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Working moms not hurting kids' well being, research says

Wednesday, October 20, 2010  
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According to a review of 50 years of research, kids whose mothers went back to work before they were three years old have no more academic or behavioral problems than kids whose moms stayed home, according to a report in Time magazine. According to some measures, kids of working moms did better than kids with nonworking moms.

Research appearing in the Psychological Bulletin, a publication of the American Psychological Association, reviewed 69 studies between 1960 and 2010. Researchers looked specifically at academic and behavioral outcomes.

"We really wanted to try to resolve some of the controversy and inconsistent findings around the issue of maternal employment," lead author Rachel Lucas Thompson, an assistant professor of psychology at Macalester College in Minnesota, told Time.

The study's authors found little evidence supporting the idea that children with mothers who work part-time or full-time have problems in later life. They did find, however, kids whose mothers worked when they were younger than three were later rated as higher-achieving by teachers and had fewer problems with depression and anxiety.

Still, according to the article, children whose mothers worked in the first year of their lives tended to have slightly lower formal academic scores than those whose moms didn't work. Even so, children whose mothers were employed when the child was one or two years old had higher academic scores than kids with full-time stay-at-home moms. Over the three years, the effects evened out.

"These findings suggest in single-parent families there should be no guilt about employment," Lucas-Thompson told Time. "They can also alleviate some concerns among the wealthy," although among children of higher-income families whose moms were working before they were three years old, there was a slightly higher incidence of aggressive behavior.

While the increase in family income was a positive effect on children, the research suggested an employed mother also provides children with a positive role model about the value of working hard and lessens other, non-economic stresses on the family, according to the Time article.

In related news, a survey of full-time working mothers and mom bloggers conducted by a thermometer maker found 33 percent of moms pretended to be sick so that they could stay home with sick children, Time reported. More than 62 percent of them called on parents or in-laws for child care, 57 percent of them took unpaid leave to care for their child and more than one-third took the child to school or day care anyway.

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