The following questions guide the development of a theoretical research design for the birth cohort in the National Educational Panel and the selection of appropriate research instruments: How do children under 4 years of age develop those early competencies and skills that are relevant for education? How are developmental and educational processes promoted in care and educational settings both inside and outside the family? How do the settings within and outside the family interact? At what age do children start to enter nonfamilial education and care settings? And how much does the use of child care services depend on the child's level of development and/or family background, including the familial learning environment as well as parents' needs and orientations? This stage will also focus particularly on families with a migrant background.
Because of the paucity of research on educational processes in this age group within the context of promoting development inside and outside the family and early education decisions, a lot of preparatory work is needed. This involves the survey instruments, planning, and, in particular, sampling issues.