Effects of Mother's Employment on Children's Development (page 2)
The impact of a mother's employment on her children is influenced by a number of interrelated variables. They involve:
- the mother's satisfaction with work;
- the father's family involvement;
- the conditions of early childhood education and care;
- the characteristics of the child.
The reasons a mother has for working outside the home, her attitude toward and satisfactions from work, her degree of autonomy at work, relationships with coworkers and individuals outside the home, educational level, and job status affect her family roles. In addition, her adjustment to the demands of work and family roles, the father's or other family adult's relationship and involvement with the child, the divisions of housekeeping tasks, and the mother's overall stress level all play an important role in how her employment affects the socialization and development of the child (Belsky and Eggebeen, 1991; Desai, Chase-Lansdale, and Michael, 1989).
Key to how a mother's employment affects her children is the quality and the type of child care (relative, center-based or family child care). In addition, the mother's feelings about the separation on her child and the ability of others to provide good care for her child are vitally important. Does this mother feel guilty and see her child as suffering from her absence or does she see her child benefiting from experiences at substitute care? Most studies showing advantages of child care on a child's development focus on high-quality center-based care. Very few studies have compared the effects of different types of child care on a child's development.
The effects of a mother's employment appear to vary with the child's age, sex, race, ethnicity, family form, and socioeconomic status. Considerable research focuses on the age of the child when the mother enters the workplace. However, researchers do not always agree. For example, using the same National Longitudinal Survey on Youth data, Nasal Baydar and Jeanne Brooks-Cunn (1991) reported that White preschoolers whose mothers worked during infancy did not do as well on cognitive and behavioral tests as did White preschoolers with mothers who stayed home.
Preschoolers whose mothers waited until their second three months to return to work tested lower than those whose mothers returned to work during their first three months. Perhaps the first three months are an easier time for infants to separate from their mother. This could relate to the developmental stage of the attachment process from three to six months and person permanence. After the first year of life, these authors found that maternal employment had no significant negative effect. In general, girls were less vulnerable than boys to their mothers' working and to their substitute child care. Other studies also found that girls appeared to benefit more than boys from mothers' employment, especially in middle-class families (Bogenschneider, 1990; Desai, et al., 1989). Boys appeared to do better if a grandmother or some relative (not their father) cared for them (Baydar and Brooks-Cunn, 1991).
On the other hand, Vandell and Ramanaen (1992), using the same research data but studying only low-income families, found that both early and recent employment of mothers had been beneficial to their children who scored higher in second grade compared to children from similar families whose mothers had not worked. Higher math scores were best predicted by early maternal employment while recent employment was a better predictor of higher reading achievement. In addition, children whose mothers were unemployed in their infancy were more likely to be living in poverty in second grade compared to children whose mothers were employed at that time.
Mothers are going to continue to be employed, even with very young children.
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