Doctoral Dissertations


Carol Quinn

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Ecology

Major Professor

Sandra L. Twardosz


The purpose of this study was to evaluate experimentally procedures developed to encourage the expression of affection in day care. Caregivers and children from three day care centers, located in low-income housing developments, participated in the evaluation. The children in these centers ranged from 3 to 6 years of age. All caregivers and a sample of five children from each center were observed.

Affectionate behavior was measured by a time-sampling method during a variety of day care activities such as breakfast, lunch, free- play, and small group. The behaviors measured included smiling and laughing, using affectionate words such as praise and pet names, and expressing active and passive affectionate physical contact such as hugging, tickling, or holding. Interobserver agreement was assessed frequently.

The procedures to encourage affectionate behavior consisted of two stages, which were implemented in a multiple baseline design across day care centers. Stage 1 consisted of a curriculum of group activities for caregivers to conduct with children. The activities were designed to present information about affection in the context of reading, singing, group games, and role-playing. Their purpose was to focus caregivers' and children's attention on the importance of affection and to allow individuals an opportunity to practice affectionate actions.

Stage 2 of the procedures was designed to encourage generalization from the activity sessions to situations throughout the day. During this stage, specific ideas for ways caregivers could express affection during each daily routine were introduced on sets of prompt cards. Caregivers were asked to read a card and try to implement the idea during the activity. Graphic feedback on affectionate behavior was presented to caregivers to reinforce and encourage their use of the cards.

The major findings of this study were that during the implementation of the procedures, affectionate behavior of caregivers in two day care centers increased. However, a much more pronounced change occurred in one center than in the other one. Changes were apparent in individual caregivers' data as well as in the group results. In both of the centers, affectionate behavior increased in a variety of daily activities, and these increases represented several different types of affectionate behaviors. Most of the changes occurred during the implementation of Stage 2, but the group activities in Stage 1 produced either no change or a decrease in affectionate behavior. Furthermore, it is impossible to draw any conclusions from the third center because of their failure to implement the procedures. And because of the rapidly changing population of children at the centers, it is impossible to draw any firm conclusions about the effect of the procedures on their behavior. Thus, the results of this study provide limited support for the effectiveness of the procedures used in encouraging affection in day care.

Based upon the results of this study, three main suggestions for future research can be made. First, the effects of each stage of the program, the group activities and the prompt cards, must be clarified. Second, the effects of the procedures upon children's affectionate and other social behaviors must be evaluated. And third, additional measures for and procedures to ensure maintenance of these affectionate behaviors should be developed. Because the importance of affection in children's lives has been documented, the development of guidelines which would help caregivers express affection is critical to the progress of day care programs.

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