Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Carla Peterson


The purpose of this study was to identify parental beliefs, attitudes and values, parental perceptions of ideal child care, and decisions parents make about child care as described by rural, low-income parents in central Iowa. Data were gathered using information from three focus group interviews involving ten Early Head Start families. Parents were asked to describe their parenting beliefs and identify ideal child care and how they make decisions about child care. Focus group transcriptions were used to complete content analysis. The results were fitted to an ecological model describing levels and themes of influence these rural, low-income parents experienced when making decisions about child care.;In this study, parents described a variety of proximal and distal factors influencing their decisions about child care. At the macrosystem level, events such as the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the conditions of the local community and rural culture, and social class all shaped parents' child care choices. Parents described exosystem level influences on decisions about care as the involvement of government in regulating child care, information from the media and from local schools. Proximal factors parents identified were included in the macrosystem level. These factors (the most prevalent in focus group discussions) stemmed from the home setting, encompassing characteristics of both parents and children; from extended family members; and from friends, peers, and neighbors. Child care was also included at this level.;Regarding their child care choices, parents voiced concerns about health and safety, learning and social activities in child care settings. Overwhelmingly parents identified the importance of their relationship with or knowledge of the child care provider as critical to their decisions about child care, a variable that is often overlooked as professionals seek to understand quality child care from parents' points of view.;Findings are discussed in terms of seeking greater understanding of the context in which rural, low-income parents involved in Early Head Start programs might make their decisions about child care. Implications for Early Head Start programs working with parents to develop and maintain quality child care partnerships are included.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Delora Jespersen Hade



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

151 pages