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Working mums: new study finds going out to work has no harmful effect on small children

(363 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 22-Jul-11 07:56:06

Hello. We've just had the heads-up on this study suggesting that there are no significant detrimental effects on a child's social or emotional development if her or his mother works during her or his early years.

In fact, young girls may even gain from being in a household where their mother works, say researchers at University College London, in a UK-wide project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

These findings run counter to those of some previous studies, which have suggested that children whose mother works in the first year of their life may be more prone to bad behaviour, or even to be more overweight.

What do you think? Do the new findings surprise you? Or confirm what you already knew? Do tell...

emmyloo2 Fri 22-Jul-11 08:09:54

Confirms for me what I already knew! I am the daughter of a mother who worked full-time since I was born. Both my parents worked but both worked reasonable hours and we had dinner as a family together every night.

I went back to full-time work when my DS was 3.5 months old. My DH and I both work in quite stressful, senior positions but we have flexibility and we make sure we are home by 6pm every night. We completely share responsibilities around the house and with our son. He is looked after by his grandparents and a lovely nanny.

I am quite confident he is not suffering at all and I am so much happier being back at work in a job I love that it can only be benefitting him to have a mother who is the happiest she has ever been with parents who are in a marriage which is doing great.

I totally think it is horses for courses and parents need to make the decisions that work best for them. In my view, children need stability and love. If they get this from a variety of people, I genuinely think they will thrive.

cory Fri 22-Jul-11 08:18:38

The other thing noone in the previous studies discussed is how much bad behaviour at certain points in childhood matters in the long run. If you can be shown to be anti-social or prone to tantrums at age 2, does that mean you will struggle as you grow up? And if you don't, does that mean there ever was a problem?

I was pathetically shy as a young child to the point of not interacting with strange children at all- so definitely something nursery staff would have picked up on. But in terms of my later life it has meant zilch- I am a perfectly well adjusted adult.

CMOTdibbler Fri 22-Jul-11 08:26:23

It doesn't suprise me - I went back to work when ds was 4.5 months old, and he was at nursery ft till he went to school. He's incredibly social and emotionally bonded to his father and I.
Good childcare - whether its nanny, nursery, cm or family doesn't hurt children. Poor childcare - thats another story entirely

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 22-Jul-11 08:38:09

A bit like the study yesterday that says 'tall people more likely to get cancer than short ones', it's largely irrelevant because there's not a lot most of us can do about whether we work or not. To be honest, I've stopped taking any notice.

BerylOfLaughs Fri 22-Jul-11 09:06:57

These studies are of no use. Each family and each child is different, no study will ever tell you what is right for your child.

moonbells Fri 22-Jul-11 09:15:20

I echo CMOTdibbler. DS is well-socialised, happy, skinny as anything (he comes in at 4th centile on NHS BMI calc for his age/gender) and after a crackdown by all concerned, now quite well-behaved.

And he's a cuddlemonster for us and for his two favourite nursery carers, both of whom have helped us get the terrible twos/threes under control.

I think that when you work you have to pay more attention to behaviour and set very firm boundaries or they'll guilt-trip/manipulate you into letting them get away with things, even more so than if you don't work! That might be why other studies have found links between behaviour and work patterns. Indulging a child because you feel guilty you weren't there all day is a recipe for disaster.

(This is not to say there aren't some children with behavioural problems that don't stem from parenting; I think they and their parents should have all the help they need.)

Ormirian Fri 22-Jul-11 09:16:35

Yes. I know grin

wompoopigeon Fri 22-Jul-11 09:25:28

Why are researchers so bloody obsessed with mothers? Where are the studies on whether men should go to work?

LoveBeingAbleToNamechange Fri 22-Jul-11 09:29:09

It's not what you do, it's the way that you do it!

It goes for working and at home mums, just cause you're there all day doesn't mean your child is benefitting and just cause they are in childcare doesn't mean they never interact with their parents.

BrainSurgeon Fri 22-Jul-11 09:37:52

With all due respect, in my modest opinion, our personal experiences with our parents / children will not be trully relevant - this is a statistical study and it operates on averages and trends, so its findings won't resonate 100% with everyone.

I find the results really encouraging and welcome the study - mainly because I work full time and it helps alleviate the guilt.... that according to this study I should not be having! smile

GetOrfMoiLand Fri 22-Jul-11 09:41:22

My response to the above is 'no shit sherlock'.

Where have they ever studied whether having a FT working father has a detrimental effect on a child?

yes it is good to have a positive study but some tool like Oliver James will come along next week and state categorically that all working mothers are medusa-like gorgons who are ruining their children's lives.

I don't give a monkeys. I am similar to CMOT - went back to work FT when dd was 3 months, she is a happy and well adjusted child and I have no regrets.

As long as you have brilliant child care (which is usually the more expensive option) what is the problem.

motherinferior Fri 22-Jul-11 09:54:03

Doesn't surprise me. Especially the findings for girls.

But, like BrainSurgeon, I'm also relieved to find that an epidemiological study - so one that looks across a whole population - does find this.

claig Fri 22-Jul-11 10:00:05

'I find the results really encouraging and welcome the study - mainly because I work full time and it helps alleviate the guilt'

I think that is the point of the study. It seems to be a questionnaire based study that asked parents their views.

'Why are researchers so bloody obsessed with mothers? Where are the studies on whether men should go to work?'

Because it is political, it is progressive. Employers lap it up.

Treats Fri 22-Jul-11 10:04:34

I'm just pleased to see it - like the others, I'm not going to put the findings of a study above what I know about my own family when choosing whether to work or not, but it's good to see academic research that backs up my intuition on this.

In particular, it's nice to see evidence for my hunch that my going out to work is actually good for my daughter - in more than just a financial way.

But I doubt that this particular research will have much impact. There'll be another study next week that says that working mothers do untold damage to their children sad. And - as wompoopigeon says - there'll be no mention at all of the fathers' role........

Ultimately, people have strong feelings about the debate - deeply rooted in their own upbringings, and their own values - and attitudes won't be shifted by academic studies. Academics and the media will play ping pong with their research and their studies and their opinions and the rest of us will just get on with doing what we think is best.

berkshirefem Fri 22-Jul-11 10:05:34

I'm no expert in statistics or testing so I don't know how accurate it is but to me it makes perfect sense.

Although i don't know why "mothers" have to feature so heavily. Surely the study proves that a child can have 2 working parents and turn out okay. It is grating that they think us mothers need to be judged and appeased constantly where as the men can do as they please.

claig Fri 22-Jul-11 10:06:29

On the ESRC's website it says

"We are a non-departmental public body established by Royal Charter in 1965 and receive most of our funding through the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills."

It's good for business.

Blu Fri 22-Jul-11 10:07:24

It is of no surprise to me.

And - we can research and research and research and when push comes to shove many families will have to work anyway or else risk the detrimental effects of poverty. The world over and down through the ages, mothers have worked. Are there more wars than in Tudor times?, is human knowldge declining?

And DO WHAT? if there was a small detrimental effect in placing children in childcare? We drive cars with detrimental effects to the air our children breathe, and catastrophic effect on the children who are run over or in crashes. And despite these detrimental effects we understand the overall benefits of driving.

All hail to an end to studies which focus solely on what WOMEN should do. (has there been a major study including the effect of sahds? the detriumental effect of dads at work for hours on end? Not at work? etc etc)

Blu Fri 22-Jul-11 10:07:42

sorry -SO what' not 'DO what'.

BrainSurgeon Fri 22-Jul-11 10:08:57

Oh well, claig, I think you're right, but I have the bad habit of taking out of these things whatever suits me anyway wink
A bit like they do.

claig Fri 22-Jul-11 10:11:35

BrainSurgeon, that's right. There is little we can do about it. Most parents both have to work due to the rising cost of living and the ever increasing costs of housing and gas and electricity and all the food bills etc. But we can still sometimes see the spiel that we are fed.

Concordia Fri 22-Jul-11 10:16:28

i'm not surprised that obsesity isn't any higher in the children of working parents as i could never get my children to eat a meal in childcare prior to the age of about 4 - frantic feeding at 7.30am and 6.15pm only!
But that's just my experience - sure other children do actually eat in childcare.
hate the emphasis on 'mothers' working as the key factor though - as others have pointed out surely fathers can work too?!

Concordia Fri 22-Jul-11 10:19:53

Actually i was brought up in the 70s/80s to believe that women should always work, that work was more important than child-rearing which shoudl be delayed until you had had a good career. i would not like to model this to my daughter as it is a regret of mine that i did not have children earlier as i have not been able to have the number of children i wanted. so i will make it very clear to my daughter that staying at home with kids can be a fulfilling option, if she can afford it / wishes to do so!

claig Fri 22-Jul-11 10:30:52

That's the political message they have been trying to sell.
Here they are again stepping it up, the greens and all the rest.

It's about population size and keeping the people skint with ever increasing price and energy rises.

claig Fri 22-Jul-11 10:33:18

Work, work, work and now it's even work until you drop as they keep on increasing the pension age.

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