Maternal employment and children’s socio-emotional outcomes: an Australian longitudinal study
- 5 Downloads
Among children, poor socio-emotional functioning leads to poor health and well-being during childhood and later in life, and so understanding its social determinants is important. This study’s objective is to examine how maternal employment influences children’s socio-emotional outcomes in an Australian sample of families with two biological parents, testing the mediating role of maternal mental health, parenting practices, and parental income.
We analyze six waves of panel data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (n = 7524 children, 29,701 observations) using random-effect models.
Children of employed mothers display better socio-emotional outcomes than children of non-employed mothers, though the effect magnitude is only moderate. Associations are stronger for internalizing than externalizing problems, and not mediated by parental mental health, parenting practices, or household income.
Our findings can inform sociopolitical debates on the social value of maternal labor force participation and its impacts on children. They suggest that incentivizing maternal employment should bear no detrimental consequences on their children’s socio-emotional functioning. The different associations found for children’s internalizing and externalizing problems stress the value of distinguishing these constructs.
KeywordsChildren Socio-emotional functioning Mental health Maternal employment Australia LSAC
This research was supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (Project No. CE140100027), and uses unit record data from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. The study is conducted in partnership between the Department of Social Services (DSS), the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The findings and views reported in this paper are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the ARC, DSS, AIFS, or the ABS.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006) Household income—equivalised (HIED). Census Dictionary (Cat. No. 6523.0). Canberra ACTGoogle Scholar
- Australian Institute of Family Studies (2015) Longitudinal study of Australian children data user guide—November 2015. Australian Institute of Family Studies, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
- Bourdieu P, Passeron JC (1990) Reproduction in education, society and culture. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Bowlby J (1984) Attachment and loss, 2nd edn. Penguin, HarmondsworthGoogle Scholar
- Brooks-Gunn J (1995) Children in families in communities: risk and intervention in the Bronfenbrenner tradition. American Psychological Association, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
- Cobb-Clark DA, Salamanca N, Zhu A (2016) Parenting style as an investment in human development. IZA discussion paper no. 9686, IZA BonnGoogle Scholar
- Economic Co-operation and Development (2016) LMF2.5 Time used for work, care and daily household chores. OECD—Social Policy Division—Directorate of Employment, Labor and Social Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/els/family/database.htm. Accessed 11 Mar 2017
- Huerta MC, Adema W, Baxter J, Corak M, Deding M, Gray MC, Han WJ, Waldfogel J (2011) Early maternal employment and child development in five OECD countries. OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers No. 118Google Scholar
- McMunn A, Kelly Y, Cable N, Bartley M (2011) Maternal employment and child socio-emotional behavior in the UK: longitudinal evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. J Epidemiol Community Health 66(7):1–6Google Scholar
- Shonkoff JP, Phillips DA (2000) From neurons to neighborhoods: the science of early childhood development. National Academy Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
- Thompson RA, Meyer S (2007) Socialization of emotion regulation in the family. In: Gross J (ed) Handbook of emotion regulation. Guilford Press, New York, pp 249–268Google Scholar
- Wooldridge JM (2010) Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Zubrick SR, Lucas N, Westrupp EM, Nicholson JM (2014) Parenting measures in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children: construct validity and measurement quality, Waves 1 to 4. LSAC Tech Pap 12:1–10Google Scholar