Supporting the Psychological Well-Being of the Early Care and Education Workforce: Findings from the National Survey of Early Care and Education

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodJul 16 2018

While many efforts to improve the quality of early care and education (ECE) have focused on increasing teachers’ and caregivers’ competencies and knowledge specific to the teaching of young children, a small body of research suggests that an ECE workforce that is mentally healthy can provide the best-quality care for children.

Quality improvement efforts for ECE often focus on increasing teachers’ and caregivers’ competencies and knowledge specific to the teaching of young children. Now, a growing body of research suggests that supporting caregivers’ psychological well-being may also be a worthy goal. This report addresses an important next step in this work: understanding the linkages between various workforce supports and teachers’ psychological well-being.

The findings from this report can be used to guide practices and policies in ECE programs to support teachers’ psychological well-being. This report will also be helpful for researchers because it describes future studies that could be undertaken to answer remaining questions about the psychological well-being of the ECE workforce.


Fewer than one in ten center-based ECE teachers have moderate psychological distress, and less than one percent experience serious distress.

  • ECE teachers were less likely than the general population of adult females to experience serious psychological distress.

Teachers had less psychological distress when they experienced teamwork, respect, and stability at work.

  • Other workforce supports were hypothesized to be important for ECE teachers’ well-being, but were not significantly associated with teachers’ distress. These included (a) group size/ratio, (b) availability of coaching/mentoring, (c) financial support for professional development, (d) substantive supervision, and (e) support for the teacher in dealing with difficult children and parents.
  • Teachers with lower household incomes reported greater psychological distress.