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Working mothers and the effects on children

Date:
July 21, 2011
Source:
Economic & Social Research Council
Summary:
Parents struggling to combine paid work with bringing up their children now have some positive news thanks to a new study on maternal employment and child socio-emotional behavior in the UK.

Parents struggling to combine paid work with bringing up their children now have some positive news thanks to a new study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on maternal employment and child socio-emotional behaviour in the UK. The research shows that there are no significant detrimental effects on a child's social or emotional development if their mothers work during their early years.

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The ideal scenario for children, both boys and girls, was shown to be where both parents lived in the home and both were in paid employment. For children living with two parents, the impact of the working life of the mother may partly depend on the father's own working arrangements. However using data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, the researchers discovered that the relationship between behavioural difficulties and employment of the mother was stronger for girls than for boys and that this was not explained by household income, level of mother's education or depression in the mother.

While boys in households, where the mother was the breadwinner, displayed more difficulties at age five than boys living with two working parents, the same was not true for girls. Girls in traditional households where the father was the breadwinner were more likely to have difficulties at age five than girls living in dual-earner households.

The principal researcher in this study, Dr Anne McMunn, has said: "Mothers who work are more likely to have higher educational qualifications, live in a higher income household, and have a lower likelihood of being depressed than mothers who are not in paid work. These factors explain the higher levels of behavioural difficulties for boys of non-working mothers, but the same was not true for girls."

As previous research has indicated, children in single-mother households and in two-parent households in which neither parent was in work were much more likely to have challenging behaviour at age five than children where both parents were in paid employment. Household income however, and maternal characteristics can mitigate the effects of this.

"Some studies have suggested that whether or not mothers work in the first year of a child's life can be particularly important for later outcomes. In this study we did not see any evidence for a longer-term detrimental influence on child behaviour of mothers working during the child's first year of life," states Dr Anne McMunn.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Economic & Social Research Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. McMunn, Y. Kelly, N. Cable, M. Bartley. Maternal employment and child socio-emotional behaviour in the UK: longitudinal evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 2011; DOI: 10.1136/jech.2010.109553

Cite This Page:

Economic & Social Research Council. "Working mothers and the effects on children." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110721212455.htm>.
Economic & Social Research Council. (2011, July 21). Working mothers and the effects on children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110721212455.htm
Economic & Social Research Council. "Working mothers and the effects on children." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110721212455.htm (accessed February 27, 2015).

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