The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children Annual statistical report 2013

3 Care for children in school holidays

Jennifer Baxter, Australian Institute of Family Studies

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3.1 Introduction

For working parents, balancing the demands of work and family can be a challenge at any time of the year. However, for parents of school-aged children, during the school holidays there is the added challenge of finding ways for their children to be cared for, especially while children are not considered old enough to be without adult supervision. Some parents will take leave from work at these times, although most parents will have insufficient paid recreation leave to cover all school holidays. Parents who work in casual jobs, are self-employed, or have more flexible working conditions may be able to structure their employment to allow them to look after children in school holidays. However, such options will not be available to all families, and so some make use of different forms of care for children in school holidays. This research is designed to analyse the different school holiday care arrangements used for primary-school-aged children, especially as it relates to families with employed parents.

Australian research on school holiday care is limited, with the main exceptions being an analysis of 2001 data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) study by Qu (2003) and a more recent analysis of data from the 2010 HILDA survey by Kecmanovic and Wilkins (2013). These analyses were focused on the different forms of care used for school-aged children in school holidays while parents worked, which is asked directly from parents in HILDA. Qu estimated the percentage of school children aged up to 15 years in each of the forms of work-related school holiday care. Kecmanovic and Wilkins estimated the percentage of households with children up to 12 years who used each of the forms of care, of those who used some form of work-related care. While findings from these studies are not directly comparable to the analyses from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) presented here, they nevertheless provide some useful insights.

Qu (2003) found that 12% of school-aged children up to 15 years attended formal school holiday programs while their parent(s) worked. Children in lone-parent families were twice as likely to use such programs when their parent worked than were children in two-parent families (19% vs 10% respectively attended a formal program). Qu's analyses indicated that small numbers of children used family day care for school-aged children in school holidays (4% were cared for in school holidays by family day care, another sitter or a nanny). Kecmanovic and Wilkins (2013), reported that 25% of families who used some work-related care for school-aged children had used formal programs, which included 21% of households with school-aged children who attended vacation care programs and 3% using family day care in school holidays. Given the different methodologies used for these two sets of analyses, they cannot be used to assess trends. However, the increased availability of formal services for the care of school-aged children more generally (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR], 2013) may mean in more recent years that a higher percentage of school-aged children is using school holiday care.

Formal care options are sometimes referred to as "school holiday programs" or "vacation programs". Like outside-school-hours care, these formal programs may be operated by for-profit or not-for-profit providers, and may be situated on the grounds of a school or elsewhere. For example, some school holiday programs run out of art galleries, museums, zoos and sporting facilities. To be eligible for government funding, regulated programs such as these must follow certain guidelines and meet quality standards. See the DEEWR (2011) publication My Time, Our Place for more information about care for school-aged children and the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care.

Another option is that of having children cared for by "informal" carers. In Australian research, this category of child care usually includes care provided by grandparents, a parent who lives elsewhere, an older sibling or another family member, friend or neighbour. Qu (2003) reported that, relatives provided care for one in four school-aged children up to 15 years with parent(s) working in school holidays. Whether that relative was a grandparent, a parent residing in a different household to the "primary parent", or someone else, was not specified, although this was reported on separately from sibling care. Children of lone mothers were more often cared for by a relative (37%) than were children in two-parent families (23%). Across all the families, around one in ten school-aged children were cared for by a sibling and 8% were cared for by a friend or neighbour.

Kecmanovic and Wilkins (2013) reported that for households using work-related care of school children in the school holidays, the most common forms of informal care were provided by a grandparent who lives elsewhere (35% of the households) and another relative who lives elsewhere (17%).

Given the far greater emphasis of sharing of parental care post-separation in recent years, it is timely to consider to what extent it remains appropriate to include "non-resident" parent care as a type of informal care. Other analyses of child care using LSAC (e.g., Harrison, 2011) do not include care provided by a parent who lives elsewhere as informal care, given that this is another form of parental care. In this chapter, as in Qu's (2003) analyses, estimates have been derived with non-resident parent care being included as informal care, consistent with the standard classification used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS; e.g., see ABS, 2011). Unlike Qu, these estimates are then compared to estimates derived without the inclusion of care by a non-resident parent in order to highlight how estimates are affected by the inclusion of non-resident parent care. In further analyses of these data, non-resident parent care is examined along with care by resident mothers and fathers in school holidays.

It may also be the case that some children are at home unsupervised during the school holidays. Qu (2003) estimated that 17% of children aged up to 15 years old cared for themselves while parents worked in school holidays. Kecmanovic and Wilkins (2013) estimated that in 10% of households who used work-related care for up to 12-year-old school-aged children, the children had cared for themselves. In the LSAC data, we find that almost no parents reported that their children were caring for themselves in the school holidays (or indeed, at other times), and so this has not been included as a form of care in this study. These different results may be related to the different way in which information on children's self-care was sought in LSAC compared to HILDA.1

LSAC offers the opportunity to update and extend the existing Australian research on school holiday care, with a focus on children aged 6-7 years through to 10-11 years. The different types of care used in school holidays are explored in detail, across the ages of children. Age differences are expected, as children's own preferences for different care types may change as they grow. Some care options may also be less accessible at particular ages, or be seen to be less appropriate for children at different ages.

This chapter also includes some analyses of how school holiday care arrangements vary across different families, especially concentrating on how parental employment is associated with different arrangements. To decide on which characteristics to explore here, we refer to analyses of child care participation more broadly, given that Australian research on child care - especially school holiday care - for school-aged children is very limited. The broader child care research shows that children most likely to be in some form of child care are those with working mothers, with children more likely to be in formal care when mothers work longer hours (Baxter, Gray, Alexander, Strazdins, & Bittman, 2007; Brandon & Hofferth, 2003; Connelly & Kimmel, 2003; Harrison et al., 2010). Previous research on child care use for younger children suggests that other job characteristics are likely to explain some of the variation in who attends formal or informal child care (Baxter et al., 2007; Laughlin, 2010; VandenHeuvel, 1996) and so this may also be reflected in care arrangements in school holidays. Given that mothers spend more time than fathers on child care, even when both parents are working (Baxter & Smart, 2010; Craig, 2006), mothers' job characteristics are expected to be more strongly associated with child care decisions than are those of fathers. However, we have also included analyses of fathers' job characteristics in this chapter so that we can explore these relationships fully.

Other family and local area characteristics are also likely to matter. This is evident in other Australian analyses of outside-school-hours care (Cassells & Miranti, 2012; Hand & Baxter, 2013). In particular, the percentages of children using care in those analyses were higher in urban versus rural areas of Australia, and in lone-mother families compared to two-parent families.

To summarise, the key research questions that are explored in this chapter are:

  • What forms of care are used by children in school holidays? To what extent are different formal and informal care arrangements used, and how do these arrangements vary by age of child?
  • To what extent do different types of formal and informal care arrangements vary for lone- and two-parent families, with and without a parent who is not employed?
  • In lone-mother families, how does the proportion of children in informal care change if non-resident father care is not treated as informal care? Is this the most appropriate classification of this type of care?
  • How do formal and informal school holiday arrangements vary for children by their parents' employment arrangements and other family characteristics?
  • To what extent do mothers, co-resident fathers and, when parents live apart, non-resident fathers, look after children in school holidays, and how do these arrangements vary according to parental employment characteristics?2

This work complements other research, using LSAC, on the outside-school-hours care arrangements of school-aged children (Hand & Baxter, 2013).

3.2 Data and method

This chapter uses data from the B cohort at Wave 4 of LSAC (4,161 children aged 6-7 years), and from the K cohort at Waves 3 and 4 (4,244 children aged 8-9 years and 4,021 aged 10-11 years respectively).3 Child care arrangements are only collected for the LSAC study child, not siblings of the child. Earlier waves of LSAC were not used, as school holiday care questions were only introduced in Wave 3.

In the interview, Parent 1 of the child (the mother in 97% of families) was asked to report on the study child's child care arrangements, with lists of possible providers of care shown in prompt cards. Usual use of child care before and after school, and at other times, was asked about first. Then, respondents were asked about care used in school holidays, with the question: "In the last 12 months, who has provided care for [child] during the school holidays? (This is about all holidays during the year, i.e., term breaks and the summer holidays.)".

The types of school holiday care have been classified here as formal care or informal care, as shown in Table 3.1, and in accordance with standard classifications of child care types into these broad categories (e.g., ABS, 2011). In this chapter, detailed child care types have been analysed as well as the overall groups of formal and informal care.

Analyses are also undertaken on the different forms of parental care of children in school holidays. When Parent 1 was asked about the care arrangements of the child, the first two options were: "I do" and "my spouse or partner who lives with me".4 Information on whether the mother was Parent 1 or Parent 2 was used to reclassify this information as care provided by mothers and co-resident fathers.

Note the inclusion of care by a non-resident father in the category of informal care, as is the standard approach. In this context, "non-resident fathers" refers to the study child's father who does not live with the mother. This form of care is, of course, very different in nature to that provided by other informal carers. We have therefore presented some analyses to demonstrate how the informal child care data would look if care by the non-resident parent was not considered to be a form of informal care. We have also undertaken separate analyses of non-resident father care as a form of parental care.5

Children's school holiday arrangements are related to some parental and family characteristics, which are described as they are introduced in this chapter. These employment and family characteristics are as reported at the time of the survey (the Wave 3 survey for 8-9 year olds and the Wave 4 survey for data for 6-7 year olds and 10-11 year olds). This is somewhat inconsistent with the school holiday care information, which refers to arrangements used in the past 12 months. For this reason, we see some apparent inconsistencies in the data. For example, a small percentage of lone mothers reported that a co-resident spouse or partner provided care in the school holidays. This may reflect that these parents, while indicating at the time of data collection that they do not have a co-resident partner, have had one at some time in the past year.

3.3 Different types of school holiday care by age of child

To address the first of the research questions, Table 3.1 shows the percentage of children reported to be in each of the different forms of care in school holidays, by age.

Table 3.1: Children in each type of school holiday care in the last 12 months, by age of child
Type of school holiday care 6-7 years (%) 8-9 years (%) 10-11 years (%) All (%)
Parental care 93.8 91.8 93.0 92.8
Mother 92.0 89.4 90.6 90.6
Co-resident father 41.5 39.8 42.1 41.1
Some formal and/or informal care 46.1 48.0 47.7 47.3
Formal care 16.0 14.5 10.1 13.6
Holiday care program at child's school 6.9 6.1 4.2 5.8
Holiday care program at another location 6.9 7.5 5.3 6.6
Child care centre not at a school 1.4 0.7 0.5 0.9
Family day care 1.6 1.1 0.5 1.0
Informal care 38.2 41.1 43.8 41.0
Grandparent 29.3 28.9 28.5 28.9
Maternal grandparent 23.6 22.7 22.1 22.8
Paternal grandparent 12.9 12.7 12.6 12.8
Non-resident father a 5.2 6.7 8.5 6.8
Child's sister, brother or other relative aged 18 years and over 4.9 7.4 7.1 6.5
Friend, neighbour, nanny, babysitter or other person aged 18 years and over b 7.6 5.9 9.5 7.6
Other person under 18 years (including siblings) c 2.2 4.3 6.0 4.1
Other 0.3 0.7 0.4 0.4
No. of observations 4,161 4,244 4,021 12,426

Notes: a A non-resident father is the child's father who is not living with the mother. b There was slightly different wording in Wave 3 (for 8-9 year olds). The category at that wave was: "Other home-based care by person 18 years and over (e.g., nanny, babysitter, friend, neighbour)". c In Wave 4. this was collected separately for relatives and others aged under 18 years. Children can be in more than one form of care. All percentages are calculated over all children.

Source: LSAC Waves 3 (K cohort) and 4 (B and K cohorts)

Before discussing the formal and informal care arrangements, it is important to note the considerable use of parental care for children in school holidays. The majority of children (about 90%) were cared for at some time in the school holidays by their parents, most often by their mother. Four in ten children were cared for by their co-resident father in the school holidays. There was no apparent trend in these figures by age of child. Children who did not have a co-resident father at the time of the study were included in these calculations (only in the denominator) because the intention is to give an overview across all children of the proportions having different care arrangements. In section 3.8, care by a co-resident father is explored more fully for just those children with a co-resident father.

Just under half of all children aged 6-11 years had been in some formal or informal care or both in school holidays. Again, this figure did not vary much across the ages of children.

About one in eight children (14%) were in a formal program in school holidays. This percentage declined among children of older ages: 16% of 6-7 year olds; 15% of 8-9 year olds; and 10% of 10-11 year olds attended a formal program.

The most common of the formal care arrangements were holiday care programs, either at the child's school or elsewhere. The percentage of children in each of the forms of formal care declined as they grew older, except for school holiday programs away from the school, which were most often used by children aged 8-9 years.

Informal care was more likely than formal care to be used for school holidays, with just over four in ten children (41%) having used some informal care. Unlike formal care, this percentage increased with the age of the children, from 38% for 6-7 year olds, to 41% for 8-9 year olds and 44% for 10-11 year olds.

Of the various informal care arrangements, the most common was care provided by a grandparent, more often the maternal rather than the paternal grandparent. There was very little change in the percentage using grandparent care as children grew older.

When parents of the child lived apart, the child's care arrangements may have been reported to include child care provided by the non-resident father (that is, the father who lived apart from the mother). Such care may have included ongoing care arrangements, or may have been special arrangements for school holidays. This child care is counted here as a form of informal care. Overall, 7% of all children were cared for by a non-resident father in school holidays. This percentage increased with age, from 5% of 6-7 year olds to 9% of 10-11 year olds. These data include all children, not just those with a non-resident father, so that the prevalence of care by non-resident fathers can be seen in the context of other forms of care. If calculated for just those children with a non-resident father, the overall figure was 32%, with percentages for each age group of 27%, 32% and 36% respectively.

A range of other informal arrangements are shown in Table 3.1, including care provided by other relatives, friends or neighbours. Only a very small proportion of children were cared for by someone aged under 18 years during the school holidays (4% of children across these ages).

3.4 Differences in school holiday care by employment status and family type

This section focuses on the second research question, to explore how school holiday care arrangements vary according to parental work status and family type. While children may attend school holiday care even when they have a parent who is not working, it is likely that a higher proportion of children with working parents, than without, will use school holiday care arrangements. For these analyses, parents who were employed but on leave or away from work were counted as not working, since these parents were available to provide care to their children. This is why we refer to "working" parents rather than "employed" parents throughout this chapter. The classification of employed parents as being on leave ensures consistency between these analyses and the analyses of child care using LSAC by Hand and Baxter (2013).6

This research includes lone-mother families as well as two-parent families. Of these family types, children of working lone mothers might be the most likely to be in school holiday care, since these mothers are not able to share their school holiday child care needs with a resident spouse or partner. As discussed previously, lone mothers (and also some re-partnered parents) may report that their child is cared for by a non-resident father in the school holidays, which is included here in the category of informal care, although this is explored in more detail later in this section.

Here, school holiday care arrangements are examined through information on both family structure and parental work status. Families are classified according to whether they were a lone-mother family (that is, families in which children only had a resident mother), or two-parent family (which includes step-families). Then, each is classified to identify those families that had at least one parent not working, and therefore available to provide care for children in school holidays. This results in a classification of "two-parent: at least one parent not working", "two-parent: both working", "lone mother: not working"; and "lone mother: working". The group "two-parent: both working" is sometimes referred to here as "dual-working".

For these analyses, the data for 6-7 year olds, 8-9 year olds, and 10-11 year olds are pooled, to focus only on parental employment differences. Table 3.2 shows that in all families, the majority of children were in some parental care in school holidays, although the percentage in parental care was markedly lower for working lone mothers when compared to other groups. Families with two working parents also reported somewhat lower levels of parental care in school holidays when compared to two-parent families with a parent who was not in paid work. However, dual-working families had a higher proportion of children cared for by a co-resident father in school holidays, when compared to two-parent families with one parent not working.

Table 3.2: Children in each type of school holiday care in the last 12 months, by family employment status
Type of school holiday care Two-parent: one parent not working (%) Lone mother: not working (%) Two-parent: both working (%) Lone mother: working (%) All (%)
Parental care 97.9 98.2 90.5 84.1 92.9
Mother 95.6 98.2 87.7 84.1 90.7
Co-resident father 45.2 0.0 51.7 0.1 41.2
Some formal and/or informal care 25.3 37.4 56.6 80.1 47.3
Formal care 6.7 7.4 16.4 26.5 13.6
Holiday care program at child's school 2.6 2.6 7.2 11.1 5.7
Holiday care program at another location 3.6 2.5 8.2 11.6 6.6
Child care centre not at a school 0.2 0.9 1.0 2.4 0.9
Family day care 0.6 1.6 1.0 2.4 1.0
Informal care 21.2 33.9 49.5 68.8 41.0
Grandparent 15.5 15.3 37.7 37.7 28.9
Maternal grandparent 11.1 12.9 29.7 33.2 22.8
Paternal grandparent 7.5 3.9 18.0 9.6 12.8
Non-resident father a 2.0 21.4 2.6 34.7 6.8
Child's sister, brother or other relative aged 18 years and over 3.2 3.5 8.0 11.4 6.5
Friend, neighbour, nanny, babysitter or other person aged 18 years and over b 3.7 2.1 10.4 10.3 7.6
Other person under 18 years (including siblings) c 1.9 2.0 5.6 5.0 4.1
Other 0.2 0.1 0.6 0.5 0.4
No. of observations 3,777 608 6,956 1,069 12,410

Notes: a A non-resident father is the child's father who is not living with the mother. b There was slightly different wording in Wave 3 (for 8-9 year olds). The category at that wave was "Other home-based care by person 18 years and over (e.g., nanny, babysitter, friend, neighbour)". c In Wave 4. this was collected separately for relatives and others aged under 18 years. Children can be in more than one form of care. All percentages are calculated over all children. Data refer to children aged 6-7 years through to 10-11 years.

Source: LSAC Waves 3 (K cohort) and 4 (B and K cohorts)

The children who were most likely to have formal or informal school holiday care arrangements were those with a working lone mother (80% used some formal or informal care). This compares to 57% for two-parent families with both parents in paid work, 37% of non-working lone mothers and 25% for two-parent families with one parent not working.

One in four children (27%) with working lone mothers had used formal school holiday care, which is considerably higher than the 16% for dual-working families. Around 7% of children in lone-mother and two-parent families with a parent not in paid work had been in formal school holiday care.

More than two in three children (69%) of working lone mothers and one in two children (50%) with dual-working parents had been in informal care in school holidays. For these two groups of families, the percentage of children in some grandparent care was similar (38%), although in two-parent families the percentage cared for by a paternal grandparent was higher than for lone-mother families.

There was a very large difference between working lone mothers and dual-working families relating to the percentage of children cared for by a parent living elsewhere. Of children with working lone mothers, the non-resident father had cared for one in three children (35%) in school holidays.

Even among children with a not-working lone mother, just over one in three had been in some informal care in school holidays. The most commonly reported provider of informal care in these families was the non-resident father (21%), followed by grandparents (15%).

One in five children (21%) in two-parent families with one parent not working had used informal school holiday care, with grandparent care being the most likely source (16% of children).

In Table 3.2 the children aged 6-7 years, 8-9 years and 10-11 years were combined to focus on parental employment differences. Figure 3.1 aggregates the formal and informal care information by age of child and family employment status, and shows that there is almost no difference by child's age for families in which there was one parent not working. In these families, the percentage of children in formal school holiday care declined slightly as they get older. For dual-working families or working lone-mother families, the decline across ages of children in the use of formal school holiday care is more apparent. In families with a working lone mother, the percentage in informal care increased with the age of the child.

Figure 3.1: Formal and informal school holiday care in the previous 12 months, by age of child and family work status

Formal and informal school holiday care in the previous 12 months, by age of child and family work status

Source: LSAC Waves 3 (K cohort) and 4 (B and K cohorts)

3.5 Informal care and non-resident fathers

The third research question addressed in this chapter relates to the inclusion of care by a non-resident father as a form of informal care. We address this here, before examining the formal and informal school holiday care information by parental employment and family characteristics in more detail in later sections. Care by a non-resident father is, of course, markedly different to other forms of informal care, and is therefore not always classified as informal care. Inclusion of non-resident fathers in informal care has been the standard approach in large-scale collections of child care data by the ABS, however, and so here we explore the implications of this for the measurement of school holiday care. In particular, we are concerned that the inclusion of non-resident father care as a type of informal care might inflate the estimates for lone-mother families and make them less comparable to those calculated for two-parent families. This is illustrated here by calculating the proportion of children who are in some informal care other than non-resident father care.

If estimates are derived from the pooled data for 6-7, 8-9 and 10-11 year olds, we find that for two-parent families, the estimated percentage in informal care does not vary according to whether or not non-resident-father care is included as informal care. This is not surprising, as it would only make a difference in the small number of two-parent families in which the child has a father living elsewhere (fewer than 6% of two-parent families). However, the estimates are markedly different for lone-mother families. For families with a not-working lone mother, 34% of children are in informal care when non-resident father care is included, but this reduces to 19% when non-resident father care is not included. This percentage in informal school holiday care is comparable to the 20% of two-parent families with a not-working parent For lone-mother families in which the mother is working, the percentage declines from 69% in informal school holiday care when non-resident father care is included, to 52% when it is not included. This latter figure is then not much higher than the percentage in informal school holiday care for children in dual-working families (48%).

We noted previously (in Figure 3.1) an increase in the use of informal school holiday care, by age of children, for children in families of working lone mothers. Given the inclusion of non-resident father care, it is possible that this reflects some trend in children being more likely to be in non-resident father school holiday care as they grow older. Figure 3.2 shows that this increase in the percentage of children in informal school holiday care is apparent also in the percentage that is derived when non-resident father care is not included, and so is not fully explained by any trends in non-resident father school holiday care.

Figure 3.2: Informal school holiday care in the previous 12 months for children in lone-mother families, with and without the inclusion of non-resident father care, by age and family work status

Informal school holiday care in the previous 12 months for children in lone-mother families, with and without the inclusion of non-resident father care, by age and family work status

Source: LSAC Waves 3 (K cohort) and 4 (B and K cohorts)

It is often reported that lone mothers are more likely than two-parent families to have children in child care, and this was apparent here for the percentage of children in formal school holiday care. This difference is likely to relate to there being a greater need for these formal services in lone-mother families, who have less flexibility than two-parent families in being able to share the care of children in school holidays between two resident parents.

The extent to which differences in informal care use (e.g., as reported by Qu, 2003) reflect children in lone-mother families being in the care of a non-resident father in school holidays or at other times should be considered in the future for analyses of child care, especially informal child care. This is especially so given the increased emphasis on shared care of children in separated families, which may mean an increased proportion of children being reported as being cared for by a non-resident parent. As noted previously, whether or not this type of care should indeed be classified as child care, as opposed to a different form of parental care is worth considering in analyses of informal child care use. To what extent parents report non-resident parents - even those with shared care arrangements - to be providers of child care in this context, however, remains an open question.

3.6 Formal and informal school holiday care and parental employment

In this section, we turn to the fourth research question, to examine children's school holiday arrangements according to various parental employment characteristics. For these analyses, we examine formal care and informal care in school holidays, rather than specific types of care. Given the issues discussed above, the total informal care is shown (including care provided by a parent living elsewhere), as well as informal care not counting a parent living elsewhere.

First, for an overview, children's school holiday arrangements are presented in Figure 3.3 by mothers' and (co-resident) fathers' working hours, using the pooled data for children aged 6-7 years, 8-9 years and 10-11 years. In these analyses, usual work hours are presented in categories, with mothers classified as: not working (36% of mothers), working 1-14 hours per week (11%), 15-24 hours (19%), 25-34 hours (13%) or 35 hours or more (20%). The categories of hours used for fathers differ to those used for mothers, given that fathers usually work full-time, including significant numbers who work long full-time hours. Therefore the categories used for fathers are: not working or working less than 35 hours per week (17% of fathers), usually working 35-44 hours per week (37%), 45-54 hours per week (24%) and 55 hours or more per week (21%).

Figure 3.3: Formal and informal school holiday care in the previous 12 months, by parents' usual weekly work hours, children aged 6-11 years

Formal and informal school holiday care in the previous 12 months, by parents’ usual weekly work hours, children aged 6–11 years

Source: LSAC Waves 3 (K cohort) and 4 (B and K cohorts)

The proportion of children in some formal school holiday care and in informal school holiday care increased significantly with higher maternal work hours, although there was no difference in the percentage in school holiday care for children of mothers who worked 25-34 hours or 35 hours or more. The clearest finding by fathers' working hours was that children were least likely to be in some school holiday care (notably for informal care) when fathers were either not working or worked fewer than 35 hours per week. However, for increasing hours worked by full-time employed fathers, children were less likely to be in school holiday care.

3.7 Parental work hours and formal/informal school holiday care

The findings above - that children's school holiday care use increased with mothers' work hours but decreased with fathers' longer work hours - need to be explored together, as the finding for fathers in particular may be explained by other factors that changed with fathers' increasing work hours. For example, families with fathers who work 55 hours or more may have included a greater proportion of mothers who were not working. (In fact, they had a slightly higher proportion either not working, or working 1-14 hours per week, when compared to families with fathers who worked 45-54 hours.) Further, characteristics of employment other than work hours may have made a difference to whether or not children used school holiday care. If jobs were less formal, for example, parents may have been able to work from home or to shift their working time around their child care responsibilities in school holidays.

Our interest is in understanding which children use any formal and/or informal school holiday care, and also in which types of school holiday care children in families with different characteristics use; that is, whether formal or informal school holiday care is used. We are also interested in exploring whether different findings emerge if the classification of informal care is altered to exclude care by non-resident fathers.

These analyses extend the descriptive analyses above, to explore differences in children's use of school holiday care according to mothers' job characteristics, co-resident fathers' job characteristics (in two-parent families), age of child and a set of other employment and family characteristics that were expected to be related to different patterns of school holiday care.

The additional employment characteristics examined were job contract and work schedule. The classification of job contract identified parents as being self-employed (21% of working mothers; 31% of working fathers), permanent employees (62% of working mothers; 64% of working fathers), or casual employees (17% of working mothers; 3% of working fathers). Work schedule classified parents as working a regular daytime schedule (79% of working mothers; 78% of working fathers), a regular evening or night schedule (5% of working mothers; 6% of working fathers), or an irregular or other schedule (16% of working mothers; 13% of working fathers).7

Other family characteristics included were whether the mother was a lone or couple parent (15% lone), whether children had younger siblings (49% of children), or older siblings (58% of children); whether families had, in addition to parents, other adults living in the household (5% of families); and whether families lived in metropolitan areas (62% of families). Children aged 6-7, 8-9 and 10-11 years were included in these analyses, and differences in school holiday care arrangements by age of child were examined. The analyses only included families with a working mother.

The results described below are those that remained statistically significant when associations between the other characteristics and school holiday care were also taken into account.8 Below, findings related to mothers' job characteristics are described first, then fathers' job characteristics, and then other child and family characteristics.

The first characteristic examined is mothers' work hours. Children were significantly more likely to be in school holiday care when their mother worked longer hours, although there were no differences for those whose mothers work longer part-time hours (25-34 hours) compared to those who worked full-time hours (35 or more hours per week). This association between maternal work hours and school holiday care was apparent overall, as well as separately for formal care and informal care (with or without non-resident parent care being counted as informal care). This is consistent with Figure 3.3.

There were significant differences in the use of school holiday care according to mothers' job contract, after controlling for the other characteristics described above. The children least likely to have used school holiday care were those with self-employed mothers, as shown in Table 3.3. Children of mothers who were permanent employees were more likely than others, including those with mothers in casual employment, to have used school holiday care. These differences were statistically significant overall and also when considering which children were in either formal or informal care - whether or not non-resident parent care was counted as informal care. Overall, it seems that self-employment of mothers allows families to juggle work and care in school holidays such that the need for non-parental care can be reduced.

Table 3.3: Mothers' job contract and formal and informal school holiday care in the previous 12 months, children aged 6-11 years with working mother
Mothers' job contract Any formal or informal care (%) Any formal care (%) Any informal care (%) Any informal care (excl. non-resident parent) (%)
Permanent employee (ref.) 67.0 9.2 55.4 51.7
Casual employee 58.4 *** 6.5 * 46.7 *** 42.7 ***
Self-employed 47.1 *** 5.1 *** 36.7 *** 32.5 ***

Note: These are predicted percentages, calculated from logistic regression models in which other characteristics were set to the sample mean. Tests of statistical significance are based on multivariate results in which the coefficients were compared to the reference category (ref.). Additional testing compared casual employee mothers to self-employed mothers: there were statistically significant differences (p < .001) for all analyses except for formal care. *** p < .001, ** p < .01, * p < .05.

Mothers' work schedules were also associated with the likelihood of children using school holiday care. Children were most likely to have used school holiday care when mothers worked regular daytime schedules. This is apparent across the different forms of school holiday care, as shown in Table 3.4.

Table 3.4: Mothers' work schedule and formal and informal school holiday care in the previous 12 months, children aged 6-11 years with working mother
Work schedule Any formal or informal care (%) Any formal care (%) Any informal care (%) Any informal care (excl. non-resident parent) (%)
Regular daytime schedule (ref.) 63.3 9.8 51.5 47.7
Regular evening or night work 49.0 *** 2.3 *** 43.4 * 38.9 *
Irregular or other arrangements 55.2 *** 4.8 *** 46.3 * 42.4 *

Note: These are predicted percentages, calculated from logistic regression models in which other characteristics were set to the sample mean. Tests of statistical significance are based on multivariate results in which the coefficients were compared to the reference category (ref.). Additional testing compared mothers with regular evening or night work to those with irregular or other arrangements: differences were not statistically significant for any analyses, except for formal care (p < .05). *** p < .001, ** p <. 01, * p < .05.

Non-parental care use in school holidays is also less likely when mothers work regular evening or night work, or if they have irregular hours or other arrangements. With regard to formal care for children with mothers who work outside of standard daytime hours, this may reflect that formal school holiday care options are usually only offered for daytime hours.9 Also, working non-standard hours might allow mothers to care for children during the daytime in school holidays. We return to this in the next section, when exploring parental care of children in school holidays.

Fathers' work characteristics were examined for two-parent families only. Paternal work characteristics had far weaker associations with children's patterns of school holiday care, compared to maternal work characteristics. Some of the findings that emerged were that children were somewhat less likely to have been in some school holiday care when fathers were not working full-time (that is, if they were either not working or working part-time hours). This is likely to reflect these fathers' availability to provide some of this school holiday care. However, this finding was not apparent in explaining which children were in formal school holiday care. Consistent with the trend shown in Figure 3.3, a smaller proportion of children used school holiday care when fathers worked 55 hours or more, although this was not apparent in explaining participation in formal programs. These results indicate that the trend observed in Figure 3.3 cannot be explained by mothers' employment characteristics, or other characteristics included in these analyses. We return to consider this further when looking at parental care of children, in the next section.

Comparisons of children's school holiday care use according to fathers' job contracts revealed that children were less likely to have been in some school holiday care when fathers were self-employed, rather than in permanent employment (Table 3.5). This was apparent for all of the measures of school holiday care, being statistically significant after taking account of the range of other characteristics, including mothers' job characteristics and fathers' working hours. As was found for mothers, presumably this means that the flexibility of self-employment allows children's school holiday care to be more easily managed with parental care alone.

Table 3.5: Fathers' job contract and formal and informal school holiday care in the previous 12 months, children aged 6-11 years with working mother
Fathers' job contract Any formal or informal care (%) Any formal care (%) Any informal care (%) Any informal care (excl. non-resident parent) (%)
Permanent employee (ref.) 63.9 8.9 52.4 48.8
Casual employee 57.2 4.8 58.3 54.0
Self-employed 47.1 *** 6.8 * 46.5 * 42.4 *

Note: These are predicted percentages, calculated from logistic regression models in which other characteristics were set to the sample mean. Tests of statistical significance are based on multivariate results in which the coefficients were compared to the reference category (ref.). Additional testing compared casual employees to self-employed fathers: differences were not statistically significant in any of the analyses. *** p < .001, ** p < .01, * p < .05.

Statistically significant differences were not apparent when comparing fathers in casual employment to those in permanent employment.

Within two-parent families, after taking account of fathers' work hours and job contract, children's use of school holiday care did not vary according to co-resident fathers' work schedules (that is, whether they worked a regular day-time shift, regular evening/night shift, or irregular/other hours).

Consistent with earlier analyses, children in lone-mother families were more likely than other children to have been in some formal or informal care in school holidays. These differences disappeared with regard to informal school holiday care, however, once non-resident fathers' care was removed from the informal category, consistent with the findings described in section 3.5.

Before moving to the final section, it is worth noting some of the findings for the family and child characteristics that were included in these analyses. The older the child, the less likely they were to have been in some school holiday care, which reflects the association between age of child and formal school holiday care (as was apparent in Table 3.1). When children had younger siblings, they were slightly less likely to have been in informal school holiday care (and in school holiday care overall). The finding was much stronger with regard to children having older siblings. Those with older siblings were less likely to have been in any school holiday care, and less likely to have been in either formal or informal care. In families with adults other than parents living in the household, children were less likely to have been in formal care. Also, if non-resident parent care was taken out of the informal care classification, these children were still more likely to have been in informal care. Finally, there was clear evidence that children living in metropolitan areas were more likely to have used formal school holiday programs than those living elsewhere.

3.8 Parental school holiday care and parental employment

While the above sections have focused on which children attend formal and informal school holiday arrangements, many parents will themselves take care of children during the school holidays. This section looks at this, to answer the fifth research question, to see to what extent parents' employment characteristics were related to their reports of each parent providing care. We also include here analyses of the care provided by a non-resident father.

As reported in Table 3.1, more than 9 in 10 mothers provided some care to children in school holidays. Table 3.2 showed this was more likely when mothers were not working and, among families with working mothers, somewhat less likely in lone-mother families. As in previous analyses, mothers on leave from employment were classified as not working.

Figure 3.4 shows that there were no discernible trends in the likelihood of mothers caring for children in the school holidays according to the age of children. The likelihood of co-resident fathers providing school holiday care is shown in the graph on the left, which focuses on two-parent families. At all ages of children, fathers were less likely to provide school holiday care than mothers, and again there was no clear trend by age of child. The graph on the right focuses on lone-mother families, and shows the percentage of children who were cared for by a non-resident father in the school holidays. These percentages were higher, for all ages of children, when lone mothers were in work, rather than not working. There is some indication of there being a higher likelihood of receiving care by a non-resident father in the school holidays as children grow older, although the trend is not consistent.

Figure 3.4: Parental school holiday care in the previous 12 months by family employment and family type, and age of child

Parental school holiday care in the previous 12 months by family employment and relationship status, and age of child

Source: LSAC Wave 3 (K cohort) and Wave 4 (B and K cohorts)

Looking at parental provision of school holiday care by mothers' and co-resident fathers' work hours, Figure 3.5 shows that the likelihood that the child was cared for by their lone or couple mother in the school holidays diminished as her work hours increased, although there was no discernible difference if comparing non-working mothers to those working 1-14 hours per week.

Figure 3.5: Parental school holiday care in the previous 12 months, by parents' work hours, children aged 6-11 years

Parental school holiday care in the previous 12 months, by parents’ work hours, children aged 6–11 years

Source: LSAC Waves 3 (K cohort) and Wave 4 (B and K cohorts)

In two-parent families, co-resident fathers were more likely to have provided some school holiday care as maternal work hours increased. This increased from 41% of fathers providing school holiday care when mothers were not working, up to 60% of fathers when mothers worked 35 hours or more.

In lone-mother families, the percentage of children who were cared for by a non-resident father varied little by mothers' work hours if she worked 15 hours or more per week (35-37% of children), with lower percentages evident when mothers worked 1-14 hours per week (26%) or were not working (21%).

Looking at co-resident fathers' work hours and parental school holiday care, the clearest association is that as their work hours increased, they were less likely to provide some school holiday care. When co-resident fathers were not working or worked fewer than 35 hours per week, 69% of children were cared for by them during the school holidays. For fathers working 35-44 hours, 49% provided school holiday care. This dropped to 44% for fathers working 45-54 hours and 39% for fathers working 55 hours or more.

There was a slight increase in the percentage of mothers providing school holiday care as co-resident fathers' work hours increased from 35-44 hours (89%) through to 55 hours or more (93%).

To examine which children were more or less likely to have been cared for in school holidays by their mother, co-resident father or non-resident father, more detailed analyses were undertaken to simultaneously consider characteristics of mothers' and fathers' jobs, as well as child and family characteristics. Those characteristics examined are the same as those described in section 3.6.

As in section 3.6, these analyses were only undertaken on families in which the mother was working. To analyse which children were cared for by their co-resident father, only those children with a co-resident father were included. To analyse which children are cared for by their non-resident father, only those children with a non-resident father were included.

For these analyses, however, none of the maternal job characteristics were statistically significant in explaining which children were or were not cared for by their non-resident father. In fact, of all the characteristics included in these analyses, the only one that significantly predicted non-resident fathers providing school holiday care was the presence of other adult(s), such as grandparents or aunts or uncles in the household. When children lived in a family in which adults such as these were present, those children were less often cared for by their non-resident father. Note that these analyses do not include characteristics of the non-resident father, and no doubt this information, and information on the nature of the relationship between the mother and non-resident father, would be important to examine in exploring this relationship further.

For the remaining discussion of results, given the lack of statistically significant findings for the employment variables for non-resident fathers' provision of school holiday care, we focus only on the findings for provision of school holiday care by mothers and co-resident fathers. Findings for mothers' job characteristics are described first. The findings discussed, then, refer to associations that are apparent when other characteristics of families are taken into account.10

All lone and couple mothers were included in the analyses of which mothers provided school holiday care, but there were no statistically significant differences between these families in the likelihood of mothers providing school holiday care.

The associations between mothers' work hours and parental care in the school holidays are consistent with those shown in Figure 3.5. Mothers working longer hours were less likely to provide school holiday care themselves. Also, where mothers worked long hours, co-resident fathers were more likely to provide school holiday care.

Mothers were more likely to provide school holiday care themselves when they were self-employed, rather than working in a permanent job (Table 3.6). Fathers, however, were less likely to provide school holiday care in these families, and also in families in which mothers were in casual employment. This suggests that self-employment by mothers allows them to structure their time flexibly in school holidays. The association with fathers' provision of school holiday care suggests that mothers are the predominant providers of child care when they are self-employed, even more so than in other families.

Table 3.6: Mothers' job contract and parental school holiday care in the previous 12 months, children aged 6-11 years with working mother
Mothers' job contract Mother provides care (%) Co-resident father provides care (%)
Permanent employee (ref.) 92.3 60.4
Self-employed 97.3 *** 50.1 ***
Casual employee 92.8 52.2 ***

Note: These are predicted percentages, calculated from logistic regression models in which other characteristics were set to the sample mean. Estimates for mothers include lone and couple mothers, while estimates for fathers are only for two-parent families. Tests of statistical significance are based on multivariate results in which the coefficients were compared to the reference category (ref.). Additional testing compared casual employees to self-employed mothers: differences were statistically significant (p < .001) for mothers' provision of school holiday care, but not statistically significant for fathers' provision of school holiday care. *** p < .001, ** p < .01, * p < .05.

Mothers' provision of school holiday care was related to her work schedule. In particular, if she worked regular evening or night schedules, rather than regular daytime schedules, she was most likely to provide school holiday care (Table 3.7). Also, mothers who worked irregular schedules (or other arrangements) were more likely than those with regular daytime jobs to provide school holiday care. Co-resident fathers' provision of school holiday care is also related to mothers' work schedule. Fathers were more likely to provide school holiday care when mothers worked regular evening or night work, rather than working regular daytime schedules. These results follow from the findings presented earlier in relation to mothers' work schedules and children's use of formal or informal school holiday care. School holiday care was less often used when mothers worked non-standard hours. These findings about parental care, then, suggest that this is related to mothers as well as fathers being more likely to provide care themselves in these families.

Table 3.7: Mothers' work schedule and parental school holiday care in the previous 12 months, children aged 6-11 years with working mother
Mothers' work schedule Mother provides care (%) Co-resident father provides care (%)
Regular daytime schedule (ref.) 92.7 55.6
Regular evening or night work 98.0 *** 65.3 **
Irregular or other arrangements 96.1 *** 60.2 *

Note: These are predicted percentages, calculated from logistic regression models in which other characteristics were set to the sample mean. Estimates for mothers include lone and couple mothers, while estimates for fathers are only for two-parent families. Tests of statistical significance are based on multivariate results in which the coefficients were compared to the reference category (ref.). Additional testing compared regular/evening workers to irregular/other workers: differences were statistically significant (p < .05) for mothers' provision of school holiday care, but not statistically significant for fathers' provision of school holiday care. *** p < .001, ** p < .01, * p < .05.

Turning now to fathers' job characteristics, fathers most likely to provide school holiday care were those who were not working or working fewer than 35 hours per week, consistent with Figure 3.5. We found previously that children were less likely to be in informal care in school holidays when fathers did not work full-time hours, and so this does seem to reflect that fathers are more likely to provide some of this school holiday care. Also consistent with Figure 3.5, the likelihood of fathers providing care, among those working full-time, was inversely related to the number of hours worked.

Fathers' work hours were also statistically associated with mothers' provision of school holiday care, and again this finding corresponds with Figure 3.5, with mothers being a little more likely to provide school holiday care if fathers worked 55 hours or more. This finding was apparent even after taking account of mothers' job characteristics, other characteristics of fathers' jobs, children and families, though as indicated in Figure 3.5, there was not a very large difference.

The likelihood of fathers or mothers providing school holiday care did not vary with fathers' job contract. Unlike for mothers, for fathers, being self-employed was not associated with being more likely to provide school holiday care, highlighting that self-employment for many mothers is likely to be a means of managing children's care arrangements, whereas for fathers this is not likely to be a key consideration in choosing to be self-employed.

As with mothers, fathers' work schedule was significantly related to parental provision of school holiday care. Fathers who worked regular daytime hours were the least likely to provide school holiday care when compared to those who either worked regular evening/night schedules or irregular/other schedules. As shown in Table 3.8, these differences are quite marked, when other characteristics are taken into account. Like mothers, working non-standard schedules may allow co-resident fathers to take on some of the school holiday care. These analyses also found that mothers cared for children in school holidays a little more often when fathers worked regular evening or night work, compared to working regular daytime schedules.

Table 3.8: Co-resident fathers' work schedule and parental school holiday care in the previous 12 months, children aged 6-11 years with working mothers
Co-resident fathers' work schedule Mother provides care (%) Co-resident father provides care (%)
Regular daytime schedule (ref.) 93.0 53.2
Regular evening or night work 95.8 * 79.7 ***
Irregular or other arrangements 94.3 71.1 ***

Note: These are predicted percentages, calculated from logistic regression models in which other characteristics were set to the sample mean. Includes two-parent families only. Tests of statistical significance are based on multivariate results in which the coefficients were compared to the reference category (ref.). Additional testing compared regular/evening worker fathers to irregular/other worker fathers: differences were not statistically significant for mothers' provision of school holiday care but were statistically significant (p < .05) for fathers' provision of school holiday care. *** p < .001, ** p < .01, * p < .05.

There were also differences in the likelihood that mothers or fathers provided school holiday care according to the range of child and family characteristics examined. The strongest associations were for there being another adult living in the household (93% of mothers and 57% of fathers if no other adult lived with the family, compared to 89% and 48% respectively when there was another adult living in the household), and for fathers, region of residence (53% of fathers in metropolitan areas, compared to 63% of fathers in other areas). Differences were not apparent by age of child, or by whether or not the child had an older sibling, and there was a slightly lower likelihood of fathers providing care when the child had younger siblings.11

3.9 Summary and discussion

This chapter has provided a descriptive account of the school holiday arrangements of children aged 6-7 years through to 10-11 years, which covers most of the primary school ages. The reported information refers to school holiday arrangements used in the previous 12 months, and here we have explored the different forms of formal, informal and parental care used.

Children were more likely to have been in informal than formal care in the school holidays. Grandparent care was the most often reported informal school holiday care arrangement. The maternal grandparent was more often the provider of school holiday care than the paternal grandparent, which is consistent with patterns of grandparent-provided child care more broadly (Horsfall & Dempsey, 2011). Other providers of informal care were unrelated persons aged 18 years and over and other relatives (such as siblings) aged 18 years and over. Consistent with the ABS standard classification of child care arrangements, care by a non-resident parent was also considered to be informal care, although here some additional analyses were presented to recognise the different nature of this care. An important contribution of this chapter is the analysis of how non-resident parent care in the school holidays contributes to the estimates of informal care used by lone-mother families. The proportion of children in informal school holiday care, especially for working lone mothers, is notably higher because of the inclusion of non-resident parent care as a form of care. If this is taken out, and instead considered to be a different form of parental care, then the estimates for informal care use become much more similar for lone-mother and two-parent families.

Formal care programs are used by some children in school holidays, with the most common arrangements being for children to attend holiday programs at the child's school or at another location.

Although there were some differences in the use of different school holiday arrangements by age of children, there were more significant differences according to the employment status of parents. Not surprisingly, when there was a parent in the home who was not in paid work, school holiday care was less often used. This is the case for families with lone mothers and partnered mothers.

Of course, one approach parents have for school holidays, is to spend time with children themselves, by adjusting their work hours or schedules, or taking leave from work. A majority of children are cared for by parents in the school holidays. School holiday care by parents is more often provided by their mother than their father, whether resident or non-resident.

A key focus of this analysis was on how parental employment characteristics relate to different patterns of school holiday care. A valuable feature of this analysis is the inclusion of information about fathers' as well as mothers' jobs, to provide a fuller understanding of the family-level decision-making about children's use of care. Analyses were presented that showed how formal and informal school holiday arrangements varied with different parental employment arrangements. Also, similar analyses were presented showing how parental care varied with these same characteristics. The factors that were linked to a greater use of formal or informal school holiday care, tended to be linked with a lesser use of parental care. Although not surprising, it is useful to have these two different perspectives in order to better explain how families manage their school holiday care needs.

In all analyses, mothers' employment characteristics were more strongly predictive of school holiday care arrangements than those of fathers. We know from elsewhere that fathers are less likely than mothers to make use of working arrangements to care for children (Baxter, 2013). Mothers may in fact take up certain occupations or specific jobs so that they can fit them around their caring responsibilities, while fathers may be less likely to consider these criteria as central in making employment decisions. The finding that fathers' work characteristics are not as strongly related to school holiday arrangements as are mothers', fits with these other findings.

Formal and informal care was less often used for school holidays if mothers worked fewer hours, were self-employed and worked non-standard schedules. Also, mothers employed in these sorts of jobs tended to provide more care to children themselves in school holidays. Similar findings were apparent for fathers, although associations were weaker, and reflected the situation in a minority of families. That is, if fathers worked less than full-time hours (or were not employed) or worked non-standard hours, they provided more parental care (and children were less likely to be in informal school holiday care). Self-employment of mothers, though, was associated with a greater likelihood of mothers providing school holiday care, while self-employment of fathers was not associated with a greater likelihood of fathers providing school holiday care.

There was some evidence of cross-over effects, with fathers' working arrangements being associated with mothers' provision of parental care, and likewise mothers' working arrangements were associated with fathers' provision of parental care. In particular, when fathers worked the longest hours (55 hours or more), children were least likely to have been in non-parental care in school holidays, but they were more likely to have been cared for by their mother. This was so even after taking account of a range of characteristics, including mothers' job characteristics. One possible explanation is that mothers in these families may try to compensate for the diminished time that children spend with their father, by spending more time with them themselves, rather than using other formal or informal arrangements. Another possibility is that fathers work these longer hours when mothers are available to be more involved in the child care. The finding was similar when looking at mothers' working hours, in that fathers were more likely to have undertaken school holiday care when mothers worked full-time hours. However, in these families, children were also more likely to have been in some formal or informal school holiday care, and so the additional father care supplemented these arrangements rather than replacing them.

Our detailed analyses of whether children were cared for by non-resident fathers in school holidays did not yield any significant findings with respect to relationships with maternal employment characteristics. Unsurprisingly, care by non-resident fathers was more likely in lone-mother families, given that few children in two-parent families have a non-resident father. Exploring school holiday (or other) care provided by non-resident fathers should ideally take account of the relationship history and quality between mother and non-resident father, as well as characteristics of the father, but this was beyond the scope of the analysis.

These LSAC data allowed us to study the school holiday arrangements of children in more detail than has been possible before, especially given the large sample size and very rich family and employment information that can be related to the information about child care. It is, however, worth noting the limitations of this research. One is that the school holiday data were captured only in respect of whether children had or had not used each of a list of arrangements in the previous 12 months. This did not allow any analyses of the relative importance, or frequency of use, of different arrangements. Nevertheless, the list of arrangements is comprehensive and, in particular, the inclusion of parental care in this list allowed for considerable insights to be gained. We were unable to include analyses of children caring for themselves in school holidays, which would have been a useful addition to these analyses. We were also limited somewhat by the fact that the employment data, and other characteristics, referred specifically to those captured at the time of the surveys, while the school holiday data referred to the previous year. However, this does not appear to have affected this work adversely, given the findings, as reported, seem consistent with what we would expect to find were the employment and school holiday data better aligned.

This research contributes to the under-studied area of school holiday care in Australia. The findings confirm the need to ensure formal programs are available to children, especially those with working parents. It also recognises the value that grandparents and other relatives contribute to families by providing care at those times that are difficult for working parents to manage. Where parents live apart, also, sharing of care can form part of the informal arrangements for school holiday care of children, although it might be argued that this parental care is of a different nature to other informal arrangements. Further, these findings also demonstrate how employment arrangements can make a difference to these care arrangements. Having access to, and facilitating the use of, flexible work arrangements might facilitate mothers as well as fathers to take time to care for children in school holidays.

3.10 References

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2011). Family characteristics Australia 2009-2010 (Cat. No. 4442.0). Canberra: ABS.
  • Baxter, J. A. (2013). Parents working out work (Australian Family Trends No. 1). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  • Baxter, J. A., Gray, M., Alexander, M., Strazdins, L., & Bittman, M. (2007). Mothers and fathers with young children: Paid employment, caring and wellbeing (Social Policy Research Paper No. 30). Canberra: Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
  • Baxter, J. A., & Smart, D. (2010). Fathering in Australia among couple families with young children (FaHCSIA Occasional Paper No. 37). Canberra: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
  • Brandon, P. D., & Hofferth, S. L. (2003). Determinants of out-of-school childcare arrangements among children in single-mother and two-parent families. Social Science Research, 32(1), 129-147.
  • Cassells, R., & Miranti, R. (2012). Outside school hours care: Social gradients and patterns of use. Canberra: NatSEM.
  • Connelly, R., & Kimmel, J. (2003). Marital status and full-time/part-time work status in child care choices. Applied Economics, 35(7), 761-777.
  • Craig, L. (2006). Does father care mean fathers share?: A comparison of how mothers and fathers in intact families spend time with children. Gender and Society, 20(2), 259-281.
  • Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations. (2011). My time, our place: Framework for school age care in Australia. Canberra: DEEWR.
  • Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations. (2013). Child care in Australia, August 2013. Canberra: DEEWR.
  • Hand, K., & Baxter, J. A. (2013). Maternal employment and the care of school-aged children. Australian Journal of Labour Economics, 16(3), 329-349.
  • Harrison, L., Ungerer, J., Smith, G., Zubrick, S. R., Wise, S., with, Press, F., & Waniganayake, M. (2010). Child care and early education in Australia (Social Policy Research Paper No. 40). Canberra: Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
  • Harrison, L. J. (2011). Children's experiences of child care. In Australian Institute of Family Studies, The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children annual statistical report 2010 (pp. 57-68). Melbourne: AIFS.
  • Horsfall, B., & Dempsey, D. (2011). Grandmothers and grandfathers looking after grandchildren: Recent Australian research. Family Relationships Quarterly, 18, 10-12.
  • Kecmanovic, M., & Wilkins, R. (2013). Parenting and paid work. In R. Wilkins (Ed.), Families, incomes and jobs, Volume 8: A statistical report on Waves 1 to 10 of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, (pp. 8-11). Melbourne: Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.
  • Laughlin, L. (2010). Who's minding the kids? Child care arrangements: Spring 2005/ Summer 2006 (Current Population Reports No. P70-121). Washington, DC: US Census Bureau.
  • Qu, L. (2003). Minding the children during school holidays. Family Matters, 65, 18-21.
  • VandenHeuvel, A. (1996). The relationship between women's working arrangements and their child care arrangements. Australian Bulletin of Labour, 22(4), 288-305.

Endnotes

1 In HILDA, parents are asked about whether they or their partner provide care, then whether care is provided by the child's brother or sister. Then there is the option: "Child looks after self". Other forms of care arrangements are then asked about. In LSAC, after being asked about the various formal and informal care providers, parents are asked about children caring for themselves. This was phrased as "No one, child cares for self". Almost no parent responded positively to this option (none for 6-7 year olds, n = 2 for 8-9 year olds, n = 11 for 10-11 years). Also, child care questions in HILDA are collected by telephone, and in LSAC are collected in a face-to-face interview, so the social desirability of reporting that children were not without parental care may have affected respondents more in LSAC.

2 This chapter does not examine families in which children were living with their father at the time of the study, with a mother living elsewhere. There were too few of such families to allow statistical analysis.

3 Families are only included if the child's mother (biological, step-, adoptive, foster) was Parent 1 or Parent 2. So this excludes lone-father families and families in which people other than parents are the main carers of the child, given the very small numbers of these families. Also, families are excluded if the mother had a female partner (since it was not possible to identify "father" data). In total, these exclusions resulted in 235 records being omitted, representing 175 families. Another 27 two-parent families with a female parent living elsewhere were excluded, to make the analyses of care by non-resident parents easier to interpret. A small number of families was excluded because of missing child care data (N = 54).

4 In Wave 3 (for 8-9 year olds), this was collected as: "my partner who lives with me". In Wave 4 (6-7 and 10-11 year olds), this was collected as :"my spouse or partner who lives with me".

5 The child care information is as reported by Parent 1. It is possible that children who lived part of the time with their father may also have had different school holiday arrangements for those times they were with their father in school holidays. This is not captured here, unless reported on by Parent 1.

6 Of 3,768 observations of two-parent families with one parent not working, the mother was employed and on leave in 1,086 cases (29%). Of 608 observations of lone-mother families who were not working, 72 (12%) were on leave. As previously discussed, this information pertains to employment status at the time of the survey, and so is not necessarily indicative of employment participation for the period to which the school holiday data refer (the last 12 months). Some parents may, for example, take leave from (or withdraw from) employment in school holidays. Further examination of the data reveals that formal and informal school holiday child care use was more likely when mothers were on leave (in two-parent families 14% of children were in formal care and 37% informal care, and in lone-mother families 29% were in formal care and 66% informal care), rather than if they had no job (overall, in two-parent families 4% of children were in formal care and 16% informal care, and in lone-mother families 5% were in formal care and 31% informal care). However, the overall findings reported in this chapter are not altered if based on a classification in which mothers on leave were counted as being employed.

7 For 3% of working fathers, information on job contract and work schedule was not available. In the analyses, they are included, with an additional variable (results not shown) identifying these families.

8 Specifically, for each school holiday care measure, a logistic regression was estimated. Random effects logistic regression was used to take account of the two records from children in the K cohort (at age 8-9 and 10-11 years). Only statistically significant (at p < .01) findings are discussed. The predicted percentages were calculated with other variables set to the sample mean, and the random coefficient set to zero.

9 Some children may attend school holiday camps, which would provide solutions for parents working outside standard hours.

10 That is, these findings are based on logistic regressions, one for the likelihood of mothers providing care and the other of co-resident fathers providing care. Another estimated the likelihood of a non-resident father providing care. Random effects logistic regression was used to take account of the two records from children in the K cohort (at ages 8-9 and 10-11 years). Only statistically significant (at p < .01) findings are discussed. The predicted percentages were calculated with other variables set to the sample mean, and the random coefficient set to zero.

11 Percentages in this paragraph are predicted percentages based on the underlying analyses. See footnote 10.

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