Aspects of Well-being for the Child Care and Early Education Workforce

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodApr 15 2024

Understanding the best ways to support the well-being of the child care and early education (CCEE)a workforce is important for states and CCEE programs. CCEE teachers and caregivers have demanding jobs and receive low compensation for their work1—a combination that often negatively affects their well-being. Research has linked CCEE workforce well-being to several important outcomes, including staff turnover,2 responsiveness to children’s needs,3 and collaborations with families.4 CCEE teachers and caregivers also have roles outside of their profession, and deserve to be well for themselves and their families. Research on CCEE teacher and caregiver well-being points to the effects they can experience personally, including high levels of stress, low access to food, unstable housing, and putting off medical care because of cost.5 Historically, research on CCEE workforce well-being has primarily focused on poor mental health (specifically depressive symptoms) and its link to responsive caregiving.b,6

This research has focused on disparities in well-being among different types of teachers and caregivers, as well as disparities between the CCEE workforce and other sectors.7,8 Only in the past decade have researchers focused on a more holistic definition of well-being, on ways to improve well-being, and on tailored strategies that may be needed to improve CCEE workforce well-being across different types of settings.9 Below, we describe the various aspects of well-being that have been discussed in recent research and some examples of interventions or initiatives that promote CCEE workforce well-being.


a Child Care and Early Education (CCEE) refers to caregiving and educational services for children birth to 13 years. This includes center and home-based settings for infants, toddlers, preschool- and school-aged children. CCEE refers to a larger age group than Early Care and Education (ECE), which consists of services for young children (birth-5, not yet in Kindergarten) only. ECE programs are included in the definition of CCEE.

b Responsive caregiving “refers to a parenting, caregiving, and teaching practice that is nurturing and responsive to an individual child’s temperament and needs.”


1 Whitebook, M., Phillips, D., & Howes, C. (2014). Worthy work, STILL unlivable wages: The early childhood workforce 25 years after the National Child Care Staffing Study. University of California, Berkeley.

2 McCormick, K. I., McMullen, M. B., & Lee, M. S. (2022). Early childhood professional well-being as a predictor of the risk of turnover in Early Head Start & Head Start Settings. Early Education and Development, 33(4), 567-588.

3 Smith, S., & Lawrence, S. M. (2019). Early care and education teacher well-being: Associations with children’s experience, outcomes, and workplace conditions: A research-to-policy brief.

4 Hooper, A., & Gaviria-Loaiza, J. (2021). Predictors of Head Start Teachers’ Perceived Quality of Relationships with Families. HS Dialog: The Research to Practice Journal for the Early Childhood Field, 24(1).

5 Johnson, A.D., Partika, A., Schochet, O., & Castle, S. 2019). Associations between early care and education teacher characteristics and observed classroom processes. Urban Institute. Retrieved from

6 Hamre, B. K., & Pianta, R. C. (2004). Self-reported depression in onfamilial caregivers: Prevalence and associations with caregiver behavior in child-care settings. Early childhood research quarterly, 19(2), 297-318.

7 Farewell, C. V., Quinlan, J., Melnick, E., Powers, J., & Puma, J. (2021). Job demands and resources experienced by the early childhood education workforce serving high-need populations. Early Childhood Education Journal, 1-10.

8 Cumming, T. (2017). Early childhood educators’ well-being: An updated review of the literature. Early Childhood Education Journal, 45, 583-593.

9 Wilson, D., Plesko, C., Brockie, T. N., & Glass, N. (2022). The well-being of head start teachers: a scoping literature review. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 1-26.

This brief is part of the Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis (CCEEPRA) project. CCEEPRA supports policy and program planning and decision-making with rigorous, research-based information.