Media Releases

Childcare deserts Cause Psychological Distress for Working Parents


VANCOUVER, June 4, 2019 — Just about any parent will tell you that finding quality, affordable childcare is a difficult task no matter where you live. But what if you live in what’s known as a “childcare desert”?

New research shows that working parents of young children report greater psychological distress when they live in a childcare desert — which is defined as a neighbourhood with more than 50 non-school aged children, with less than one childcare space for every three children.

Marisa Young, a researcher at McMaster University, is the lead author of the study, which explores the mental health consequences for parents with young children who live in these deserts. She says her research shows that “those parents who are in the most need of childcare options—full-time, overworked parents with young children—may also be suffering the most from living in childcare deserts because of their inability to find care options.”

One of the most surprising results of the study was that fathers in childcare deserts who work long hours report worse mental health compared to mothers. While further analysis is needed to determine why, Young speculates that this might reflect the increasing responsibility that fathers are taking for childcare.

While this research focused specifically on parents living in Toronto, these findings could have implications for parents elsewhere, as the cost and availability of childcare continues to be a contentious issue across Canada. Young points out that solutions like childcare tax benefits don’t necessarily solve the issue of creating more childcare spaces. Instead, she says “the number of licensed childcare spaces needs to increase—particularly in urban centres.”

The paper Canadian Childcare Deserts: Consequences for Parental Work-Family Conflict and Well-Being by Marisa Young and Shirin Montazer is among thousands of new pieces of research being presented this week at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Canada’s largest academic gathering, Congress brings 8,000 of the country’s brightest researchers, thinkers, and policy-makers to Vancouver from June 1-7.

Congress is organized by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, which promotes research and teaching for the advancement of an inclusive, democratic and prosperous society. With a membership now comprising over 160 universities, colleges and scholarly associations, the Federation represents a diverse community of 91,000 researchers and graduate students across Canada. Congress 2019 is hosted by The University of British Columbia.

The Congress 2019 media kit can be downloaded here. More information about Congress is available on their website, Twitter and Facebook.


The views and opinions expressed by the researchers in this media release and in the paper being presented at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences are their own and do not reflect those of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences nor of The University of British Columbia.

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