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Soc Sci Res. 2012 Mar;41(2):425-43. Epub 2011 Nov 4.

Have children adapted to their mothers working, or was adaptation unnecessary? Cohort effects and the relationship between maternal employment and child well-being.

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Department of Sociology, Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Ave., Charlotte, NC 28274, United States.

Abstract

Drawing on previous theoretical and empirical work, we posit that maternal employment influences on child well-being vary across birth cohorts. We investigate this possibility by analyzing longitudinal data from a sample of children and their mothers drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. We introduce a series of age, cohort, and maternal employment interaction terms into multilevel models predicting child well-being to assess whether any potential short-term or long-term effects of early and current maternal employment vary across birth cohorts. Results indicate that maternal employment largely is inconsequential to child well-being regardless of birth cohort, with a few exceptions. For instance, children born in earlier cohorts may have experienced long-term positive effects of having an employed mother; however, as maternal employment became more commonplace in recent cohorts, these beneficial effects appear to have disappeared. We discuss theoretical and methodological implications of these findings.

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