July 2015

Baseline survey of families

Report summary

Aims and Methods

This report is based on a sample of over 5,600 families who took part in baseline interviews when children were aged two as part of the Study of Early Education and Development (SEED) longitudinal study.

Family interviews asked questions about childcare attended, the home environment and child socio-emotional and language development.

This report aims to:

  • Describe the profile of families who are taking part in the longitudinal survey and how families’ background characteristics vary by their level of disadvantage. 


  • Map families’ childcare use from birth to two and provide estimates of take-up of funded places for two-year-olds from lower income families.


  • Explore the extent to which the home learning environment and child outcome measures vary with families’ childcare use and their level of disadvantage


Key Findings

  • Family characteristics: There were consistent differences between families in the baseline survey by household disadvantage level, with regard to lone versus two parent status, housing tenure, mothers’ academic qualifications and the economic status of both the mother and the household as a whole.


  • Use of childcare: Children from the most disadvantaged families were least likely to receive formal childcare before age two. Mothers’ level of educational attainment was also strongly associated with likelihood of using formal childcare. The most common reason for not using formal childcare as reported by parents was personal preference.


  • Home environment: Parents in disadvantaged families were significantly less likely to engage in home learning activities compared with other families.


  • Child development: Children from the most disadvantaged families showed less developed language skills, less positive behaviour and more negative behaviour, when compared with children from moderately or least disadvantaged families.


  • Benefits of ECEC:


    • Attending formal early childhood education and care before age two benefitted language development for the moderately and least disadvantaged families, but not for the most disadvantaged families.


    • Attending formal early childhood education and care before age two benefitted some behavioural outcomes among children from all families.