (enrolled in eight different programs) experienced basic stability practices. Eleven percent of the children (enrolled in three different programs) experienced primary caregiver assignment. Fifty-two percent of the children (enrolled in seven different programs) experienced uniform/consistent caregiving. Fifteen percent of the children (enrolled in four different programs) experienced looping or being kept with the same caregiver and peer group over more than 1 year. Children enrolled in only difficult life

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circumstances programs were more likely to experience basic stability, 81%; v2(1) = 6.40; p < .01, primary caregiver assignment, 86%; v2(1) = 168.72; p < .001, uniform/consistent caregiving, 81%; v2(1) = 11.63; p < .001, and looping, 100%; v2(1) = 168.72; p < .001, than children in other programs (basic stability 57%; primary caregiver assignment 2%; uniform/ consistent caregiving 4%, and looping 4%). Seventy-four percent of the children in the difficult life circumstances subsample experienced all four practices, while 26% experienced one. In programs for the other children, 37% experienced one practice, 53% experienced two and 9% experienced three. None of these children experienced all four practices. 3.3. Classroom climate 3.3.1. Acrimony Acrimony scores averaged 0 (SD = 2.11) and ranged from 2.33 to 10.17. There were no gender, ethnic, or age associations with acrimony. Gender and ethnicity was determined by chi squares and an ANOVA was used to test age. Children in only difficult life circumstances programs had lower acrimony scores than children in other programs, M(difficult) = 0.68, SD = .81; M(other) = .09, SD = 2.21; t(98) = 3.64, p < .001. 3.3.2. Proportion children of children in the classroom with insecure attachment organizations We categorized approximately half of the children as having secure child–caregiver attachment behavior organizations. There were no gender, ethnic, or age associations with attachment behavior organizations. Children in the only difficult life circumstances programs were less likely to have secure child–caregiver attachment behavior organizations and more likely to have disorganized or resistant child–caregiver attachment behavior organizations than children in other programs, v2(4) = 17.15; p < .01 (see Table 1). The proportion of children in classrooms with avoidant child–caregiver attachment behavior organizations ranged from none to 50% (M = .10, SD = .11), with resistant attachment behavior organizations from none to 25% (M = .02, SD = .05), and with disorganized behavior attachment organizations from none to 25% (M = .07, SD = .07). Children in the only difficult life circumstances programs were more likely to have higher proportions of children with avoidant attachment behavior organizations, M(difficult) = .14, SD = .09; M(other) = .10, SD = .10; t(254) = 2.47, p < .01, resistant attachment behavior

Table 1 Percentage of attachment behavior organizations in different programs Type of attachment organization

All children (%)

Only difficult (%)

Other programs (%)

Secure Near secure Avoidant Resistant Disorganized

51 29 10 1 9

29 32 14 7 18

53 28 10 1 8

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organizations, M(difficult) = .07, SD = .06; M(other) = .01, SD = .4; t(94) = 5.11, p < .001, and disorganized attachment behavior organizations, M(difficult) = .18, SD = .11; M(other) = .06, SD = .08; t(94) = 6.15, p < .001, than children in other programs. 3.4. Adult involvement and engagement We used K-means cluster analysis to create composite variables. Cluster analysis is a technique most commonly used to identify taxonomies or data structure. A k-means cluster analysis is a tool to identify underlying structure in the observed data. In this procedure initial cluster centers are randomly assigned and then cases are selected to the next closest cluster based on distance from cluster center. The procedure repeats reassignment and recalculation of cluster centers until centers cease changing. The cluster analysis using involvement and engagement codes converged in three iterations. The minimum distance between initial centers was 1.6465 and the maximum distance by which any center changed was 0.0275 indicating that the structure was stable. The descriptive statistics for the adult involvement and engagement clusters are in Table 2. The adult involvement and engagement codes resulted in three clusters that represent different experiences that children had with their primary caregiver. Children in cluster 1 (31% of the children) experienced the most simple and minimal involvement and positive management. We named cluster 1 caregiver direction. Children in cluster 2 (48% of the children) experienced the most positive initiations and responses and were similar to children in

Table 2 Descriptions and differences among adult involvement and engagement clusters: Proportion of involvement or engagement Caregiver direction cluster (1)

Interactive cluster (2)

Language play cluster (3)

F Post hoc

M

SD

M

SD

M

SD

Adult involvement Monitor Routine Minimal Simple Elaborated Intense

.14 .05 .18 .28 .26 .09

.17 .08 .17 .31 .21 .10

.09 .03 .10 .19 .32 .27

.12 .06 .10 .15 .19 .21

.17 .06 .16 .12 .28 .22

.19 .11 .21 .14 .21 .27

5.68* 2.19 7.98** 9.79*** 2.42 19.69

Adult engagement Positive initiation Positive response Positive management Facilitate peer Language play

.14 .17 .47 .04 .16

.13 .16 .24 .07 .18

.33 .30 .11 .05 .16

.18 .19 .10 .07 .14

.16 .11 .08 .07 .57

.15 .10 .08 .09 .20

41.76*** 30.64*** 161.41*** 2.69 132.66***

*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.

3,1 > 2 1,3>2 1>3,2 2,3>1

2>1 2>3,1 1>2,3 3>2,1

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cluster 3 in intense involvement. Cluster 2 was named interactive. Children in cluster 3 (21% of the children) experienced the most language play, were similar to children in cluster 1 in monitored involvement and to children in cluster 2 in intense involvement. Cluster 3 was named language play. There were no gender, ethnic, or age associations with adult involvement and engagement cluster membership. Children in the only difficult life circumstances programs were more likely to be in the interactive cluster and less likely to be in the caregiver direction and language play clusters than children in other programs, v2(2) = 19.13; p < .001 (see Table 3). 3.4.1. Time with primary caregivers We conducted a 2 (type of program)  3 (type of caregiver) ANOVA with a repeated measure on the last factor on amount of time. Children spent, on the average, 22% (SD = .16) of their time with their primary caregiver, 29% (SD = .18) with the other caregivers combined, and 49% (SD = .21) with no adult. There were no age, ethnic, or gender differences in time spent with caregivers. We used a repeated measure ANOVA with only difficult life circumstances programs as the grouping variable to compare time distributions. There was a significant interaction between program and time, F(2,250) = 2.54, p < .01, and a significant main effect for time, F(2,250) = 66.41, p < .001. All children spent more time without an adult than with an adult. Children in only difficult life circumstances programs spent more time than other children with no adult, M(difficult) = .58, SD = .12; M(other) = .49, SD = .24, and less time with their primary caregiver, M(difficult) = .13, SD = .07; M(other) = .23, SD = .15. 3.5. Associations among practices, classroom climate, involvement and engagement with adults, and child–caregiver attachment security Descriptive information for the proportion of adult involvement and engagement is in Table 4. High level adult involvement (M = .70, SD = .27, range: 0–1.00). Adult engagement for positive initiation, positive response, positive management, and language play were quite similar (M = .23, SD = .22, range: 0–1:00). Engagement in facilitating peer interaction was lower (M = .05, SD = .07, range: 0–36). 3.6. Relationship based practices We used a series of two-way ANOVA with practices (yes or no) and program for children with difficult life circumstances (yes or no) as grouping variables to examine differences in Table 3 Percent differences in adult involvement and engagement clusters Clusters

Only difficult (%)

Other (%)

Caregiver direction Interactive Language play

10 86 3

33 43 23

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Table 4 Proportion of adult involvement and engagement Mean

SD

High

Low

Involvement Monitor Routine Minimal Simple Elaborated Intense Percent high level involvement

.12 .04 .14 .20 .29 .20 .70

.15 .08 .16 .22 .20 .21 .27

.67 .50 .96 1.00 .88 .89 1.00

0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Engagement Positive initiation Positive response Positive management Facilitate peer Language play

.24 .22 .21 .05 .25

.18 .19 .23 .07 .24

1.00 1.00 1.00 .36 1.00

0 0 0 0 0

child–caregiver attachment security when children did or did not experience the four identified relationship practices. There were no significant main effects for practice and no significant interactions. 3.6.1. Classroom climate We used Pearson product–moment correlations to examine associations between classroom climate and child–caregiver security scores (see Table 5). Children’s security scores were negatively associated with the percent of children in their classrooms with avoidant attachment behavior organizations.

Table 5 Associations between child – caregiver security and classroom climate and time with caregiver Security scores (Pearson product – moment correlations) Classroom climate Acrimony % avoidant % resistant % disorganized

.08 .21** .19** .13*

Time with caregiver Primary Others No caregiver

.29** .01 .18**

*p < .05. **p < .01.

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3.6.2. Adult involvement and engagement We used a two-way ANOVA with involvement and engagement cluster membership and program for children with difficult life circumstances (yes or no) as grouping variables to examine differences in child–caregiver attachment security scores. Children in the interactive cluster (M = .35, SD = .23) had higher scores than children in the language play cluster (M = .29, SD = .22) and caregiver direction cluster (M = .19, SD = .24), F(2, 251) = 3.52, p < .05. There were no significant main effects or interactions for program enrollment. We used Pearson product–moment correlations to examine associations between time with caregivers and child–caregiver security scores (see Table 5). Children who spent more time with their primary caregiver and less time away from adults had higher security scores.

Table 6 Predicting child – caregiver attachment scores Security R

R2

R2 change

Model I: Includes proportion of insecure children as part of classroom climate Enrollment in program for children with .20** .04 difficult life circumstances Classroom climate and adult involvement .48** .24 .20 and engagement Acrimony % avoidant Caregiver direction Interactive Time with primary caregiver Practices .50** .25 .01 Basic stability Uniform Assign Looping Model II: Does not include proportion of insecure children .20** Enrollment in program for children with difficult life circumstances Classroom climate and adult involvement .49** and engagement Acrimony Caregiver direction Interactive Time with primary caregiver Practices .50** Basic stability Uniform Assign *p < .05. **p < .01.

Final h .01

.26

.00

.02 1.31 2.18* 3.00** 3.58**

.03 .08 .14* .20** .25**

.04 .00 1.70 .46

.03 .01 .12* .03

as part of classroom climate .04 .17 .24

sri2

.16

.20 .11 .37** .27** .56**

.10 .24* .20** .45**

.03 .02 .22

.03 .01 .20*

.02

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3.7. Predicting child–caregiver attachment security The final step in our analysis was to test a predictive model using sequential multiple regression. We completed this analysis twice with and without the proportion of the children in the classroom with insecure child–teacher attachment relationships as a predictor. In both equations, we first entered enrollment in a program only for children with difficult life circumstances because we expected from theory and our descriptive analyses that these children present special challenges to caregivers. We then entered classroom climate and adult involvement and engagement together because prior research and our preliminary analysis suggested relations. In the analysis including attachment as part of classroom climate we used only one of the three proportion of children with insecure attachment behavior organization variables, and dummy coded involvement and engagement membership to avoid multicolinearity. We entered practices as the last step in the analysis, although there were no simple relations between practices and security scores, because it was the primary focus of our analysis. Table 6 displays the standardized regression correlations (h), the semipartial correlations (sri2), and R, adjusted R2, and change in R2 at each step for each of the regression models. In both models classroom climate and teacher involvement and engagement best predicted security scores; relationship practices added little to the predictive power of the model. Inspection of the final standardized regression correlations and the semipartial correlations suggest that membership in an interactive cluster and spending more time with the primary caregiver were most important in predicting child–caregiver attachment security. Secondary predictors and negative predictors were membership in a caregiver direction cluster and being assigned to a caregiver.

4. Discussion Over half of children experienced basic stability and uniform/consistent caregiving, while primary caregiver assignment and looping were rare. Traditionally children are placed in classrooms or groups for 1 year. High turnover rates in childcare, rather than philosophical approach may account for lack of basic stability for those children who did not experience the same caregiver over the course of a year. Short of the good luck of having teachers work in concert with one another without communicating, or teachers who work alone, uniform/consistent caregiving requires that staff members have the opportunity to talk with one another to discuss philosophy and approach on a regular basis. Although many programs do often choose to make regular meetings a priority, some programs simply do not have the luxury of time or money to insure that these conversations take place. Programs enrolling only children who had experienced difficult life circumstances were more likely to use relationship practices. Three of the programs in this study were dedicated to helping children specifically through improving their relationships with adults. These groups were philosophically bent towards both knowing about and deciding

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upon specific approaches to support the development of positive relationships. It was within these programs that practices of looping and primary caregiver assignment were observed. These same children, those in programs only for children from difficult life circumstances, had less acrimonious classrooms and were more likely to be in interactive cluster. Here again were programs that both developed and implemented philosophies that suggested that to support positive adult–child relationships, it was important that caregivers be intensely engaged, warm, responsive, and consistent, and that they initiate positive interactions with the children. Still these classrooms had the highest proportion of children with insecure relationships. To overcome the relationship damage that some children bring with them may take longer than a single year. In the therapeutic preschool, it was found in a separate study that children with more time in the program (often 2 years) had more secure relationships with their teachers (Howes & Ritchie, 1997). Children in the group of programs for children with difficult life circumstances spent less time with a primary caregiver than children in other programs. Children with avoidant, resistant, and disorganized attachment organizations can be difficult to spend time with. Logically, the children will avoid and/or resist the caregiver, who in these cases seem to make the most of the time they do spend with the child, by relating to the child intensely and sensitively. Membership in an interactive cluster and spending more time with the primary caregiver were most important in predicting child–caregiver attachment security. Secondary and negative predictors were membership in a caregiver direction cluster and being assigned to a caregiver. Children who spend the day in programs where their primary caregiver is available and accessible to them and who is intensely and sensitively interacting with them throughout the day are, not surprisingly, more likely to have a more secure relationship with their caregivers than those who experience minimal interactions, mostly centered around management. What is important here is using this information to help programs think about their priorities. It has become a prevalent practice to have lead teachers move from classroom to classroom, sometimes spending only a few days a week with a specific group, and sometimes so overwhelmed by administrative duties, that they spend virtually no time in the classroom. Teachers who interact minimally with children are perhaps a product of a childcare system that must hire untrained, and possibly unmotivated personnel to spend whole days and whole years with children. Children who are assigned to caregivers, even with the best of intentions, may be assigned to those who are themselves perhaps unable or unwilling to form positive relationships. Currently some programs are looking at the notion of observing children over the first several months of childcare and then using the choice of the child to help make more informed decisions about the assignments of children. It is important to consider the impact of multiple caregivers on children. It appears evident that programs must consider their population and become increasingly aware of the specific needs of the children they serve to devise their philosophies and approaches. It may be that traditional notions of relationship practices may not be at the heart of what is important. Further work needs to be done to more closely define those components that genuinely support the development and maintenance of secure attachment relationships.

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