Mothers’ involvement in the labor force displays significant increase in the last decade as well as reliance to non-parental child care. Considering the traditional view of motherhood and parenting, this condition raises the question regarding children’s welfare while their mothers are engaging in professional work. Such question is generally not a new one. Various studies have engaged on researches about children’s welfare in relation of their parent’s behavior for many years now.
However, there are still no conclusive results particularly in answering the question whether a condition where a mother is working part or full-time result in a worse condition for the welfare of the children in comparison to a condition where the mother is constantly at home. This question is also in line to questions whether enhancement in working hours has particular effects to children’s condition. In this paper, I will address the issue by reviewing the proponents and opponents of the sentiment that ‘working mothers causes negative affects toward their children’ and present my own opinions and arguments to the discussion.
I. Summary of Positions
The proponents of the sentiment are supported by the traditional view of mother hood and parental roles. Thus, they generally become the more popular side of the debate in social studies. In empirical perspective, proponents of the sentiment uses numerous studies which relate children’s behavior to parental behavior and discover that children with working parents at different ages performs poorer than other group of children in several cognitive and social tests and observations (Brooks Gun, 2002, Aizer, 2002).
One study revealed that infants in the age of one to three years old will have a poorer cognitive performance when their mothers are working in their babies’ first year of life. Another study indicated that adolescence who spend more time unsupervised by their parents will have poorer academic performance and more likely to engage in socially poor behaviors.
The opponent of the sentiment uses the flaws of the researches above. Most of the studies that generated acceptable results were studies about how children would be negatively affected by poor care or poor environment. One study even results in the increase in children’s academic performance as their parents gained better jobs which mean longer working hours.
Opponents of the sentiment argued that it was not the fact that the mother is working that negatively affected children’s welfare and development, it was the fact that the children was placed on worse care than their parents while their parents were at work. In the basis of this argument, better jobs would result the ability to provide better care for the children while their parents are working, and thus would not necessarily result negative effect for the children (Conger 1994, Dearing, 2001).
II. Statement of Position
My personal position in this matter is based on logic and empirical studies. Although traditional sentiment and our intuition let us to believe that working mother would obviously resulted poorer care of the children, there is no actual proof of the sentiment. Statistical researches have so far failed to conclude in positive that working mothers do cause negative effects toward their children. Some have clustered results and some even produce the opposite of the sentiment. In short, I stand in negative that working mothers generate negative effect toward children.
Another reason of my standpoint is the consideration that children’s welfare consist of various factors rather only few. Researches who attempt to find correlation between children’s welfare and parental behavior are mostly concern over children’s cognitive abilities and academic performance. Few actually consider the social and actual psychological and physiological effect of working mother toward the children.
On the contrary to the discussed sentiment, a study revealed that there is no correlation between children’s poor dietary quality to the mother being active in professional work (‘Working Mothers, 2005). There is also no statistical correlation between the development of children’s behavior to the fact that their mothers are working or not (Anderson, 2003).
Most of the cases where children having poor cognitive and physiological development and academic performance, and their mothers are working, displayed other factors behind the ‘working mother’ factors. They were these other factors, like poor environment, poor and unprofessional care given by the people in charge of the child while the mother was working, poor education and insensitive mothers, which causes the negative effect toward the children (Brooks-Gun, 2002).
The state in which the sentiment is popular is different in different cultures. In Europe and the United States, working mothers are considered more common phenomena. There are fewer concerns over the issues of child care by working mothers especially with the availability of professional caretaker services. Within these cultures, the fear over neglected children is also less due to the presence of various studies revealing that there is no actual evidence that working mothers generate children with poorer state of mind, body and soul.
In other cultures, especially more traditional ones, the sentiment has a stronger existence. Some cultures even consider the sentiment as a general truth. In these cultures, leaving the child in their growth stages are considered taboo rather than generating adverse effect toward children. The consideration is influenced by socio-cultural thinking rather than scientific thoughts.
However, if researches are to be conducted within these countries, the result would be in the advantage of proponents of the sentiment. This is caused by the state of the culture which may not be able to provide alternative care (beside the birth mother) with similar or better quality. Furthermore, beliefs and cultural suggestions contribute to making the sentiment a reality within these countries.
IV. Critical literacy
Despite the popularity of the sentiment that working mother has negative effect on children, statistical researches revealed otherwise. A study even revealed that children at the age 10-12 displayed increased cognitive and academic performance as their parents’ working hours increased. The researcher believes that this odd result has several explanations.
The first is the fact that increased working hours means better pay and increased ability to provide better care or assistance to children’s daily life and education. The second is considering the psychological effect on children as they watch their parents achieving success is life. In some families, parents’ achievement is considered to have a significant influence that boosted children’s self esteem and efforts (Conger 1994).
This strengthened my argument that most researches neglected psychological factors in children’s development as they define the correlation between working mothers and negative effects toward children.
V. Civil Literacy
A large portion of working mother throughout the world has no choice but to engage in professional work. Thus, getting the truth out about how working mothers affected children’s conditions and development is very much important because it will influence the lives of these women and their families.
In the developed world where people have more access to researches and studies, it is more possible for working mothers to understand the risks that they might face and how to reduce them. In the developing world on the other hand, this sentiment might lead to poorer condition of children and the entire family because mothers are not allowed to engage in professional work and bring in financial contributions.
Researchers discovered that in the age of 3, children whose mother are working in the first year of the children’s life have poorer cognitive performance compare to children’s whose mother are not working.
However, similar results are not discovered when researchers observe other stages of children’s life and age. Some argued that in further ages, the test instrument is no longer able to take into account various factors that influences the children cognitive behavior and therefore, unable to display conclusive results (Brooks-Gun, 2002). In my opinion, this is just scientific evidence that there is no actual justification to the sentiment that working mothers negatively affects their children
Scientific and cultural discussions are not one and the same. In most occurrences, their encounter generated contradictive opinions regarding the same phenomenon. This is also the case within this particular discussion. Culturally speaking, mothers are the natural caretaker of children at any age. Going against this sentiment is not something many of us would agree with, especially in a more traditional society.
Nevertheless, in the latest decade, we have witness a change of culture, especially in the United States and the European countries. The change was first caused by necessities and later become a trend. Today, there are many women who voluntarily choose to work rather than stay home with their children all day. Therefore, I personally believe that culture can be gradually shaped by altered way of thinking in the community.
In conclusion, despite the growing new trend, I believe that being a working mother can be a necessity rather than a choice. In light of this condition, it is necessary for us to justly identify whether being a working mother means generating negative effect toward one’s children. Researches showed that there are no actual correlation between a mother who actively engage in professional and the negative effect suffered by children.
On the other hand, other studies revealed that factors like mother’s insensitiveness, poor environment, poor quality of the caretaker and other factors are the ones who actually have a negative effect toward children’s cognitive performance, academic performance and dietary quality.
Aizer, Anna. 2002. ‘Home Alone: Supervision After School and Child Behavior’. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Wallace Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544
Anderson, Patricia M., Kristin F. Butcher, Phillip B. Levine. 2003. “Maternal Employment and Overweight Children”, Journal of Health Economics, 22(3), 477-504.
Brooks-Gun, Jeanne. Han, Wen-Jui. Waldfogel, Jane. 2002. ‘Maternal Employment and Child Cognitive Outcomes in the First Three Years of Life: The NICHD Study of Early Child Care’. Child Development, July/August 2002, Volume 73, Number 4, pages 1052-1072.
Conger, R. D., & Elder, G. H. 1994. ‘Families In Troubled Times: Adapting to Change in Rural America’. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine DeGruyter.
Dearing, E., McCartney, K., & Taylor, B. A. 2001. ‘Change in family income-to-needs matters more for children with less’. Child Development, 72, 1779-1793.
‘Working Mothers do not Adversely Impact on Children’s Diets’. 2005. Sci Tech. Retrieved July 11, 2007 from
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