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Does mother’s employment conflict with child development? Multilevel analysis of British mothers born in 1958


Does maternal employment, while children are very young, affect their development? We link cognitive and behavioral scores of school-aged children to mothers’ employment during preschool years using virtually unique data for two generations in the 1958 British birth cohort. Our multivariate, multilevel model controls for mothers’ own cognitive and behavioral scores in childhood. Results are mixed and minor, confirming other British studies at mid-childhood. Reading is, significantly, slightly poorer where less educated mothers work in the child’s first year of life. We found few other interactions with employment but did detect intergenerational transmission of behavioral and cognitive characteristics.

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This paper reflects work begun under the ESRC Programme on Children 5–16 (grant L129100268), developed under a grant from the Smith Institute, and completed under ESRC grant RES-25-0002. We are grateful to Dick Wiggins and Andrew McCulloch on whose work we have built, to the user support team at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, and to Anna Vignoles, Shirley Dex, Nikos Tzavidis, and the anonymous referees for their comments. We are also indebted to the NCDS cohort members for the time they gave to the survey. Responsibility for opinions and any error is our own.

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Correspondence to Heather Joshi.

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Responsible editor: Deborah Cobb-Clark

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Verropoulou, G., Joshi, H. Does mother’s employment conflict with child development? Multilevel analysis of British mothers born in 1958. J Popul Econ 22, 665–692 (2009).

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  • Child development
  • Maternal employment
  • Intergenerational transmission

JEL Classification

  • J13
  • J22
  • J24