NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Effects On Children Of Working Mothers

March 1, 1999

Children of women who work outside the home suffer no permanent harm because of the mother's absence, concludes a study of 6,000 children by Elizabeth Harvey, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The study relied on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth -- an in-depth interview study of 12,000 young people between the ages of 14 and 22 that started in 1979.

  • An earlier study of the same group of children -- taken when they were 3- and 4-years old -- had identified some problems.
  • The children in the most recent 6,000 sample were age 12.
  • Researchers theorize that the problems were simply resolved as the children grew older.
  • The study found that the number of hours a parent spends away from home is not as important as the quality of parenting.

The more hours the mother worked per week during the child's first three years, the lower the child's language development and academic achievement initially. But the differences were very tiny and the difference in academic achievement disappeared by age 10. The tiny difference in language development never went away completely, but got continuously smaller by age 12.

Source: Associated Press, "Mother's Work Outside Home Doesn't Hurt Child," Washington Times, March 1, 1999.


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