Overnight care patterns and the psycho-emotional development of infants and preschoolers

Study 2: Overnight care patterns and the psycho-emotional development of infants and preschoolers

About Study 2

Study 2 draws on data collected as part of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC).3 LSAC follows the development of 10,000 children and families from around Australia, exploring the interaction of children’s social, economic and cultural environments with their ongoing adjustment and wellbeing. The study began in 2004 with two cohorts – families with 4-5 year old children (K cohort) and families with infants up to one year old (B cohort). The samples are followed up every two years. Three age groups were examined in Study 2: infants under two years (B1 cohort), older infants 2-3 years old (B2 cohort), and 4-5 year olds (B3 and K1 cohorts combined).

Four research questions guided the study. Relative to rare overnight and primary care overnight patterns, and controlling for related contextual variables (including low socio-economic status [SES], single-parent status, social support, parenting qualities, and co-parenting conflict and cooperation):

1. Does higher frequency shared overnight care parenting differentially affect the infant’s/child’s growing ability to self-regulate his/her emotions and behaviours, and to focus and attend?

2. Does shared parenting differentially affect the infant’s/child’s physical and psychosocial health status?

3. What is the demographic profile of families who largely share the care of their very young children?

4. What parenting qualities, co-parent relationship characteristics and socio-demographic characteristics moderate or mediate relationships between parenting arrangements and the above outcomes?

Three patterns of overnight care were examined. We distinguished higher frequency overnight stays from lower frequency overnight care, and included a third group of children who had some daytime contact, but rarely if ever had overnight care. Consistent with current Australian policy, we adopted the terms “shared care” to reflect the highest frequency of overnight-stay groups, and “primary care” to reflect situations in which the young child lived primarily with one parent while having steady but lower frequency overnight contact with the non-resident parent. Tables 2 and 3 show the sample sizes for the groups of interest.

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