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Child Dev. 1985 Apr;56(2):350-60.

The meaning of maternal employment for mothers and their perceptions of their three-year-old children.


The relationships between features of the maternal employment situation and mothers' positive descriptions of their 3-year-old children were investigated in a sample of 152 white, 2-parent families. Employed mothers' positive motivation for working, low role conflict, and gains in self-worth were all associated with mothers' favorable descriptions of their children. Although sociodemographic characteristics of mothers and their families were found to significantly predict maternal employment status, these demographic differences did not account for variation in mothers' positive perceptions of their children. Personal motivation for working was associated with the degree of role conflict, job satisfaction, and enjoyment of personal contact experienced by employed mothers. Meanwhile, maternal higher education was found to be a powerful mitigator of possible negative consequences for children whose mothers were working from financial necessity or were experiencing role conflict. This was especially true for positive perceptions of daughters.

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