Are tots really OK when mum goes back to work?
One of the most studied aspects of childhood in recent decades is early, non-maternal childcare. Research tends to show benefits for a child’s cognitive development but not for emotional wellbeing and behaviour. Now a study has found that youngsters are less likely to succeed at school if their mothers return to work within a year of their birth.
Researchers at Macalester College, Minnesota, and the University of California reached this conclusion by reviewing 69 separate studies carried out worldwide since the 1960s. They also found significant differences according to class and family structure.
In fact, children of middle class and two-parent families are likely to do worse at school if their mothers return to work during the first three years.
This is because in wealthier families, the benefits of a mother working ‘may not outweigh the negative effects of decreased maternal attention and supervision and risk of poor-quality child-care arrangements’.
However, the researchers found that women from low-income or single parent families [groups which must overlap to a large degree] tend to help their children by returning to work since this provides additional income and reduces stress. This effect allowed the researchers to say: