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123 MAY 2009
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Professional association membership and job satisfaction: The case of Child Care Workers

Marion Morley, Cathy Hluchy and Luisa Maringola – writing twenty years go

Membership to the Child Care Workers Association of Ontario (C.C.W.A.O.) has been declining dramatically. Examining the factors which might explain the decline, it is hypothesized that decreasing job satisfaction may be associated with a decline in membership in the C.C.W.A.O. Questionnaires were received from 251 Child Care Workers in Ontario. The results indicate that there is no relationship between job satisfaction and professional membership. Since membership to the C.C.W.A.O. was limited, barriers to joining the association are discussed and the characteristics of a typical Child Care Worker described. (This article was first published 20 years ago – Eds.)

Declining membership in professional associations has become an important issue among a variety of professions (Yeager and Kline, 1983). One group in Ontario appears to be experiencing this decline more dramatically than others. The Child Care Workers Association of Ontario (C.C.W.A.O.) has represented professional Child Care Workers since 1959. In fact, it was the first professional association organized in North America for Child Care Workers. Between 1982 and 1985, however, membership to the C.C.W.A.O. declined by over 37 percent.

It is disquieting that because of declining membership the pioneering and once strong C.C.W.A.O. should have deteriorated to the point of questioning its very existence. This is particularly disturbing because such associations are influential in affecting the work conditions, professional issues and even the salaries of association members. What are the reasons for this decline in membership? What strategies can be used to encourage new and retain current members in the association? These queries have been investigated by researchers concerned with declining professional memberships.

In their study of professional nurses, Yeager and Kline (1983) found that joining professional associations was dependent on what was gained through membership. Specifically, they found that association members had a greater desire for the benefits offered through membership than non-members. Furthermore, members believed that the benefits of membership outweighed the cost involved.

Some researchers suggest that attitude towards one’s job may affect the decision to join a professional association. In particular, Krueger (1985) determined that membership in a professional association was a predictor of job satisfaction. This begs the question of whether the Child Care Workers most satisfied with their jobs belong to the C.C.W.A.O.

This study is primarily concerned with whether there is a casual link between job satisfaction and membership to the C.C.W.A.O. This link is of particular interest since, at the time the data were collected, there was some indication that fewer and fewer Child Care Workers were content with their present positions, and could not find alternative employment because of poor economic conditions. Hence, reduced membership in the C.C.W.A.O. may have been a reflection of the decreasing rate of job satisfaction among Child Care Workers. Other factors taken into consideration were the age, education and salaries of Child Care Workers as well as the number of years they had been in the profession.

Study design and methodology
To address the issues of professional membership and job satisfaction, a questionnaire was administered to 491 Child Care Workers in Ontario. This sample was obtained by contacting either a child care work supervisor or manager in all the provincial agencies known to the researcher (M.M.). This contact person was responsible for distributing the questionnaires to Child Care Workers in the agency, collecting them once they were completed, and returning them to the researcher. A total of twenty-six agencies were contacted. These agencies were located in the four regions defined by the Ministry of Community and Social Services of the Government of Ontario: North, Central, East and West. Two agencies refused to participate in the study.

A survey consisted of closed-ended questions concerning gender, age, education, employment, salary (full-time, part-time), job satisfaction, membership to C.C.W.A.O., and reasons for joining/not joining the association. These reasons were based on those stated by professionals in other disciplines (Yeager and Kline, 1983).

Analysis and interpretation
The data were first examined to test the premise that Child Care Workers most satisfied with their jobs would be members of the C.C.W.A.O. and those who were dissatisfied with their jobs would be non-members. Job satisfaction was determined by simply posing the question: “How satisfied are you with your present job?” A rating scale of 1 (low) to 7 (high) was used and respondents selected the number in the range which most accurately reflected their level of job satisfaction. Membership to the C.C.W.A.O. was determined by asking: “Are you a current member of the Child Care Workers Association of Ontario?”

There was no support for the premise that Child Care Workers most satisfied with their jobs were members of the C.C.W.A.O. In fact, the mean job satisfaction rate for either group, based on the scale of 1 to 7, was 5.75 for members (N=12) and 5.48 for non-members (N=239), p = 0.46. Surprisingly, only twelve out of 251 Child Care Workers were current members of the C.C.W.A.O. Twenty-one other respondents had been members of the association in the past, nine having belonged for only one year. This small subsample of current members hindered a meaningful comparison of members and non-members.

When asked why they became members of the association, five members cited the professional programs offered (conferences, meetings, promotion of new ideas). Three members mentioned improvement of the profession and advancement of training, and two mentioned personal development and self-improvement. Non-members cited a number of reasons for not joining the C.C.W.A.O. Many non-members (96) claimed that they did not join because they did not know the association existed. Thirty-seven did not become members because they did not plan to stay in the profession. A further twenty-five respondents blamed the membership fees for preventing them from joining.

Perhaps the most revealing reasons for not joining the C.C.W.A.O. were those that the respondents volunteered in the “other” category. Thirty respondents were not members because the association had not kept in regular contact with them. A further fifteen respondents felt that the association offered neither professional services or support. An equal number claimed that membership was not necessary or beneficial. Twelve non “members were critical of the association's lack of organization and others specified the late arrival of the association newsletter, the association's inattention to correspondence, its lack of power with the government and the poor return on the membership fees as barriers to joining the C.C.W.A.O.

An insightful picture emerged from the data concerning Child Care Workers in general. Most (193) of the Child Care Workers surveyed were female with just under one-quarter (58) male. Well over half of the respondents were between the ages of twenty-five to thirty-nine. Almost all the respondents had some higher education and one-fifth had a university degree.

Many (79) of the Child Care Workers were relatively new to the profession (1-4 years) but nineteen had been Child Care Workers for fifteen or more years. Moreover, thirty-eight respondents had held their current job for ten or more years though the bulk of respondents had been at their present job for one to five years. Almost all of the Child Care Workers (235) had full-time positions. With regard to wages, approximately one-third (83) of the Child Care Workers earned between $15,000 and $20,000 per year and another one-third (97) earned between $20,000 and $25,000 per year. When comparing C.C.W.A.O. members to Child Care Workers in general, members fit this picture in all but one respect. Surprisingly, a disproportionate number of members earned more than the average salary for full-time child care work. Specifically, five out of ten full employed members made $25,000 to $30,000 per year whereas only thirty-three out of 235 fully employed non-members made this salary.

Does the C.C.W.A.O. cater to those who earn a larger salary? Do the professional fees prevent others from joining? Certainly, professional associations are popularly identified with those who earn above-average wages. Moreover, the professional image that such associations confer may be more attractive to those who earn more as Child Care Workers, particularly if these same people plan to remain in the profession.

Contrarily, the cost of membership may prevent many Child Care Workers from joining. The current rate of $50.00 per year, while not an exorbitant amount for some, may be prohibitive to those who are sole supporters of families. Unfortunately, because our sample of association members is so small, we cannot rely on it being representational of all C.C.W.A.O. members. As such, we can only speculate on whether members and non-members differ in any major way. Nevertheless, it is evident that membership to the C.C.W.A.O. is suffering and that drastic measures must be taken in order to address the problems plaguing the association.

This study does not support the hypothesis that job satisfaction among Child Care Workers was associated with membership to the C.C.W.A.O. Job satisfaction was the same and fairly high for both members and non-members. Unfortunately, job satisfaction was measured simply by inquiring how satisfied one was with his or her present job. Thus, job satisfaction results are limited to the responses to this question alone. Further research needs to be done in this area in order to explore various facets of job satisfaction such as attitudes toward clients, employers and peers as well as to the actual work performed.

The results also indicate that only a small portion of those surveyed belonged to the association. While most of the members cited the professional programs offered as their reason for joining, most non-members claimed that they had not joined the C.C.W.A.O. because they were unaware of its existence.

The small number of association members in the sample prompted a further examination of what prevented Child Care Workers from joining. Their reasons translated into a highly critical view of the C.C.W.A.O. The association can be faulted for its lack of commitment to keeping Child Care Workers aware of its existence and in touch with its activities, its lack of professional services and support, and its disorganization in general.

The C.C.W.A.O. must treat these criticisms seriously, particularly in light of the tendency for members to drop out after one year. Certainly the first obligation of any organization is to maintain contact and communication with current and potential members (Yeager, 1981). While the professional fee for joining the C.C.W.A.O. may be relatively low, it appears that some Child Care Workers believe the benefits derived from joining do not outweigh the fee charged.

The association needs to develop a more effective advertising campaign to notify the general Child Care Worker population of its existence and the benefits of membership. Moreover, it must follow-up on these benefits by ensuring that professional issues are shared among the members, that the newsletter is distributed on time and that all correspondence is answered. Certainly better overall organization would encourage new and retain current members.

Professional associations are important additions to many groups. For Child Care Workers, the C.C.W.A.O. may be the very instrument for tackling the issues facing them – professional image, job security and competitive wages. Let us look forward to a new and thriving era for Child Care Workers and the Child Care Workers Association of Ontario.


Krueger, M.A. (1985). Job satisfaction and organizational commitment among Child and Youth Care workers. Journal of Child Care, 2, 3. pp. 17-24.

Yeager, S.J. (1981). Fostering and development of professionalism: An exchange theory perspective of the decision to join a professional association. Southern Review of Public Administration, 5. pp. 314-338.

Yeager, S.J. and Klein, M. (1983). Professional association membership of nurses: Factors affecting membership and the decision to join an association. Research in Nursing and Health, 6. pp. 45-52.

This feature: Morley, M.; Hluchy, C. and Maringola, L. (1989). Professional association membership and job satisfaction: The case of Child Care Workers. Journal of Child and Youth Care, 4, 2. pp. 21-26.

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