Stress, coping and social inclusion: The impact of early years' provision on the support networks and wellbeing of families

Kirk, Rosalind Hawthorne (1999) Stress, coping and social inclusion: The impact of early years' provision on the support networks and wellbeing of families. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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A primary aim for undertaking this research was to seek evidence of the value of supporting parents through early years' provision, especially those who are socially and economically disadvantaged. The study explored the way three different types of public provision (education, social work nurseries and family centres) affected parental wellbeing, parenting stress and associated risks to the healthy social and emotional development of children. The characteristics of the neighbourhood and nurseries in which the study was located were examined, and compared, before looking further at the families who used each type of provision, including their social support networks. The influence of support and the role of nurseries and family centres on parenting stress and wellbeing were then considered. An ecological framework was used to develop a largely quantitative, longitudinal survey study with a sample of 85 families at the start and 71 at follow-up, one year later. Parents of children using public provision were interviewed and completed questionnaires on parenting stress and wellbeing. Standard developmental assessments were completed on the children concerned. It was found that a very high proportion of the parents were experiencing excessive stress and psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. Most parents had reduced levels of stress and improved wellbeing after using the nursery for a year. The way each of the different types of units was organised influenced the balance and nature of informal and formal support and the extent of neighbourhood involvement. Education nurseries provided a focus for parents to meet informally, usually external to the daily routine and organisation of the nursery. Through this many found new friends and were able to participate in other aspects of the community the nursery helped share the care of the child for short periods and provided a range of quality experiences to enhance the child's development. Education nurseries did not view parent support and education as their responsibility although almost all parents considered it of vital importance. Similarly, the social work nurseries provided an accessible, dependable service enriching the lives of children and parents by reducing social isolation and increasing access to a wide range of stimulating, learning experiences for children and positive, helpful relationships with staff who were able to advise and listen to parents. The majority of the most vulnerable families, often with children who had developmental problems and little informal support, used social work nurseries, although a number of parents who were struggling to cope were found to use other forms of provision. Family centres incorporated the most diverse range of activities and services for parents and children. Informal support was mutually beneficial, harnessing individual's personal strengths, enabling these to be shared with others. Confidential formal support was available. Continuity for parents and children, however, was not possible due to a lack of sufficient childcare to enable parents to work or children to gradually increase the amount of time they spent away from their parents and in a learning situation with their peers. Living in an economically disadvantaged area increased risks to wellbeing and the importance of possessing and developing resilience to help parents and children adapt and cope successfully to the many challenges they faced. All forms of early years' provision contributed to supporting parents, enhancing developmental opportunities for children and made a major contribution to the wellbeing of young families. The organisational framework and separation of education, welfare and parental employment functions resulted in segregation between the families who used each type of provision on the basis of household income and were not conducive to strengthening informal support systems or enabling parents to work. As a means of enhancing the wellbeing and development of future generations, opportunities for informal and formal support should be more strongly integrated into the functions of early years' provision, making them more accessible, flexible and multi-purpose. The extension of parents' social networks and provision of quality childcare helps build support, skills and confidence, promoting social inclusion and the rejuvenation of disadvantaged areas.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Wilkinson, Prof. Eric and Hill, Prof. Malcolm
Date of Award: 1999
Depositing User: Mrs Monika Milewska-Fiertek
Unique ID: glathesis:1999-38959
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2018 15:01
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 17:04
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.38959

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