Working Moms: The Kids Are All Right

Working mothers tend to be happier and healthier than mothers who stay at home caring for young children, according to recent research. But many of those who work are often haunted by the question: “Am I screwing up my kids?”

A new study provides a reassuring answer. Writing in the journal Social Science Research, sociologists Jeremiah Wills and Jonathan Brauer conclude — with one important caveat — that “maternal employment largely is inconsequential to child well-being.”

They reached this conclusion after examining data on 6,283 American mothers and their children. The women have been surveyed every two years as part of a three-decade project sponsored by the U.S. Board of Labor Statistics and the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development.

The researchers tracked the children’s well-being using a standard reading and pronunciation test, a mathematics test, and a “behavior problems index.” The index measured the kids’ levels of depression and anxiety as well as their tendency to get into conflicts with their peers. The mothers reported whether they worked outside the home, and if so, how many hours a week.

Wills and Brauer separated the children into groups based on when they’d been born: before 1980, 1980-84, 1984-89, 1990-94, and after 1994. Somewhat surprisingly, they discovered that for the children in the earlier cohorts, “having an employed mother was associated with higher cognitive development and lower behavior problem trajectories (ignoring all other factors).”

These benefits “largely disappeared as the arrangement became more commonplace,” they add. So the impact of mom’s employment — or lack thereof — is now negligible.

Read the rest of the article at Miller-McCune

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