Working mothers urged to drop guilt as study finds kids do fine

Tue Jun 11, 2013 10:12am EDT
 
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - Children whose mothers work during their early years do as well at school as those with stay-at-home mothers, debunking a common parenting myth that has piled guilt onto career women, according to research released on Tuesday.

An analysis of six studies looking at 40,000 children over the last 40 years found there was no link between mothers continuing their careers and children achieving less at school or misbehaving.

Studies had shown that children born to career mothers in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s did not perform as well, with their literacy and numeracy skills about two percent lower.

But the latest research by Heather Joshi of the University of London's Centre for Longitudinal Studies found children born since the mid-1990s whose mothers worked during their early years fared just as well as those whose mothers did not.

She said this "generational change" was triggered by better maternity leave and greater availability of childcare that was something only rich families could afford in the 1980s with other children making do with informal, less structured care.

"There has traditionally been a concern that the employment of mothers comes at the expense of child development," said Joshi who presented her findings to a meeting of policy-makers and academics organized by the Campaign for Social Science.

"But as the percentage of mothers in work has gone up, any impact on children has diminished."

Joshi said the most important factor that triggered this change in Britain was the Labour government's investment in childcare in the mid-1990s.   Continued...

 
A mother rides a bicycle with her son near the seaside in Portimao, southern Portugal March 4, 2007. REUTERS/Nacho Doce