Skip to main content
Child Care Work: Intimacy in the Shadow of Family Life
Qualitative Sociology (1998)
  • Susan B Murray, San Jose State University
This study analyzes the relationships between child care workers and the families of the children they serve. Because paid child care operates in the borderlands of family, many workers develop intimate relationships—both emotional and physical—with the children they care for and their families. Based on three and a half years of participant-observation fieldwork, and in-depth interviews with child care workers, the researcher examines how worker's subjective meanings are shaped through daily interactions, through organizational processes found in child care centers, and by the gendering of child care as women's work. The child care workers in this study saw themselves in “family-like” relationship with the families they served. This designation as “like-moms” and “pseudo-parents” also meant that workers continually engaged in “emotional labor”—managing the intimacy they experienced as caregivers against the expectations placed on them as workers.
  • child care workers,
  • emotional labor,
  • gendered occupations,
  • women's work
Publication Date
June, 1998
Publisher Statement
SJSU users: use the following link to login and access the article via SJSU databases
Citation Information
Susan B Murray. "Child Care Work: Intimacy in the Shadow of Family Life" Qualitative Sociology Vol. 21 Iss. 2 (1998) p. 149 - 168 ISSN: 0162-0436
Available at: