When Does Time Matter? Maternal Employment, Children’s Time With Parents, and Child Development

Abstract

This study tests the two assumptions underlying popularly held notions that maternal employment negatively affects children because it reduces time spent with parents: (1) that maternal employment reduces children’s time with parents, and (2) that time with parents affects child outcomes. We analyze children’s time-diary data from the Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and use child fixed-effects and IV estimations to account for unobserved heterogeneity. We find that working mothers trade quantity of time for better “quality” of time. On average, maternal work has no effect on time in activities that positively influence children’s development, but it reduces time in types of activities that may be detrimental to children’s development. Stratification by mothers’ education reveals that although all children, regardless of mother’s education, benefit from spending educational and structured time with their mothers, mothers who are high school graduates have the greatest difficulty balancing work and childcare. We find some evidence that fathers compensate for maternal employment by increasing types of activities that can foster child development as well as types of activities that may be detrimental. Overall, we find that the effects of maternal employment are ambiguous because (1) employment does not necessarily reduce children’s time with parents, and (2) not all types of parental time benefit child development.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Fiorini and Keane (forthcoming) implicitly considered fathers by examining children’s time with both parents. However, because they did not distinguish between children’s time with fathers and with mothers, their analysis could not determine whether fathers’ time has effects that are independent of mothers’.

  2. 2.

    Relative to parent-based time diaries, child-based time diaries are less able to capture less-direct aspects of parental time investments, such as parents’ time managing and organizing children’s activities. However, child-based time measures may be better at capturing children’s experience of parental time, which may be more relevant to understanding how time affects child outcomes.

  3. 3.

    Time-diary reports also offer information on children’s time with nonparental care providers such as grandparents, other relatives, and babysitters. However, because time diaries are typically completed by mothers, children’s time with nonparental care providers will rely on mothers’ reports of children’s time when mothers are not present. These reports will not be reliable.

  4. 4.

    Cognitive tests were not administered to children younger than 3 years in 1997 (N = 430). So, in nearly all cases, those having missing 1997 test scores were children younger than 3 years in 1997. In robustness checks, we exclude these children from the analysis, and our results do not substantively change.

  5. 5.

    We also estimate our models using mean substitution and listwise deletion of missing values. These results do not substantively differ from the presented results.

  6. 6.

    Time measures were constructed by multiplying weekday time estimates by 5 and weekend day estimates by 2.

  7. 7.

    A detailed description of the coding schemes of the activities is available from the authors on request. Following Yeung et al. (2001), we also examine other activities not discussed in the text. Specifically, we examine time with parents performing personal care, household activities, and other unspecified activities. These categories were not included in the main analysis for several reasons. First, they are reflected in total time. Second, we are unaware of theories that argue that these types of activities should matter for children’s cognitive and behavioral outcomes, the outcomes we focus on in this study. Third, in analyses not shown here but available upon request, our findings show that these activities are not significantly correlated to maternal work hours nor are they significantly related to children’s outcomes.

  8. 8.

    Having information on work hours over the last year avoids the problem of basing our analysis on work hours observed in one particular week and thus erroneously on a too low or too high value. Thus, we can circumvent a potential problem arising from variation in work hours over the year.

  9. 9.

    In analysis not shown here but available on request, we also estimate all models using a dichotomous measure indicating maternal labor market participation. The results are not substantively different from the findings presented when we use continuous measures of maternal work hours.

  10. 10.

    We also estimate OLS regressions to test the two assumptions. However, given issues of selection bias inherent in OLS estimations and space limitations, we present results only from FE and IV regressions. OLS results are available upon request.

  11. 11.

    Results of the first-stage regressions are available upon request.

  12. 12.

    We conduct supplementary analysis to determine whether regression coefficients significantly differed by age strata for results presented in Tables 4 and 5. Our results show that the effects are significantly different between age groups.

  13. 13.

    Supplementary analysis confirmed that regression coefficients by mother’s education were significantly different from one another.

  14. 14.

    Because the findings for the different educational strata are not significantly different from each other, we do not present the estimates. They are available upon request.

  15. 15.

    We also conducted analyses of children’s time with fathers stratified by mothers’ education, finding some evidence that the effect of maternal employment on fathers’ time is strongest among college graduate mothers. The single categories, however, exhibit too few observations to permit reliable IV estimations.

References

  1. Amato, P., & Rejac, S. (1994). Contact with nonresident parents, interparental conflict, and children’s behavior. Journal of Family Issues, 15, 191–207.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Amato, P., & Rivera, F. (1999). Paternal involvement and children’s behavioral problems. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 375–384.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Baum, C. (2003). Does early maternal employment harm child development? An analysis of the potential benefits of leave taking. Journal of Labor Economics, 21, 409–448.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Baydar, N., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1991). Effects of maternal employment and child-care arrangements on preschoolers’ cognitive and behavioral outcomes. Developmental Psychology, 27, 932–945.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Becker, G. (1991). A treatise on the family (Enlarged ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Belkin, L. (2003). Life’s work: Confessions of an unbalanced mom. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Belsky, J. (2001). Developmental risk (still) associated with early child care. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 845–860.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bernal, R. (2008). The effect of maternal employment and child care on children’s cognitive development. International Economic Review, 49, 1173–1209.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Bernal, R., Fernández, C., & Peña, X. (2011). The differential effects of quantity versus the quality of maternal time investments on child development. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Economics, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.

  10. Bernal, R., Fernández C., & Peña X. (2013). Differential effects of quantity vs. quality of maternal time investments on child development. Unpublished manuscript, Economics Department and CEDE, Universidad de los Andes.

  11. Bianchi, S. (2011). Changing families, changing workplaces. Future of Children, 21(2), 16–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Bianchi, S., Robinson, J., & Milkie, M. (2006). Changing rhythms of American family life. New York, NY: Russell Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Bogenschneider, K., & Steinberg, L. (1994). Maternal employment and adolescents’ academic achievement: A developmental analysis. Sociology of Education, 67, 60–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Booth, C., Clarke-Stewart, K., Vandell, D., McCartney, K., & Owen, M. (2002). Childcare usage and mother-infant “quality time.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 16–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Brazelton, T. (1986). Issues for working parents. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 56, 14–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Bryant, W., & Zick, C. (1996). An examination of parent-child shared time. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 58, 227–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor (2014, April). Employment characteristics of families summary. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm

  18. Cabrera, N., Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Bradley, R. H., Hofferth, S., & Lamb, M. E. (2000). Fatherhood in the twenty-first century. Child Development, 71, 127–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Cawley, J., & Liu, F. (2007). Mechanisms for the association between maternal employment and child cognitive development (NBER Working Paper No. 13609). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

  20. Coleman, J. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94, S95–S120.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Conger, R., Ebert-Wallace, L., Sun, Y., Simons, R., McLoyd, V., & Brody, G. (2002). Economic pressure in African American families: A replication and extension of the family stress model. Developmental Psychology, 38, 179–193.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Cox, M., Owen, M., Henderson, V., & Margand, N. (1992). Prediction of infant-father and infant-mother attachment. Developmental Psychology, 28, 474–483.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Craig, L., & Mullan, K. (2011). How mothers and fathers share childcare: A cross-national time-use comparison. American Sociological Review, 76, 834–861.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Davis-Kean, P. (2005). The influence of parent education and family income on child achievement: The indirect role of parental expectations and the home environment. Journal of Family Psychology, 19, 294–304.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Downey, D., von Hippel, P., & Broh, B. (2004). Are schools the great equalizer? Cognitive inequality during the summer months and the school year. American Sociological Review, 69, 613–635.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Ermisch, J., & Francesconi, M. (2001). The effect of parents’ employment on children’s educational attainment (IZA Discussion Paper No. 215). Bonn, Germany: Institute for the Study of Labor.

  27. Felfe, C., & Hsin, A. (2012). Maternal work conditions and child development. Economics of Education Review, 31, 1037–1057.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Fiorini, M., & Keane, M. (Forthcoming). How the allocation of children’s time affects cognitive and non-cognitive development. Journal of Labor Economics.

  29. Fox, L., Han, W., Ruhm, C., & Waldfogel, J. (2013). Time for children: Trends in the employment patterns of parents, 1967–2009. Demography, 50, 25–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Furstenberg, F. (1988). Good dads–bad dads: Two faces of fatherhood. In A. J. Cherlin (Ed.), The changing American family and public policy (pp. 193–218). Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Galinsky, E., Sakai, E., & Wigton, T. (2011). Workplace flexibility: From research to action. Future of Children, 21(2), 141–161.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Gershuny, J., & Robinson, J. (1988). Historical changes in the household division of labor. Demography, 25, 537–552.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Han, W. (2005). Maternal nonstandard work schedules and child cognitive outcomes. Child Development, 76, 137–154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Harris, K. M., Furstenberg, F. F., Jr., & Marmer, J. K. (1998). Paternal involvement with adolescents in intact families: The influence of fathers over the life course. Demography, 35, 201–216.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Hart, B., & Risley, T. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Hill, J., Waldfogel, J., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Han, W. (2005). Maternal employment and child development: A fresh look using newer methods. Developmental Psychology, 41, 833–850.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Hofferth, S. (2006). Response bias in a popular indicator of reading to children. Sociological Methodology, 36, 301–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Hofferth, S., Davis-Kean, P. E., Davis, J., & Finkelstein, J. (1997). The child development supplement to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, 1997 user guide. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. Retrieved from https://psidonline.isr.umich.edu/CDS/cdsi_userGD.pdf

    Google Scholar 

  39. Hsin, A. (2012). Is biology destiny? Birth weight and differential parental treatment. Demography, 49, 1385–1405.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Hurtado, N., Marchman, V. A., & Fernald, A. (2008). Does input influence uptake? Links between maternal talk, processing speed and vocabulary size in Spanish-learning children. Developmental Science, 11, F31–F39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Huston, A. C., & Rosenkrantz Aronson, S. (2005). Mothers’ time with infant and time in employment as predictors of mother-child relationships and children’s early development. Child Development, 76, 467–482.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. James-Burdumy, S. (2005). The effect of maternal labor force participation on child development. Journal of Labor Economics, 23, 177–211.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Johnson, R., Kalil, A., & Dunifon, R. (2012). Employment patterns of less-skilled workers: Links to children’s behavior and academic progress. Demography, 49, 747–772.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Juster, F. T. (1985). The validity and quality of time use estimates obtained from recall diaries. In F. T. Juster & F. B. Stafford (Eds.), Time, goods, and well-being (pp. 63–91). Ann Arbor: Michigan Institute for Social Research.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Koolstra, C. M., Van, T. H. A., & Voort, D. (1996). Longitudinal effects of television on children’s leisure-time reading: A test of three explanatory models. Human Communication Research, 23, 4–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Lamb, M. (2010). How do fathers influence child development? In M. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (pp. 58–93). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Lareau, A. (2003). Unequal childhoods: Class, race, family life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Leventhal, T., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2003). Children and youth in neighborhood contexts. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12, 27–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Linver, M., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Kohen, D. (2002). Family processes as pathways from income to young children’s development. Developmental Psychology, 38, 719–734.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. McLanahan, S., & Sandefur, G. (1994). Growing up with a single parent: What hurts, what helps. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. McLoyd, V. (1998). Socioeconomic disadvantage and child development. American Psychologist, 53, 185–204.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Nock, S. L., & Kingston, P. W. (1988). Time with children: The impact of couples’ work-time commitments. Social Forces, 67, 59–85.

  53. Pleck, J. (2010). Paternal involvement: Revised conceptualization and theoretical linkages with child outcomes. In M. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (pp. 58–93). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Polit, D. (1998). The positive behavior scale. Saratoga Springs, NY: Humanalysis.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Presser, H. (1989). Can we make time for children? The economy, work schedules, and child care. Demography, 26, 523–543.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Raley, S., Bianchi, S., & Wang, W. (2012). When do fathers care? Mothers’ economic contribution and fathers’ involvement in child care. American Journal of Sociology, 117, 1422–1459.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Raver, C. (2003). Does work pay psychologically as well as economically? The role of employment in predicting depressive symptoms and parenting among low-income families. Child Development, 74, 1720–1736.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Ruhm, C. (2004). Parental employment and child cognitive development. Journal of Human Resources, 39, 155–192.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Ruhm, C. (2008). Maternal employment and adolescent development. Labour Economics, 15, 958–983.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Sandberg, J., & Hofferth, S. (2001). Changes in parental time with children, 1981–1977. Demography, 38, 423–436.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Sayer, L. C., Bianchi, S. M., & Robinson, J. P. (2004). Are parents investing less in children? Trends in mothers’ and fathers’ time with children. American Journal of Sociology, 110, 1–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Schlomer, G., Bauman, S., & Card, N. (2010). Best practices for missing data management in counseling psychology. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 57(1), 1–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Shneidman, L., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2012). Language input and acquisition in a Mayan village: How important is directed speech? Developmental Science, 15, 659–673.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Steiner, L. (2007). Mommy wars: Stay-at-home and career moms face off on their choices, their lives, their families. New York, NY: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Stock, J., & Yogo, M. (2005). Testing for weak instruments in linear IV regression. In D. W. K. Andrews (Ed.), Identification and inference for econometric models (pp. 80–108). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Vaughn, B., Gove, F., & Egeland, B. (1980). The relationship between out-of-home care and the quality of infant-mother attachment in an economically disadvantaged population. Child Development, 51, 1203–1214.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Waite, L. (1995). Does marriage matter? Demography, 32, 483–507.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Waldfogel, J., Han, W., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2002). The effects of early maternal employment on child cognitive development. Demography, 39, 369–392.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Weisleder, A., & Fernald, A. (2013). Talking to children matters: Early language experience strengthens processing and builds vocabulary. Psychological Science, 24, 2143–2152.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Williams, J. C., & Boushey, H. (2010). The three faces of work-family conflict: The poor, the professionals, and the missing middle (Report). Washington, DC, and San Francisco, CA: Center for American Progress and the UC Hastings Work Life Law Project.

  71. Yeung, J., Linver, M., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2002). How money matters for young children’s development: Parental investment and family processes. Child Development, 73, 1861–1879.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Yeung, W., Sandberg, J., Davis-Kean, P., & Hofferth, S. (2001). Children’s time with fathers in intact families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63, 136–154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Financial support for this research was provided by the Population Studies Center to Amy Hsin and by the Profile Area of Economicy Policy at the University of St. Gallen to Christina Felfe.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amy Hsin.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 9 Weighted descriptive statistics for pooled sample

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hsin, A., Felfe, C. When Does Time Matter? Maternal Employment, Children’s Time With Parents, and Child Development. Demography 51, 1867–1894 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-014-0334-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Maternal employment
  • Parental time
  • Child development