The effects of early years’ childcare on child emotional and behavioural difficulties in lone and co-parent family situations

Hannah Zagel, Gitit Kadar-Satat, Myrthe Jacobs, Anthony Glendinning (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


With targeted childcare initiatives and employment activation programmes policy makers have sought to address problems of lone mothers and negative outcomes for children. The present study examines non-parental childcare use and maternal employment among children living in lone and co-parent family situations at age 3—4 and emotional and behavioural difficulties at age 4—5. Results demonstrate that negative outcomes associated with lone motherhood are explained largely by mother’s age, education, material circumstances and area deprivation; and that maternal employment does not relieve lone mothers’ disadvantages in a way that alleviates the risks of difficulties to their children. However, in any family constellation, mainly group-based formal pre-school childcare does have a positive impact on child difficulties compared to drawing on informal childcare arrangements as main provider. In addition, and specifically for the difficulties of children in lone mother family situations, any non-parental childcare – formal or informal - for at least 25 hours per week is beneficial. Study findings support policy agendas which tackle families’ material hardship beyond promoting mothers’ employment, and through investment in formal childcare provision, and also through arrangements allowing lone mothers to divide their weekly load of childcare with another main provider.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-258
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Issue number2
Early online date21 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013



  • lone mothers
  • early years
  • socio-economic circumstances
  • childcare
  • maternal employment
  • SDQ child difficulties
  • GUS

Cite this