July 31, 2010 Leave a comment
We always knew it in our humble Indian ways, but now the Americans have rediscovered it. Part time jobs are not the panacea fo bringing societal good and child development into the home.
Researchers at Columbia University say they are among the first to measure the full effect of maternal employment on child development — not just the potential harm caused by a mother’s absence from the home, but the prospective benefits that come with her job, including higher family income and better child care.
In a 113-page monograph, released this week, the authors conclude “that the overall effect of 1st-year maternal employment on child development is neutral.”
The report is based on data from the most comprehensive child-care study to date, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care. It followed more than 1,000 children from 10 geographic areas through first grade, tracking their development and family characteristics.
Infants raised by mothers with full-time jobs scored somewhat lower on cognitive tests, deficits that persisted into first grade. But that negative effect was offset by several positives. Working mothers had higher income. They were more likely to seek high-quality child care. And they displayed greater “maternal sensitivity,” or responsiveness toward their children, than stay-at-home mothers. Those positives canceled out the negatives.
The study may bring hope to working mothers, who have labored under a collective societal guilt since the 2002 publication of landmark research showing that early maternal employment hampered child development. The same research team behind that report produced this one.