Quality child care is so important to professional women with children that it is the No. 1 factor influencing career-related decisions, according to an Oregon State University study.

Specifically, women who had recently left careers were less satisfied with their child care arrangements than women who remained, say researchers Virginia Adduci and Alan Sugawara.Main reasons for dissatisfaction were lack of values transmitted to their offspring and lack of permanence in child care arrangements.

All who took part in the study were full-time workers who were on a career path, says Adduci. Adduci did the study as a graduate student in human development and family science in OSU's college of home economics.

Two groups - one of working mothers, one of those recently retired - used the same types of child care: center-based, someone coming to their home, a home provider (in some cases a relative) or a combination of the three.

No one had child care at the place of work, says Adduci, and in general, the women perceived a low level of employer concern for employee family responsibilities.

The survey's 280 respondents represented a wide range of professional careers, including teachers, medical personnel, engineers, administrative assistants, university professors and managerial personnel.

Average age was 35 and all had at least some college education. Number of children ranged from one to four, with ages ranging from nine months to 15 years.