Academic journal article Family Relations

Maternal Employment and Adolescent Achievement Revisited: An Ecological Perspective

Academic journal article Family Relations

Maternal Employment and Adolescent Achievement Revisited: An Ecological Perspective

Article excerpt

The purposes of this study were to examine the relations of maternal employment and attitudes toward maternal employment to achievement in adolescents and to explore the parenting characteristics that may mediate relations between maternal employment factors and achievement. In a sample of 240 ninth graders, maternal employment did not influence either adolescent achievement or maternal or paternal parenting style. However, adolescents whose mothers' and fathers' attitudes toward maternal employment were not consistent with mothers' employment had lower grades than other adolescents. Similarly, adolescents perceived these mothers whose attitudes were not consistent with their employment to value achievement less and to show less interest in schoolwork than other mothers. These maternal parenting behaviors (values toward achievement and interest in schoolwork) were found to mediate the relations between maternal attitudes and adolescents' achievement, but not between paternal attitudes and achievement. Implications for practice are discussed.

AN ECOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE* Sharon E. Paulson* A number of studies published in the 1960s and 1970s found that school achievement in adolescents was related to maternal employment status (see Bronfenbrenner & Crouter, 1982; Hoffman, 1974, 1980; Montemayor & Clayton, 1983 for reviews), but few studies offered suggestions about why such relations existed. More recently, parenting style and parental involvement have been found to be related to adolescent achievement (Dornbusch, Ritter, Leiderman, Roberts, & Fraleigh, 1987; Hess & Holloway, 1984; Paulson, 1994; Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling, 1992); several authors had previously suggested that such parenting variables might serve to mediate relations between maternal employment and achievement outcomes (Bronfenbrenner & Crouter, 1982; Hoffman, 1974, 1980; Montemayor & Clayton, 1983).

After reviewing the maternal employment literature, Bronfenbrenner and Crouter (1982) called for a research agenda to look at the effects such family factors have on the relation between maternal employment and children's outcomes. However, due to the increased interest in the effects of maternal employment on younger children during the past 10 years, the focus on adolescents decreased considerably. Given that the employment rate for married women with children between the ages of 6 and 17 has increased from 50% to 75% since 1970 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1994), it is especially important for family practitioners and educators to understand whether maternal employment influences adolescent achievement and, if so, to understand the processes through which such relations work. The purpose of this study was to revisit the issue of maternal employment and achievement in adolescents, with special attention given to parenting behaviors that may serve as mediating factors.

THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE

Proponents of the ecological perspective of chils devolpment (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 1986) advocate studying the development outcomes of children within multiple environmints(see Figure 1) Bronfenbrenner (1979) described. four specific environmental systems within which children develop. The microsystem represents those elements of children's environmints that directly influence or are influenced by the children, including their families, schools, and peers. The mesosystem represents the interactions among the elements of the microsystem and their influences on children's development. For example, families and schools have joint effects on children's learning and school achievement. The exosustem represents elements of children's environment that have indirect inflrences on their development. This system includes parents emplwtment situations and their satisfaction with their roles, parents support networks, and government polices. The macrosystem represents those cultural ideologies and valres that ultimately influence children's development though their impact on elemints of the other systems. …

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