The Research of Arthur C. Emlen


Childcare: Work & Family
Research in Oregon
Emlen's Research
Emlen's Point of View
Other Research Documents


Dealing with Art Emlen's work is more complicated, because he's been around longer. Following is a description of his research related to child care and work-family issues over a span of more than 40 years. Some citations are to out-of-print monographs and unpublished reports.

Emlen's childcare research has concentrated on the childcare arrangements of employed parents. Although focused on six different topics, the studies have one theme in common. One way or another they all look at how parents manage; how they manage within the family; how they manage their jobs and work schedules; how they make arrangements for childcare within the family or find care in the neighborhood and manage to sustain it; how they assess the care arrangements they have made, based on specific sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction they report or on the quality of care they see in specific characteristics of their care arrangements. All are related to issues of childcare policy based on how parents' behavior and childcare are affected by family circumstances.

Family Day Care. Studies in these areas sometimes overlapped in time and general focus, two lasting about seven years and three lasting about twice that long. Beginning in 1965, one was a longitudinal study of neighborhood family day care, interviewing mothers and caregivers. This was funded by the U.S. Children's Bureau. See Matchmaking in Neighborhood Day Care (1971), Child Care by Kith (1971), Stability of the Family Day Care Arrangement: A Longitudinal Study - part 1 and part 2 (1974), and several papers. Also in this period is a study evaluating an after-school center program for children in family day care: Mixed Model Day Care.

Employee Surveys: Childcare, Work, and Family. The second area, from 1982 to 1995, was a series of employee surveys, altogether of more than 50,000 employees of 124 companies and agencies in 25 cities in 13 states, comparing mothers and fathers to all other men and women employees, examining patterns of childcare, and assessing the possible impact of dependent care difficulties and childcare needs on absenteeism and stress. See Emlen and Koren, Hard to Find and Difficult to Manage: The Effects of Childcare on the Workplace-A Report to Employers (1984) and a paper presented in New York at the American Psychological Association on the relationship between absenteeism, stress, and types of companies; plus numerous reports to employers. Emlen's methodology for assessing childcare needs of employed parents appears in a chapter in Neal et al., Balancing Work and Caregiving for Children, Adults, and Elders. (Sage Publications, 1993).  These employee surveys were supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and by employers themselves. For an example of an employee survey, see DHR 1995. For a set of company profiles showing the impact of child care and elder care on the workforce, see 1987 Dependent Care Survey.

Student Parents. In a third area, similar studies were done of student parents at Portland State University. Student parents, many of them also employed, faced the challenges of employed parents, plus their class schedules changed every quarter. See Student Parents at an Urban University (1990), Aiding Student Parents at Portland State University: Balancing Schoolwork, Jobs, Child Care, Family, and Financial Aid (1991).

The Child Care Market and Families Receiving Child Care Assistance. The fourth area, from 1990 for two decades, was a series of studies conducted for and collaboratively with the Adult and Family Services Division, Oregon Department of Human Resources. These included market-rate surveys of the prices charged by childcare centers and family homes, surveys of both consumers and providers of care used by families receiving childcare assistance. Some of these are available through the Oregon Child Care Research Partnership.

Estimating Child Care Use with a Population Survey. Fifth, from 1989 to the present, Emlen's research has involved assisting a statewide data group with analysis of a series of population surveys of Oregon households. The purpose is to build a statewide picture of where all the children are, who's in paid childcare of one type or another, and which family characteristics appear to drive use of paid care. A paper for the American Statistical Association describes the rationale, method, and early findings, Emlen and Koren, Estimating Child Care Demand for Statewide Planning (1993). These population surveys are conducted every two years and reported as Data for Community Planning. Bobbie Weber at OSU now does the analyses that Emlen used to do. The reports also are available at the website of the Research Partnership.

Measuring Quality of Care from Parent Data. Finally, beginning in 1995, a study to develop measurement of quality of childcare from a parent's point of view. Under a grant from the U.S. Child Care Bureau for wave one of the Oregon Child Care Research Partnership, Emlen was principal investigator. Reports and papers from these studies are listed, by decade, in the RRI website under Publications and are being made available at the Research Partnership website. Among those are Emlen, Koren, and Schultze, A Packet of Scales for Measuring Quality of Child Care From a Parent's Point of View, with Summary of Method and Findings (November 2000). See also the Final Report (1999) and Appendix to Final Report, which includes the original 1996 parent questionnaire, a revised 1997 Questionnaire used in Kansas City, and a past-tense questionnaire for parents who had lodged complaints about their chld care to a referral agaency. Emlen also presented and discussed the findings in Bethesda, Maryland at NIH at a 1998 conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HICHD, and Child Care Trends, Inc. The background paper: "From a Parents' Point of View: Flexibility, Income and Quality of Child Care,"

Announcing publication of measures of child-care quality.

Halle, T. & Vick, J.E. (2007). Quality in Early Childhood Care and Education Settings: A Compendium of Measures. Prepared by Child Trends for the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also, see "Quality Measures Compendium: An Overview (PDF). To provide a consistent framework with which to review existing measures, the compendium gives background information on the authors and sources, purpose, population developed with, intended age range and setting, key constructs, and administration, plus a careful discussion of reliability and validity. The review is followed by an appendix with each of the 35 sets of measures included in the compendium.

The new national compendium includes the scales developed by Emlen and his colleagues to measure child-care quality from a parent’s point of view—and in a parent’s voice. The original sources can be found on our site, but the following two documents from the compendium offer what they call “the Emlen scales” in a condensed presentation (PDF), plus a 7-page review (PDF).

A very brief summary of conclusions from this work and other research can be found under Emlen's Point of View.

Drawing on findings, conclusions, and historical reflections from a lifetime of research, Emlen is preparing a book on parent choice, public attitudes, and childcare policy. It will be listed here when the author and a publisher are ready.

New! The online magazine, Mothers Movement Online, in its April/May 2008 issue called Update:The Mothers Movement in the United States, has published an article by Arthur Emlen entitled, "Solving the Flexibility Puzzle." Emlen tells about the remarkable decision-making ability of working parents—research evidence that has powerful implications for national policy affecting families. This essay, which is about the nature of flexibility and the dynamics of choice, provides a satisfying answer to the persistent disparagement of parental judgment that has followed working mothers like a black cloud.

Even Newer!  Drawing on findings, conclusions, and historical reflections from a lifetime of research, Emlen has published a book on parental choice, professional attitudes, and public policy. See New Book!

For more detail,  see Emlen's Curriculum Vitae, with Commentary.