The impact of childcare-group situational age composition on caregiver-child interactions
The present study investigated the role of situational age composition in the quality of caregiving. We specifically examined the impact of age range, the number of children present younger than 18 months, and median age, on the caregiver-child interaction quality under unique conditions of flexible and age-heterogeneous childcare. Caregiver-child interactions in nine childcare groups were observed over four mornings (Nobservation cycles = 144). The results from multilevel structural equation modelling showed that wide age range and a higher number of very young children present were related to lower quality of observed behavioural, emotional and learning support. Most importantly, the findings suggest that the effects of age range can be explained by the number of children less than 18 months old. Implications for further research and mixed-age programmes’ practice and policy are discussed.