Parental childcare in the United Kingdom: concepts, measurement and valuation -PhD thesis-

Publication type

Thesis/Degree/Other Honours


Publication date

June 1, 2008


The daily lives of children and the care they receive, forms the nucleus of this thesis.

Using the United Kingdom Time Use Survey 2000 (hereafter UKTUS), a comprehensive picture of the care provided by parents and received by children is presented. The thesis uses both adult and child diaries from the same household, offering a unique opportunity to look at the daily activities of parents and their children simultaneously. It exploits the full potential of time use data by exploiting not only the activity diaries, but also all of the available contextual information. The research also utilises a variety of demographic information available in the data. The thesis is an example of the scope and potential of time use data, and in particular, contributes significantly to the body of research carried out using UKTUS, highlighting the value of this data.

One of the main themes of the research is the valuation of home produced childcare. Two of the chapters feed directly into this and a third presents a comprehensive valuation of childcare produced by households in the United Kingdom (UK). This valuation is unique in that it employs an input method and an output method. In estimating the imputed market value of childcare, measures of the inputs to and the outputs of childcare are discussed, and the methodologies employed in both are set out in detail. This is essential to facilitate the valuation but it also adds the UK to a growing body of research that looks at the quantification of childcare using time use data. I conclude that the childcare produced by households constitutes around 16% of GDP. As a complement to this valuation the impact that parent's activities have on children's activities is assessed in one chapter. This idea here is to get a substantive sense that what parents do, is important in terms of framing a child's activity set, relating directly to the development of a new member of society.

A second theme of the research centres on gender dynamics. In particular the patterns associated with the gender of the parent, the gender of the child and the interplay between these are analysed at points throughout the thesis. With respect to the gender of the parent the differences in the time recorded being with and caring for children are fully delineated, and multivariate analysis of this time comparing men and women is a key feature. In looking at the gender of the child, I find patterns similar to those already published. However I place children's activities firmly within differing contexts of care being provided by parents and find that gender differences are sensitive to these contexts. This work is descriptive in nature and I intend to further use the data in more complex analyses. Finally, the interplay between the gender of the parent and the gender of the child is a key aspect of the analysis in two chapters.

Methodologically, the thesis attempts to forge new ground in modelling time use data, by focussing in one chapter on counts of the number of times an individual engages in an activity, as opposed to the total time they spend in the activity. It is argued that the number of times a person does an activity, and the total time summed across the day, are strongly correlated and that the count of episodes may be more robust to potential measurement error. It is also argued that this approach to modelling time use provides an improved fit for the data compared to standard linear regression approaches. Having said that the method is not being proposed as an alternative to modelling the total time spent in an activity, but rather can be used as a complement to, or employed in tandem with conventional modelling approaches.




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