The topic of working moms has been a controversial and heated debate over the past several decades. With the standard and cost of living on the rise, many families feel that it is necessary to have both parents working full time. Also, because of the high divorce rate and growing number of single parent families, more and more mothers are heading to work full time and over time.
So how does this affect the children? Many psychologists and researches have explored this topic and while it is still under debate and construction, there have been several studies and articles that reveal that children of working moms may have more difficulties than those with stay at home moms.
One common problem of small children whose mothers and fathers work outside the home deals with cognitive development. According to a recent study posted by the Bio-medical Library of the University of Minnesota (2001), children of working parents struggle with cognitive development moreso than those of stay at home moms. This study revealed that children of mothers who worked 30 or more hours a week lagged developmentally. This study was also not biased in regard to the children’s ages or the type of care they were receiving. It is interesting to note that while many believe that the type of daycare the children receive affects how they develop, this study implied that it is more important the child receive one on one instruction and discpline from his/her primary and biological parents. This is not to say, however, that daycares are bad by any means. It is just implying that children benefit more from direct instruction and attention in the home.
Another article on this topic was published in the Boston Globe in July of 2002. This article revealed that children of mothers who work full time before the children are 9 months old have “poorer mental and verbal skills at the age of 3” than those whose mothers stay at home to help train and prepare their children. This study was part of a Columbia researchers report.
Another study done in 1999 by Elizabeth Harvey, a research psychologist at the University of Massachusetts, revealed that there was no harm done to children of working moms. This article paints a much more positive picture of working mothers and revealed that the effects on children can be minimal to absent. There were, however, several factors Harvey noted as making a difference in the overall well being of the child. One important finding of this study was that the number of hours a mother worked outside the home, as well as how quickly she returned to work after having children, made a difference in the developmental progress of the child. Harvey also suggested that the amount of hours worked was not as significant as the quality of parenting the children receive while their parents are home. In other words, if working moms double time as super moms when they are not working, the children should be able to develop cognitive skills at an average to even above average.
Overall, it seems that children of stay at home moms do have the upper hand. They are able to receive one on one instruction from a primary caregiver. They are also able to develop mentally and cognitively at a quicker rate.
If mothers must work, it is important to allow a certain length of time before the return (preferrably a minimum of 9 months) as well as minimum hours. While they are home with the children, it is important to work on developing the fine motor and cognitive skills children will need in pre school and the rest of their education.