Sex Roles

, Volume 32, Issue 11, pp 735-751

First online:

College students' perceptions of mothers: Effects of maternal employment-childrearing pattern and motive for employment

  • Judith S. BridgesAffiliated withUniversity of Connecticut at Hartford
  • , Claire EtaughAffiliated withBradley University

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This study examined primarily middle-class Caucasian college students' (n = 460) perceptions of mothers as a function of their employment-child-rearing pattern (continuous employment following 6 weeks of maternity leave, interrupted employment until the child was in first grade, or discontinued employment after the child's birth) and employment motive (fulfillment, financial, or unstated). Results showed that continuously employed compared to other mothers were perceived as less communal and were less positively evaluated. Further, continuously employed mothers were seen as less communal if their employment was for fulfillment rather than financial necessity. Inferences about the mother's perceived commitment to the maternal role help explain some of the communality findings, and perceived maternal role commitment and communality explain the evaluation findings. Discussion focuses on college students' views of normative roles and characteristics for women.