The hours after school: young school-aged children's care arrangements and activities

Simoncini, Kym Maree (2010) The hours after school: young school-aged children's care arrangements and activities. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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The hours after school make up a considerable part of children’s lives. In the United States, researchers and governments are now interested in how out-of-school time can be used as an opportunity for children and adolescents to learn and develop competencies. This time is recognised as a context for social, cognitive and physical development. In Australia there is scant research into how children spend their time after school and how this affects their development. The purpose of this mixed method case study was to investigate how children’s activities and care arrangements after school are associated with their behaviour. Children’s behaviour is routinely measured in developmental research given that problem behaviour can be a risk factor in children’s development and may set in motion a negative downward spiral in their lives. As consistent with ecological theories of child development, family and child characteristics and previous child care arrangements were also examined. With growing numbers of mothers employed in the workforce and children accessing non-parental care, levels of mothers’ and children’s satisfaction with time spent together were investigated. Most schools offer Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) as a service to parents whose working hours do not match school hours. As many children spend long periods of time at after-school care, the four models of OSHC adopted by participant schools were documented.

Six samples including teachers, mothers, children, OSHC coordinators and OSHC assistants and principals were accessed from seven schools including two state, three Catholic and two independent schools. All schools were located in middle to high SES areas in a regional city in Queensland. Students in these schools were predominantly Anglo-Australian. Children who identified themselves as indigenous or spoke a language other than English at home accounted for less than five percent. Classroom teachers completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires (SDQ) (Goodman, 1997) for each child who attended full-time after-school care, received exclusive parental care or received a combination of parental care and after-school care. The SDQ is a brief behaviour checklist where low scores indicate few behaviour problems, while high scores indicate many problem behaviours. In all teachers completed 693 SDQs for children in 31 Prep to Year 3 classes.

A survey for mothers was sent home to every child in Prep to Year 3 in each of the seven schools. Mothers were asked to give demographic details about themselves and their family, and information about their children’s current after-school care and previous care arrangements, their children’s participation in extra-curricular activities and whether they were satisfied with the time they had with their children. Additionally they were asked to complete the SDQ and a parenting style questionnaire, the Raising Children Checklist (Shumow,Vandell & Posner, 1998). A total of 906 maternal surveys were returned, of which 339 could be matched to the classroom teacher reports. All Years 2 and 3 children completed the child satisfaction survey except for children in four Year 2 state school classes. Classroom teachers administered the child satisfaction survey during class time. A total of 675 children completed the surveys. A total of 317 children (47%) could be matched to the sample of mothers.

OSHC coordinators were asked to complete the SDQ for children in Prep to Year 3 who attended full-time after-school care or regular part-time after-school care. Principals, teachers, OSHC coordinators and OSHC assistants were interviewed about their perceptions of children’s behaviour according to their after-school care arrangements. Principals and OSHC coordinators as well as two area coordinators were interviewed about their roles and relationships with OSHC. The Quality Profiles awarded by the National Childcare Accreditation Council and an interview with the director of Queensland Children’s Activity Network were used for triangulation in assessing the level of support for delivery of services in the different models of OSHC.

According to both mother and teacher reports, children who received parental care after school had lower behaviour scores than children who received non-parental care. Low behaviour scores indicated few or no behaviour problems, while high behaviour scores indicate the presence of behaviour problems. According to teachers and OSHC coordinators, children who attended OSHC part-time had lower behaviour scores than children who attended full-time. According to both teachers and parents, children who received extensive centre care (more than 30 thirty hours a week) before entering school had higher behaviour scores than children who received part-time non-parental care or exclusive parental care. Children who received exclusive parental care before starting school had the lowest behaviour scores. Mothers’ reported that children who participated in extra-curricular activities had lower behaviour scores than children who did not participate in these activities. The number of extra-curricular activities and the amount of time children spent in activities also mattered. Children who participated in two or three activities, with a combined duration of between 90 minutes and three hours a week, had the lowest behaviour scores. Teachers and OSHC coordinators reported girls as having lower behaviour scores than boys. Teachers, mothers and OSHC coordinators all reported behaviour differences according to year level with children in Year 1 having the highest behaviour scores.

In conclusion this study found that parental care in this SES grouping cannot be supplanted without compromising children's behaviour. Also extra-curricular engagement pays off from a very young age. However, as a proportion of children must attend after-school care focus must be placed on enablers of quality care. Findings from this study suggest that models of OSHC that provide coordinators with extra levels of support have greater chances of delivering quality care to children. While support from the principal is important, outside support in the form of area coordinator is vital in providing assistance with accreditation, professional development and networking. This type of support allows coordinators to concentrate more on programming and developing relationships with the children. Taking a lead from the United States, the focus of after-school care could shift from being a service to parents to an opportunity to enhance children’s development by offering extra-curricular activities provided by qualified coaches and teachers.

Item ID: 17394
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: after school care; Australia; before school care; behavior; behaviour; child development; childcare; educational activities; elementary school children; extra-curricular activities; non-parental care; OOSH; OSCAR; OSHC; Out of School Care and Recreation; Out of School Hours Care; primary school children; Queensland; school holiday programs; school-aged care; SDQ; Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire; vacation care
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2011 06:16
FoR Codes: 17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170103 Educational Psychology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9501 Arts and Leisure > 950103 Recreation @ 25%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970113 Expanding Knowledge in Education @ 25%
94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940105 Childrens/Youth Services and Childcare @ 50%
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