Parent-Child Relations throughout Life

By Karl Pillemer; Kathleen McCartney | Go to book overview

12
Transitions in Work and Family Arrangements: Mothers' Employment Conditions, Children's Experiences, and Child Outcomes

Elizabeth G. Menaghan Toby L. Parcel The Ohio State University

The increased prevalence of maternal employment and nonmaternal child care in the United States and other industrialized countries has prompted wide discussion regarding the impact of these conditions on adult lives and on child outcomes. Much of this discussion has viewed mothers' employment as a social problem and has emphasized research contrasting the children of employed and nonemployed mothers. Perhaps the single clearest conclusion after decades of such studies is that there is no strong positive or negative effect of maternal employment ( Hoffman, 1983, 1989), and that there are wide variations in effects observed. In this chapter, we focus explicitly on an important source of those variations among employed mothers: We emphasize variations in the occupational and economic experiences that employed mothers encounter, and discuss how those maternal experiences can be expected to affect their children's everyday lives.

Consistent with Bronfenbrenner's ( 1979) framework for studying human development and Elder's ( 1974) exemplary analyses, we seek to bridge the disciplinary and subdisciplinary boundaries that too often put pieces of the same puzzle into separate research traditions. Even within studies of the family, marital interaction has tended to be of primary interest to family sociologists, whereas parent-child interaction has been emphasized by developmental psychologists ( Furstenberg, 1985). To a still greater extent, analogous divisions of labor have left the economy, socioeconomic status, and occupations to one set of researchers, and family interaction and child development to others. Such divisions leave unexplored the mechanisms by which each affects the other.

In our own model, we have integrated insights from a diverse set of research traditions to provide an understanding of how social structure shapes family

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