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Trust and early years education and care: an exploration of parents' trust in preschool provision

Roberts, Jonathan (2013) Trust and early years education and care: an exploration of parents' trust in preschool provision. Doctoral thesis, London School of Economics.

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Relationships of trust are increasingly considered central to the provision of welfare services. This thesis undertakes an empirical exploration of trust within a key welfare field - early years education and care. While trust is often identified as a key dimension when parents use preschool provision, a rigorous investigation of trust - its meaning, its production and its complexity – is lacking. The thesis has in addition a subsidiary focus. Empirical research into trust in welfare services has not adequately addressed organisational form or behaviour as a location of trust production. Within the study there is, therefore, a particular enquiry into trust at the organisational level. Empirical investigation was undertaken through in-depth interviews with parents and managers across diverse preschool organisations. The thesis identifies how parents gave prominence to their own critical determination of the trustworthiness of provision, derived from information collected from multiple sources. Parents did not, as some theorists propose, undertake a calculation of the extrinsic constraints and incentives upon providers’ behaviours. Instead they constructed an inductive portrait of workers’ competence and benevolence through both conscious deliberation and less conscious intuitive reasoning. Such trust construction was framed by parents’ interpretations of care, quality and risk, and mediated by barriers to information which they might face. At the organisational level, a priori features such as organisational form or sector had little effect on trust; of significance instead were trust-producing behaviours, such as transparency, and trust-reducing behaviours, such as staff turnover. The thesis makes an original theoretical contribution by developing explanations of parents’ trust in preschool provision, by linking such explanations to literature on care and on intuitive reasoning, and by adding to the general stock of theory around trust. It also carries implications for policy and practice. There is little support for concerns that contemporary welfare service reform may undermine trust: regulatory systems provided a useful underpinning for trust; market-based provision – as long as any monetary exchange was sensitively handled - was not antithetical to parents’ construction of trust. The thesis nonetheless identifies benefit in provision through an integrated centre, where parents developed trust over time prior to use of preschool provision. Such a process was especially helpful to parents who faced disadvantage.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: © 2013 Jonathan Roberts. An article was published in the Journal of Social Policy on the basis of this study. This article is reproduced here with the kind permission of Cambridge University Press. The article was originally published as – Roberts, J. (2011), "Trust and childcare: parents’ relationships with private, state and third sector providers in England". Journal of Social Policy 40(4): 695-715.
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Date Deposited: 27 May 2015 10:00
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 08:16

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