Examining affection in low-income child care centers: The role of affection in teacher-toddler relationships

Abraham, Menbere
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University of Delaware
Affection is a neglected topic in the field of early child care research. The purpose of this study is to create and pilot a framework for examining affectionate behaviors in toddler group care environments using a focal child technique. Twelve toddlers (6 boys and 6 girls) were observed for the first three hours of the morning classroom session. The affectionate behaviors that were studied included: physical affection, non-physical affection, touch, smiling, physical contact, and hold. Teacherchild affectionate displays were observed during free play, group time, and mealtime. The following research questions were examined: (1) What is the frequency of affection between toddlers and teachers in high subsidy classrooms? (2) Does the frequency of affectionate behaviors displayed by teachers vary by the gender? (3) Does affection between toddlers and teachers vary by classroom context? Study findings show that teacher-child affectionate behaviors in observed toddler classrooms were extremely low and that the incidence of affection varied by classroom context. Physical contact occurred more often than any other form of affection. Boys received more affection from teachers than girls. The highest frequency of affection occurred during free play and less frequently during group time. Implications for future research are presented.