Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Wanat, Carolyn L.

First Committee Member

Bills, David B.

Second Committee Member

Ehly, Stewart W.

Third Committee Member

Fielding, Linda G.

Fourth Committee Member

Lavenz, Susan M Lagos


This study sought to gain a better understanding of how participants made decisions regarding placement for their first-born children for the prekindergarten year. The purpose of this research, to explore participants' decision-making process, was guided by the following research question: "How do parents make decisions to select placements for their children during the prekindergarten year?" The secondary research questions were the following: "What experiences do parents want their children to have during the prekindergarten year?"; "How do parents get information about programming for the prekindergarten year?"; and "How do parents assimilate information and make a final decision?"

This research utilized an interview study to capture the stories of parents as they reflected on the decisions they made for their child's prekindergarten year. Sixteen mothers representing 18 children participated in this qualitative study. Participants were selected because, at the time of the study, they were currently parents of a public school kindergarten student, who is their oldest child. This criterion produced a population of parents who had already made the decision about their child's prekindergarten year, had made this decision recently, and were first-time decision makers regarding prekindergarten programming. Participants' children were kindergarteners in one of three elementary schools in the same school district in a Midwest city.

Results showed that participants used the prekindergarten year to prepare their children and themselves for kindergarten. They gathered information from four main sources: friends, family, the child, and themselves. Participants valued their own intuition or opinion as the most important source of information. Participants' personal opinions were most valued because they needed to feel confident about a placement that they thought would fit their children's needs. Participants' decision-making was influenced by pre-school location, logistics (i.e. transportation), and preparation for kindergarten, hours, cost, and the first impressions of participants.

Three major themes emerged from the interviews concerning participant selection of a prekindergarten placement: (a) parental desires for the prekindergarten year; (b) sources of information about prekindergarten programs; and (c) factors that influenced the decision-making process. Two deciding factors were location and participants' first impressions. When a participant decided against a placement due to location or first impressions, the placement was eliminated from further consideration. Participants were willing to work around other decision-making factors, but l these two critical factors ended further consideration of a placement.

These findings contribute to existing research on parents' decision-making process of choosing their child's prekindergarten year by extending the research on childcare choices to include choices made specifically for the prekindergarten year. This research identifies key elements for parents including a transitional year for the parent, parents as a source of information , and critical influences on the decision-making process


Decision-making, Influences on decision-making, Parental desires for prekindergarten, Parents, Prekindergarten, Sources of information for parents


viii, 108 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 95-108).


Copyright 2013 Timothy David Cronin