Early Childhood Learning and the Pediatrician: A Qualitative Study Among Diverse, Low-Income Caregivers

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Objective:School readiness by kindergarten entry is associated with increased high school graduation, decreased juvenile arrest, and better long-term health. Inadequate early childhood learning (ECL) disproportionately affects low-income children. Pediatricians have near-universal access to children younger than 5 years but remain an underused ECL resource. This study examined caregivers' perceptions of ECL, the role of the pediatrician and pediatric office, and the use of community-based ECL resources among diverse, low-income caregivers whose children were not enrolled in preschool.Methods:Using community-engaged strategies, caregivers were recruited to participate in in-depth focus groups (FGs). Demographic and FG data were collected in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Qualitative data were analyzed with iterative transcript-based coding and theme analysis.Results:From June 2015 to August 2015, 69 low-income mothers (n = 46), fathers (n = 8), and grandparents (n = 15) from African-American (33%), Latino (32%), and Vietnamese (35%) communities participated in 12 FGs. Caregivers across groups wanted pediatricians to act as ECL experts and to provide ECL services. Caregivers valued ECL, especially when delivered by trusted sources. Utilization and perception of community ECL resources varied among groups. The greatest variation included different preferences for resource setting, accessibility, and acceptability, especially cultural acceptability. Each individual and groups' unique, and occasionally adverse, experiences and financial and logistical considerations informed ECL preferences.Conclusion:This exploratory study brings forth diverse caregivers' perspectives regarding the role of pediatricians in ECL and their desire for pediatricians to be an access point for high-quality, affordable ECL services. Caregivers' preferences regarding ECL programming may inform clinic-based pediatric ECL programming.

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