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J Am Med Womens Assoc. 2000 Spring;55(2):96-9.

From maternity to parental leave policies: women's health, employment, and child and family well-being.

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  • 1Institute for Child and Family Policy, Columbia University, USA.


Pregnancy and maternity are increasingly viewed as social as well as individual risks that require health protection, employment protection and security, and protection against temporary loss of income. Begun more than a century ago in Germany, paid and job-protected maternity leaves from work were established in most countries initially out of concern for maternal and child physical health. Beginning in the 1960s, these policies have expanded to cover paternity and parental leaves following childbirth and adoption as well. Moreover, they have increasingly emerged as central to the emotional and psychological well-being of children as well as to the employment and economic security of their mothers and fathers. They are modest social policies, but are clearly an essential part of any country's child and family policy. No industrialized country today can be without such provision, and the United States is a distinct laggard in these developments.

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