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More PsychNotes: Parenting

May 10, 2015       
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Mom: Let Go of the Guilt
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

Many mothers feel guilty about working outside of the home and fear their children will be negatively impacted. The debate about the effect on children has raged for some time. However, the results are in and mothers employed outside the home need to let go of the guilt.

Analysis of more than four decades of research and nearly 70 studies examining the effects on children of mothers working outside of the home show very little effect (Goldberg, et al., 2008). Not only does a working mother not impact achievement overall in children, but some positive, yet small, effects appear for girls, 1-parent families, and some ethnic groups.

Although long believed by people that mothers employed outside of the home will negatively impact young children, no effect was shown for this age group. A small negative effect was shown for middle to high school age children possibly related to less supervision. Part-time employment appeared to effect achievement in children more positively than full-time employment but neither compared negatively to mothers in the home.

Goldberg, W. A., Prause, J. and Lucas-Thompson, R. (2008). Maternal Employment and Children’s Achievement in Context: A Meta-Analysis of Four Decades of Research. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 77–108. DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.134.1.77


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