Are working moms bad for kids and families? Feminists have always maintained that the answer is a resounding NO…and the evidence is mounting that we’ve been right all along. Time magazine published an article this week about a comprehensive review of 50 years of research that’s running in the American Psychological Association’s peer-reviewed journal. It offers a definitive analysis of data from 69 studies done on the issue from 1960 to 2010. The news is good:
The researchers found little evidence to suggest that mothers who work part-time or full-time have children with problems in later life. But the researchers did find two positive associations between working motherhood and well-adjusted children: kids whose mothers worked when they were younger than 3 were later rated as higher-achieving by teachers and had fewer problems with depression and anxiety.
The New York Times, among others, has devoted countless column inches to portraying the “Mommy Wars” as an ideological skirmish between opposing factions of privileged women—professionals with high-earning partners who can choose to give up their incomes. That elitist small-focus view completely ignores the fact that the majority of women who work do so out of economic necessity:
The debate about working moms is often conducted as if the only group affected were guilt-ridden high-income college-educated women. But most working mothers have little choice but to hold down a paying job, especially in single-parent families. The children of single moms who work tend to do better than those who don’t.
Between single mothers and women who’ve become the default breadwinner in an economy where men are losing their jobs faster than women, being a stay-at-home mom isn’t even an option for most women. But regardless of women’s reasons for working, the studies collectively showed a positive outcome for their children, on many levels:
It’s not just the extra money the working mothers bring in that helps the kids, although that’s a huge part of it. Other research has suggested that an employed mother provides children with a positive role model about the value of working hard, and lessens other, non-economic stresses on the family.