Budapest Working Papers on the Labour Market BWP - 2008/5
This review aims at summarizing research-findings in the field of early maternal employment and children's psychological development. We are concentrating on maternal work during the first 4-5 years of children's life, and look at research investigating linkages between maternal employment and various aspects of children's psychological functioning in these early years or later. Most articles discussed here came from the Journal of Marriage and the Family, although some other journals are also included. When selecting the articles, attempts were made to collect relatively recent papers if possible from various research traditions, including sociological as well as psychological approaches. Our review has shown that according to the existing research evidence early maternal employment per se has a clear adverse effect on children's socioemotional development only if it happens in the first year of children's life. Consequences of later employment (eg. when the child reaches 4 year of age) might even include positive ones. In itself, it also seems to do very little difference whether the mother works full time or part time. It is only extremely long hours that might cause concern. There are however other circumstances that might divert the impact of maternal work into a negative direction. These include incongruence between maternal employment preferences and actual behaviour, high level of occupational stress, low income and low complexity of work. When these circumstances are present, children of working mothers are more likely to show behavioural problems than their counterparts. Possible negative effects of maternal employment can in theory be overcome by a high quality alternative care and also with much attention given to the child in the restricted amount time the mother can spend with her/him. In the reality however, risk factors tend to accumulate and positive factors are not easily available for those most in need.
maternal employment behaviour problems psychological development early ages