Korean child care classroom practices and children's stress behaviors

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The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between classroom practices of child care and children's stress behaviors in Korea. The classification of the type of classroom is based on the Guidelines for Developmentally Appropriate Practices of the National Association for the Education of Young children (NAEYC, 1997), which defines classroom programs in terms of developmentally appropriate practices (DAP) and developmentally inappropriate practices (DIP), based on the way in which the program accounts for normative development, individual development, and cultural context.

Stress behavior was observed for 145 four-year-olds in 5 DAP and 5 DIP classrooms. To control the effect of overall quality of the classroom on stress behaviors, classrooms of high quality were selected, and then were classified into DAP and DIP classroom practices. Temperament and gender of the children and parenting stress of mother were examined to understand their relationship to children's stress behaviors. Child and family variables were also controlled to clarify the independent effect of classroom practices on children's stress behaviors. To examine the relationship between each variable and children's stress behaviors, MANOVA and linear regression analyses were used. Hierarchical linear regression analyses were also used to verify the independent effects of classroom practices on children's stress behaviors after controlling child and family variables.

A significant relationship between classroom practices and children's stress behaviors was found, with more stress behaviors for children in DIP than children in DAP classrooms. Gender and temperament, and maternal parenting stress were also related to children's stress behaviors. Gender, parenting stress, and classroom practice were significant predictors of children's stress behaviors, and classroom practice added significantly to the prediction once other variables had been controlled. These results suggest that family variables, in addition to classroom practices, impact children's stress, implying that the effects of classroom practices should be examined in consideration of other variables outside school.

Most studies on DAP and children's development have explored the effects of DAP in isolation. The results of this study demonstrate the independent effects of several variables on children's stress behaviors. Future studies should expand on these findings and focus on the effects both of classrooms and of other variables outside school in theoretical framework of ecological theory.