We used a preferences-and-constraints model to develop four hypotheses to explain why parents may choose self-care (an unsupervised arrangement) as the primary child care arrangement for their children over supervised alternatives and tested them in a multivariate framework using 1995 data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation. We found that the choice of self-care over supervised care alternatives is linked to the availability of parents’ time to care for children, the child’s level of responsibility and maturity, and the neighborhood context. However, we found no evidence that parents’ ability to pay for child care is related to the choice of self-care. The results also suggest that parents use different decision-making processes, depending on their children’s ages.
The authors contributed equally to this research and are listed alphabetically. Direct correspondence to Kristin Smith, Fertility and Family Statistics Branch, Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau, Room 2351, Building 3, Washington, DC 20233-8800