Intentions and decisions about early childhood education: Understanding the determinants and dynamics of households’ early intentions and decisions about ECE and childcare from birth to age two – Research report

Intentions and decisions about early childhood edu…
07 Mar 2019

This research has been funded by the Ministry of Social Development’s Children and Families Research Fund.

The University of Auckland and Ministry of Education study looks into how mothers engage with early childhood education (ECE) services and examines the link between workforce participation and the use of ECE services.

The researchers used data from the Growing Up in New Zealand study, New Zealand’s largest longitudinal study of contemporary child development.

Key Results

Key research findings:

  • Mothers commonly start considering leave and childcare choices before their children are born. However, antenatal intentions were not a significant predictor of post-natal decisions.
  • Mothers tended to cover the difference between their paid parental leave and the total time they spent on leave with a mix of annual leave, other types of pay and unpaid leave.
  • Older mothers were statistically more likely to take parental leave, while mothers reporting no current partner were twice as likely not to take leave.
  • Before their child was born, three quarters of mothers expected to return to work. While the average expected age of the child when the mothers returned to work was 10.5 months, there appeared to be two time peaks: first when their child was between four and six months old (26 per cent) and the second between 10 and 12 months old (27 per cent). For the 50 percent of mothers who had gone back to work by the time their babies were 9 months old, the average age of their child when they returned to work was just over 5 months.
  • Women who took paid parental leave and had returned to work by the time their baby was 9 months had taken an average of 25 weeks leave. That meant they had extended their 14-week[1] paid parental leave period by almost three extra months, often unpaid.
  • Regardless of antenatal intentions, ECE use increases from 9 to 24 months, especially usage of teacher-led, centre-based services.
  • The overall uptake of any type of ECE service at nine months was about 17 per cent and 42 per cent by 24 months.
  • Informal childcare was more likely in rural areas, among those living in the most socio-economically deprived areas and when mothers had irregular work patterns.
  • Among mothers working when their child was 9 months old, those who had not taken parental leave were the least likely to be regular paid employees and the least likely to work regular daytime shifts.
  • Choosing a Māori or Pasifika immersion and bilingual centre-based service was most likely to relate to developmental reasons, such as their child’s language development.

The views and interpretations in this report are those of the researcher(s) and are not the official position of the Ministry of Social Development.

The Ministry of Social Development funds Growing Up in New Zealand and administers and funds the Children and Families Research Fund. Through the Children and Families Research Fund, $750,000 is made available each year for policy-relevant research projects using Growing Up in New Zealand data.

Page last modified: 11 Mar 2019