Parental leave,Woman,Mother

New research suggests maternity leave is more important for mothers than it is for their kids

December 29, 2016
in Kids

How long should women take off from work after having a baby? It’s a charged question. Scandinavians think women should have a lot of time; Americans seem to think women need little or no time at all. At the heart of the question is the effect on children: Does it help or hurt them to have a parent at home? But attempts to study it scientifically have produced maddeningly complex results. One study found that children from better-off families faced cognitive and behavioral setbacks when their mothers returned to full-time work within nine months of childbirth. But in another, children of poorer women (pdf) made both academic and behavioral gains, on average, when their mothers returned in that timeframe. Other research has come up with mixed findings (pdf). Since some of those studies were done, however, the world has changed. More women work, and are making more money. Child care has improved, as the importance of early childhood development has been recognized. And fathers are getting more involved in it. So a pair of researchers delved into more recent data—children born in 2000 and afterward—to ask the same question: do children suffer, academically and emotionally, when women go back to work quickly? The answer, almost always, was no. Caitlin McPherran Lombardi of the University of Connecticut and Rebekah Levine of Boston College published two studies on Dec. 19—one, in the journal Child Development, about children in the UK and Australia, and one, in Developmental Psychology, about American kids. The studies followed children and families from birth until they entered...

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