Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Mothers at Work: Effects on Children's Well-Being

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Mothers at Work: Effects on Children's Well-Being

Article excerpt

Mothers at Work: Effects on Children's Well-Being. Lois W. Hoffman & Lisa M. Youngblad. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. 1999. 338 pp. ISBN 0-5215-7289-4, cloth; ISBN 0-5216-6896-4, paper. $54.95 cloth, $19.95 paper.

This book reports on one ambitious research study, a group endeavor designed by senior author and psychologist Lois Hoffman and effected by graduate and undergraduate students. The research examines how and under what circumstances a mother's paid employment affects her child or children's well-being.

The sample is 369 families with a child in the third or fourth grades in the public schools in an industrialized Midwest city. Sixty-two percent of the children came from two-parent families. Seventy-three percent were White, 24% Black, and 10% Hispanic. Parents' socioeconomic class ranged from unskilled to professional. The research team gathered extensive data from the children's mothers, fathers, teachers, and classmates; from the children themselves; and from school records.

Chapter one presents a comprehensive, wellorganized literature review, which concludes as follows:

[A] persistent hypothesis is that employed mothers encourage independence, grant autonomy, and assign responsibilities more than nonemployed. It has been suggested that this has positive consequences for daughters but, at least for independence and autonomy-granting, possible negative consequences for sons. The actual evidence for the association of these different childrearing styles with maternal employment, however, is sparse--most of it obtained thirty years ago. And there is no evidence for the full causal chain. (p. 27)

This study is designed to help fill these research gaps. Among the many findings was that, overall, girls and boys with employed mothers scored higher on academic achievement tests. This was true across ethnic groups and for children in one- and in two-parent families. Working-class boys (although not middle-class boys) in two-parent homes with full-time homemakers received the highest peer ratings of hitting and teacher ratings of acting out. …

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