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Early Maternal Employment and Child Development in Five OECD Countries

Listed author(s):
  • Maria del Carmen Huerta


  • Willem Adema


  • Jennifer Baxter

    (Australian Institute of Family Studies)

  • Miles Corak

    (University of Ottawa)

  • Mette Deding

    (Danish National Institute of Social Research)

  • Matthew C. Gray

    (Australian National University)

  • Wen-Jui Han

    (Columbia University)

  • Jane Waldfogel

    (Columbia University)

More mothers with young children are in paid work than in the past. There is a long-running debate on possible negative effects of maternal employment on child development. For the first time, this paper presents an initial comparative analysis of longitudinal data on maternal employment patterns after birth on child cognitive and behavioural development. The paper examines data of five OECD countries with different types and intensity of support provided to families to reconcile work and family life. The evidence suggests that a return to paid work by mothers within six months after childbirth may have negative effects on child outcomes, particularly on cognitive development, but the effects are small and not universally observed. Other factors such as family income, parental education and quality of interaction with children have greater influences on child development than early maternal employment per se. Beaucoup plus de mères de jeunes enfants exercent aujourd’hui un emploi rémunéré qu’avant. Un débat ancien existe sur les effets potentiellement négatifs du travail maternel sur le développement de l'enfant. Pour la première fois, cet article présente une analyse comparative de données longitudinales concernant la relation de l'emploi maternel après la naissance sur le développement cognitif et comportemental de l'enfant. Le document examine les données de cinq pays de l'OCDE avec des soutiens aux familles pour concilier travail et vie de famille d’intensité et de types différents. Les résultats suggèrent qu'un retour au travail rémunéré par des mères dans les six mois après l'accouchement peut avoir des effets négatifs sur les résultats de l'enfant, notamment sur le développement cognitif, mais les effets sont petits et observés de façon non universelle. D'autres facteurs comme le revenu de la famille, l'éducation des parents et la qualité de l'interaction avec les enfants ont une plus grande influence sur le développement de l'enfant que le travail maternel en soi.

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Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers with number 118.

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Date of creation: 06 Sep 2011
Handle: RePEc:oec:elsaab:118-en
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