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Does early maternal employment affect non-cognitive children outcomes? - A literature review


  • Zsuzsa Blasko

    (Institute of Economics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences)


This review aims at summarizing research-findings in the field of early maternal employment and children's psychological development. We are concentrating on maternal work during the first 4-5 years of children's life, and look at research investigating linkages between maternal employment and various aspects of children's psychological functioning in these early years or later. Most articles discussed here came from the Journal of Marriage and the Family, although some other journals are also included. When selecting the articles, attempts were made to collect relatively recent papers if possible from various research traditions, including sociological as well as psychological approaches. Our review has shown that according to the existing research evidence early maternal employment per se has a clear adverse effect on children's socioemotional development only if it happens in the first year of children's life. Consequences of later employment (eg. when the child reaches 4 year of age) might even include positive ones. In itself, it also seems to do very little difference whether the mother works full time or part time. It is only extremely long hours that might cause concern. There are however other circumstances that might divert the impact of maternal work into a negative direction. These include incongruence between maternal employment preferences and actual behaviour, high level of occupational stress, low income and low complexity of work. When these circumstances are present, children of working mothers are more likely to show behavioural problems than their counterparts. Possible negative effects of maternal employment can in theory be overcome by a high quality alternative care and also with much attention given to the child in the restricted amount time the mother can spend with her/him. In the reality however, risk factors tend to accumulate and positive factors are not easily available for those most in need.

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  • Zsuzsa Blasko, 2008. "Does early maternal employment affect non-cognitive children outcomes? - A literature review," Budapest Working Papers on the Labour Market 0805, Institute of Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:has:bworkp:0805

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sakiko Tanaka, 2005. "Parental leave and child health across OECD countries," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(501), pages 7-28, February.
    2. Jane Waldfogel & Wen-Jui Han & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, 2002. "The effects of early maternal employment on child cognitive development," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 39(2), pages 369-392, May.
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    More about this item


    maternal employment; behaviour problems; psychological development; early ages;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I29 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Other
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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