Communication technology and parent-caregiver relationship quality in early childhood
AdvisorParker, Julie C.
Elmore-Staton, Lori D.
Downey, Laura Hall
Early childhood is one of the most critical times in a child’s life, and research has shown that quality experiences in an early childhood program can have many positive impacts on a child’s wellbeing. One critical determinant of success within early childhood programs is the quality of the relationship between the parent and caregiver, which is profoundly impacted by communication patterns between the two. As communication technology continues to rapidly develop, there exists a need to explore how technology is used to facilitate communication between parents and caregivers in early childhood programs. By exploring the use of communication technology, we can uncover how this type of communication may promote parent-caregiver relationship quality, which is useful to provide best practice guidelines to inform programmatic efforts. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore parent and caregiver perspectives regarding the use of communication technology and its perceived contribution to parent-caregiver relationship quality. In order to address the lack of current empirical data, this research used online and face-to-face focus group methodology to explore the topic until saturation occurred. Participants were parents (N=24) and caregivers (N=23) of children five years of age and younger in licensed childcare programs throughout the state of Mississippi. Study findings indicate that communication technology can be useful in promoting the parent-caregiver relationship quality, but not without caution. Practitioners must consider individual needs, barriers, and concerns of using technology as well. Implications for practice, as well as recommendations for future research, are addressed.