Moms, Your Kids Are Just Fine, Now Get Back to Work, Researchers Say
Researchers at Columbia University conclude that yeah, there are some negative things about mothers working outside the home. But the positives actually outweigh the negatives.
Previous research found that working made you a bad mommy. By working outside the home, other researchers have said, you leave your child prey to all manner of wickedness and ill fortune.
Hogwash, Columbia researchers say. They tracked more than 1,000 children ages 7 to 10 in different parts of the country, looking at family relationships and household incomes. They assessed and evaluated kids' vocabulary, reading ability and test scores. They also asked teachers and parents to rate their behavior.
The London Daily Telegraph reports researchers found working mothers had better mental health and were, therefore, able to build healthier relationships within the family. Plus, they were able to make extra money. And everyone likes money.
Say there's no substitute for a mother's love? Probably not. But with enough dough, researchers found, working mothers can find really good nannies and day care centers and kids benefit from the experience.
Babies were a different kettle of fish -- or jar of stewed prunes. Researchers found newborns suffered a few ill effects if their mothers returned to work before their first birthdays.
Still, researchers found no long-term damage to babies' cognitive and social development.
Children whose mothers worked under 30 hours a week fared the best -- benefiting from the increased household income, better child care and a happier home life, without losing out on parental interaction.
"Prior research has asked a somewhat artificial question: If the one thing that changed in a family was that the mother went out to work, what difference would it make for the child?" Jane Waldfogel, a professor of social work at Columbia and coauthor of the study, tells the Daily Telegraph. "But in reality, lots of other things change the minute she goes out to work, including the quality of child care, the mother's mental health, the relationships within the family and the household income. We've examined all those things."
The new study, published last week by the Society for Research in Child Development, flies in the face of a 2008 study by UNICEF that concluded mothers who went back to work less than a year after giving birth were "gambling" with their children's development.
"The findings reflect what I think many working mothers would say, which is that they have balanced all the different considerations and they feel that they are doing the best thing for their families over all, and yes it's tough in some ways that they are working, but there are also important benefits that come with that," Waldfogel says.
Related: Babies of Working Moms Get Just as Much Cuddle Time
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