Beginning from the 1950s to the present, the number of women entering in employment has increased dramatically. The increase in this number has been accompanied by a great increase in maternal employment. According to Coontz (1997), as on one hand in the course of the 1950s the percentage of children who had mothers in employment stood at 16 percent, on the other hand in the current day this percentage stands at 70 percent. Maternal employment has been considered to bring in negative effects on child development. For instance, it has been considered that mother employment may bring about attachment disorder and may as well affect the child’s cognitive development negatively. This paper is going to look at whether maternal employment has negative effects on child development or not.
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Effects of Maternal employment and child development
According to Ven, Cullen, Carroza, and Wright, (2001), arguments have been presented by the psychologists that the neglected child of the mother who is in employment may be at a risk of suffering from an attachment disorder. This is believed to be a great casual factor that brings about problems of extreme behavior in the child. According to Eyer (1996), mothers should sit at home to take care of their young children to avoid the risk of carrying out the disruption of the crucial bond that should exist between the child and the mother during the mother-child bonding period. If this bond is not strengthened during this period, it will be hard for it to be strengthened in a later period.
The children who are the victims of this may not be able to succeed; they will be annoying everyone around them, they will turn out to be delinquents in the subsequent periods and in the long run they will turn out to be terrorists (Eyer, 1996).
According to Belsky (1988), the theory of attachment holds it that having the mother separated from her child who is still young reduces the chance for the mother to be able to learn the behavioral patterns of the child and this may make it difficult for the mother to offer sensitive care. This is supported by Crouter Bumps, Maguire and McHale (1999), in their observation that employment brings about a conflict in roles which makes it to be very hard for the mothers to have an affectionate relationships with the children at home.
However, Marks, Huston, Johnson, and MacDermid (2001), have a contrasting perspective to this (role enhancement perspective) which contends that employment does not bring down the level of the quality interactions of the mother with their children for the reason that these mothers can always adjust their time and energy in a manner that is flexible.
Even if there are claims that employment of mothers brings about negative child outcomes, there is no much evidence that indicates that this is true. According to Chira (1998), the research carried out in the recent times gives an indication that those children whose mothers are employed are no less attached than the children whose mothers are not employed. As Harvey (1999) observes, the children whose mothers are in employment do not experience any social, behavioral functioning, and emotional deficits.
Bainbridge, Meyers, Tanaka and Waldofogel (2005), in their study established that mothers who are in employment have a higher tendency to have their children being exposed to the school setting when they are still very young unlike of those mothers who are not in the employment. According to NICHD (2000), studies have given an indication that enrolling children in day care centers as well as exposing them to the school setting tends to be of great advantage for the cognitive development of the children.
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However, the effects on the socio-emotional outcomes are yet to be very clear. The attention of the caregivers that might be less sensitive may result in to the children having less social competence, having hyperactivity and physical aggression (Jacobvitz and Sroufe, 1987). However, the care givers who are trained professionally may enable in realizing less hyperactivity among the children.
According to Bowing, Waldfogel, and Brooks-Gunn (2001), Child attachment security to the mother is not the only area of concern in regard to the issue of maternal employment. Other studies in this area have as well focused on the issue of social emotional adjustment and cognitive outcomes in regard to child development. Research carried out in this area has revealed that maternal employment in the first year in the child’s life has an effect that is not similar on later emotional adjustments than does employment begun thereafter. Evidence as well exists which reveals that employment that is started in the first year of the child’s life may affect cognitive development negatively for some children, but on the other hand, employment that comes after the first year may bring positive effects.
More so, family characteristics from which the child comes can as well influence the effects of early maternal employment. Effects may vary depending on the level of the family income. Greater negative effects of maternal employment in a low-income family tan in middle or high-income family. Families with higher income may be in a position to purchase child care that is of high quality than those with low incomes (Bowing, Waldfogel, and Brooks-Gunn, 2001).
As it has been seen in the discussion, there exist negative effects of maternal employment to child development like lack of a strong mother-child-bond as well as development of hyperactivity in the child. However, these negative effects can be countered especially in the case where the mother can stretch her time and energy to be with the child. This can also be solved in the case where the child is in the hands of a professional caregiver. More so, the argument that maternal employment can affect the child’s performance in school negatively might not be true since basing on the research as it has been looked at, there is no clear difference between the performance of the child whose mother is employed and the one whose mother is not employed.
More so, Research carried out in the area maternal employment and child development has revealed that maternal employment in the first year in the child’s life has an effect that is not similar on later emotional adjustments than does employment begun thereafter. Evidence as well exists which reveals that employment that is started in the first year of the child’s life may affect cognitive development negatively for some children, but on the other hand, employment that comes after the first year may bring positive effects.
Bainbridge, J., Meyers, M. K., Tanaka, S., & Waldfogel, J. (2005). Who gets an early education? Family income and the enrollment of three- to five-year-olds from 1968 to 2000. Social Science Quarterly, 86, 724 – 745.
Belsky, J. (1988). The “effect” of infant day care reconsidered. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 3, 235-272.
Bowing W. H., Waldfogel J., and Brooks-Gunn, (2001), The Effects of Early Maternal Employment on Later Cognitive and Behavioral Outcomes. Journal of Marriage and family. 336 – 354.
Chira, S. (1998). A mother’s place. New York: HarperCollins.
Coontz, S. (1997). The way we are: Coming to terms with America’s changing families. New York: Basic Books.
Crouter, A. C., Bumpus, M. F., Maguire, M. C., & McHale, S. M. (1999). Linking parents’ work pressure and adolescents’ well-being: Insights into dynamics in dual-earner families. Developmental Psychology, 35, 1453-1461.
Eyer, D. (1996). Motherguit: How our culture blames mothers for what is wrong with society. New York: Random house.
Harvey, E. (1999). Long-term effects of early parental employment on children’s cognitive ability and achievement. Social forces 77:257 – 288.
Jacobvitz, D., & Sroufe, L. A. (1987). The early caregiver-child relationship and attention-deficit disorder with hyperactivity in kindergarten: A prospective study. Child Development, 58, 1488-1495.
Marks, S. R., Huston, T. L., Johnson, E. M., & MacDermid, S. M. (2001). Role balance among white married couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63, 1083-1098.
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National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Early Child Care Research Network. (2000). The relation of child care to cognitive and language development. Child Development, 71, 960-980.
Ven T. M. V., Cullen F. T, Carroza A. M., and Wright J. P., (2001), Home alone: The impact of maternal employment on delinquency. Social Problems; ABI/IFORM Global.