Working mothers benefit their children, not harm them, according to a scientific study. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the research said girls especially gain in a household where the mother works.
For the study, thousands of parents answered questions when children were infants and when they were three and five. The results suggested that, where the mother is the main breadwinner, boys are less happy at five than those with both parents working. Also, girls were less happy at five if the main breadwinner was the father.
The study is good news for mothers who may worry about their children’s emotional wellbeing when they go out to work.
The happiest situation for children, according to the survey, is for both parents to be living at home and for both to be working.
Anne McMunn, who led the research, said, “In this study we did not see any evidence for a longer-term detrimental influence on child behaviour of mothers working during the first year of life.”
The questionnaire included questions about hyperactivity, tantrums, aggression, unhappiness, tearfulness and worry. There were more than 12,000 responses for each stage, and the percentage of mothers working rose from 55% in children’s infancy to 60% at the age of five.
McMunn said the next stage of research for the same control group will provide wider information because, at age 7, it will include the views of teachers.