Dads Against the Divorce Industry

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Study: Kids' Skills Hurt When Mom Works

Friday, June 16, 2000
GREENSBORO, N.C. Mothers who work outside the home may hurt the cognitive development of their young children by being absent, according to a study published Thursday.

University of North Carolina at Greensboro labor economist Dr. Christopher Ruhm said that three- and four-year-olds tend to have lower verbal ablities if their mothers worked during the child's first year.

Ruhm said an increasing percentage of single or married women with children under age 6 are working. "These changes suggest that parents have less time to invest in raising their children, with potentially harmful effects," Ruhm said.

His research, based on a survey of more than 4,000 American children, found that children of mothers who work before their child reaches age 3 appear to have weaker verbal, reading and mathematics skills than the children of mothers who do not work.

The study, published in the Working Paper Series of the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that children whose mothers worked during their first year had lower verbal abilities at ages 3 and 4.

When a mother works during the child's first three years, lower levels of reading and mathematic abilities are seen when the child is aged 5 or 6, the study said.

Ruhm said the research shows parental involvement during the first years of children's lives is important in fostering cognitive development.

U.S. Census data indicates that, in 1996, 55 percent of single females and 63 percent of married females with children under age 6 were working.

Ruhm said earlier studies that found no significant relationship between child development and mothers working outside the home may have presented an overly optimistic assessment of the impact of work by mothers.

A study of nine Western European counties conducted by Ruhm in 1998 found that the nations with the most liberal parental leave policies had the lowest rates of child mortality.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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