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Working Moms Not So Bad for Kids After All

Working moms can breathe a sigh of relief and stop feeling guilty.

A new study concludes that working mothers don’t necessarily cause development problems in their children, according to The Washington Post. What a relief!

Researchers at Columbia University measured the full impact of a working mother on child development.

The researchers’ conclusion? “The overall effect of 1st-year maternal employment on child development is neutral.” In other word, the benefits balance with the negatives.

The study, “First-Year Maternal Employment and Child Development in the First 7 Years,” is based on data from from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care.

Infants raised by full-time working mothers scored slightly lower on cognitive tests through first grade, according to the study’s findings. Working part-time has no negative effect and working full-time after the first year didn’t seem to make a difference.

But the positive effects of working mothers offset the negatives. Working mothers had more money, they sought out high-quality child care and most interestingly, the study found, working moms showed more “maternal sensitivity,” or responsiveness toward their kids, than stay-at home moms.

That last bit makes sense to me — after spending an entire day with my kids, I’m not always so sensitive to their needs. But when I return home after a day working, I’m more likely to pay close attention to them and be more responsive.

Even though working mothers are now the majority (four of five mothers work in the first year of parenthood, and three of five work full time), they continue to feel societal pressure to stay home with their kids — in part, because of past studies which suggest that kids with working mothers who spend time in daycare have development delays.

Family therapist and  fellow Strollerderby blogger Heather Turgeon recently wrote about “The Daycare Question” for Babble.  “Studies have shown that kids in childcare centers release stress hormones differently,” according to Turgeon, but, “ultimately, our relationship with our kids has the most lasting impact on them, regardless of how much time we clock in.”

Of course, the child’s temperament and the quality of the daycare matters as well.

The American Association of Pediatrics has said that the emotional health of the family and the quality of childcare is more influential for a child’s development than whether or not mom works away from home.

The bottom line: do what works best for you and your family.

What do you think? Do you fret about working outside of the house? How have your kids fared?

Photo: iStockphoto.com/FotoShoot

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