People's attitudes to childcare are shaped by the perceived level and effectiveness of the service, new research led by the University of Kent has shown.
Expanding childcare provision can create a 'virtuous cycle' for public support, while rolling back on childcare can lead to a corresponding decrease in support.
The research, which was led by Dr Heejung Chung of Kent's School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, looked at data from 22 European countries. Results showed that, generally, parents across Europe were supportive of public childcare provision.
But the researchers found that existing structures of childcare provision were consistently related to parents' support for childcare. Irrespective of subjective considerations, such as self-interest and political attitudes, the study found that a 'vicious and virtuous cycle' existed in the relationship between policy provision and support.
The findings showed that, at a national level, the larger the current public provision, and the more positively people assess it, the greater the support. Thus, governments' further investment in wider provision of good quality childcare has the potential to drive up assessment, then support and later demand for public childcare.
The researchers concluded that there may be different mechanisms at play in explaining public support for welfare provision in 'newer' areas such as childcare and work-life balance, as distinct from what are perceived as 'old' areas such as unemployment and old age.
European parents' attitudes towards public childcare provision. The role of current provisions, interests and ideologies (Heejung Chung and Bart Meuleman, University of Leuven) is published in the journal European Societies. See: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14616696.2016.1235218
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Notes to editors
1. Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.
It has been ranked: 23rd in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.
In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.
Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.
In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities.
Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).
The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.
In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.