Working mums have been urged to drop the guilt they have about pursuing their careers after new research debunked a common parenting myth that the choice would impact negatively on their kids.
Historically, studies conducted in previous decades helped to build a picture that children born to career mothers of the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s were academically poorer performers. Such research found that, on average, these children’s literacy and numeracy skills were two percent lower then the general populus.
But, an analysis of six studies that looked at the performance of over 40,000 children over the last four decades found no link between mothers choosing to continue their careers and their children subsequently misbehaving of performing poorly at school.
Lead researcher Heather Joshi, from the University of London’s Centre for Longitudinal studies, uncovered that children born in the mid 1990’s onwards to mothers that worked in their early years fared just as well as those children with stay-at-home mums.
“There has traditionally been a concern that the employment of mothers comes at the expense of child development,” Joshi said as she presented her findings to fellow academics.
“But as the percentage of mothers in work has gone up, any impact on children has diminished,” she added.
She believes the “generational change” can be put down to better maternity leave arrangements and greater access to childcare – something that was only ‘well-off families’ could afford in decades gone by.
Joshi also pointed to the great contribution made by government investment in structured childcare, which enabled children a better early-learning environment than the informal, less structured care that was once the norm.
Parenting groups have welcomed the research findings, believing that the evidence would help to end the ‘emotional baggage’ mothers face over whether to return to work and continue to pursue their careers or not.
“This research suggests changes in maternity leave and greater availability of childcare and the consequent increase in maternal employment have played a big role in enabling parents to balance work and family,” Fiona Weir, chief executive of the British single-parent charity Gingerbread, told reporters.
“A lack of family-friendly jobs and the shortage of affordable childcare are still making it difficult for single parents, in particular, to balance work and family … with one in five single parents who work full-time and one in four working part-time bringing their children up in poverty,” Weir argued.