In a research report published in the American Psychological Association’s Developmental Psychology journal, University of Massachusetts at Amherst psychologist Elisabeth Harvey argues that mothers cause no harm to their children by working outside of the home.
Harvey analyzed data that had been collected for the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The specific data that Harvey considered measured children’s language development, academic achievement, self-esteem, and behavior problems using standardized psychological tests and reports from the children’s parent(s). The 6,000 children were between 3 and 12 years old and were assess every two years between 1986 and 1994.
Harvey found no statistically significant differences between the children of “at-home” and working moms. Among working mothers, Harvey found that the children of mothers who took more time off after returning to work or took other leaves from employment were “better behaved” than the children of mothers taking minimal leave, although this difference was “very tiny and disappeared by the age of five.” Differences in academic achievement disappeared by the age of 10 and differences in language development “were continuously smaller by the age of 12.”
In conclusion, Harvey contended, “the message should be that being at home during the early years, or being employed during those years, are both good choices. Both can result in healthy, well-developed children.”