Effects on Children When Both Parents are Employed Socio-economic conditions in North America have contributed to the need for dual incomes for families. Economically, the number of two parent families below the poverty line would increase to an estimated 78% if they were to become single income families. (Ontario Women’s Directorate 9) Socially, it was the norm, in the past, for women to stay at home having a more expressive role in the family; taking care of the children and providing emotional support for the family. Presently, women feel that their traditional roles as child bearers and homemakers must be supplemented with a sense of achievement outside the home. Recent studies reflect an increased trend towards the dual income family and projections are for this trend to continue. In 1961, 30% of married women were working; in 1978, 38% were employed; by 1981 50% were working and in 1985, 55% held paying positions outside the home. (Jarman and Howlett 95) In 1961, only 20% of all two parent families were! dual wage families, but by 1986, more than half (53%) of all families were dual earning families.
(Ramu 26) In light of the fact that the majority of two parent families in the 1990’s have also become dual wage earning families, it is important to examine the effects of such a phenomenon on society in general and on child rearing in particular. Children acquire their goals, values and norms based on the way that they view or identify with their parents as well as from the quality and amount of care, love and guidance given to them by their parents. Parents who work present a different image to their children than parents who do not work. In addition, wage earners, including parents, must (in most cases), be absent from the home during the day. When considering these modifications to the family dynamics, there is considerable basis for proof that the positive effects outweigh the negative effects experienced by offspring in families were both parents are employed. The working parent occupies an important exemplary role within the family.
Working parents often command considerable respect from their children, because they demonstrate the worthy characteristics of industriousness, social compatibility, self reliance, maturity, intelligence and responsibility. Because children identify with their parents, the feedback from such positive influences tends to be positive as well because many of these positive characteristics are imparted upon them. A child who observes the competent coping abilities of a working parent learns in turn, how to cope with life’s problems. At first this may translate into an improved sense of self-reliance and independence for the child as well as an improvement in the ability to be socially compatible. As the child grows, it can further render a child more emotionally mature and hence more competent in dealing with responsibility and task completion such as is needed for school work and extra curricu! lar activities.
A study by Hoffman in 1974 corroborates these observations and therefore one can conclude that, in general, the working parent provides a very positive role model for the child in a family where both parents are employed. (Hoffman 18) Attitudes of working parents pertaining to achievement, responsibility and independence affect both male and female offspring. There seems to be more beneficial effects felt by daughters of working women than by sons; however, this neither implies nor concludes that males do not receive some positive effects due to maternal employment. (Spitz 606) Hoffman has concluded that daughters of employed mothers tend to be more independent. (Hoffman 73) This tendency may result from the fact that in the mother’s absence, a daughter is often left to cope with caring for herself: This promotes her independence and self-reliance.
At the same time, the daughter may also be left with the job of looking after a younger sibling, helping to promote her sense of responsibility. Significant too, is the fact that daughters of working mother’s tend to be more decisive about their futures than sons. Further studies have demonstrated that a mother’s employment status and occupation tends to be a good predictor of the outcome of the working mother’s daughter, since daughters tend to follow in their mother’s footsteps. Typically, working mothers held higher educational aspirations for their children and furthermore, most daughters tend to achieve higher grades in school. (Spitz 606) It is also important to note that both male and female children acquire more egalitarian sex role attitudes when both parents work.
Boys with working mothers showed better social and personal skills than boys of non-working mothers. On a negative note, middle-class boys tend to do worse in school when their mothers worked. (Shreve 118) As well, boys whose mothers work tend to have strained relationships with their fathers due to their perceptive devaluation of their father’s worth as an adequate bread-winner. (Adele 32) One can conclude that males may be negatively affected when their mothers work, but males and, to a greater degree, females are affected in many positive ways with regards to achievement in independence and responsibility. Adequate child care is a necessity for parents who both work.
It is often complicated to balance both the parent’s and child’s needs when using child care. However, it may be possible to satisfy the demands of both if forethought and prudence are applied. Many cultures worldwide realize that a child’s nurturing can be acquired from a variety of sources including both adults and older children. Children can be as comfortable with grandparents, neighbors, professional child care attendants, and babysitters as they are with their own mothers. In fact, a variety of sources for nurturing not only provide the child with a variety of role models, such as in the case of grandparents, but it also provides them the ability to compare these role models and to choose the appropriate characteristics which they will adopt as their own. One third of all children are looked after by relatives; 50% of all children in child care situations are being looked after by someone unrelated! to them.
(Petterson 533) To date, in Ontario as in all of Canada, there is no adequate government policy for child care. Funds ear marked for this area of social assistance are either misappropriated or abused. Even now, in 1995, the government of Canada has not yet recognized the fact that children are a community responsibility and that they should start treating them as such. (Monsebraaten A1) In the end, the responsibility of choosing the proper type of child care lies with the working parents. Proper research of the day care facilities and employees should include an investigation into the availability of superior care in a quality program where rearing beliefs and practices mirror those of the parents. When both parents feel confident in their day care choices, they will view them as supportive influences rather than intrusive ones.
This positive attitude will provide the child with positive feedback because when parents feel good about their lives and decisions, they communicate their satisfaction to their children in the form of positive feelings. These positive feelings are then internalized by the children. (Rodman 576) Difficult as it may seem, it is clear that if forethought, research and adequate investigative techniques are applied, parents can successfully select the child care facility and/or individual most appropriate to fulfill both their own an! d their child’s needs. Parents who work alter several traditional methods of parenting. The aspects of parenting which are most affected are quality, quantity and content.
When considering content, a major point is the preparation of the child for a society in which those children will be adults. Currently, a child has a 50% chance of becoming divorced, and in the case of a female, a 50% chance of becoming a single mother as well as the probability of becoming a member of a dual wage earning family. (Shreve 61) Working parents are in a good position to prepare their children for that type of lifestyle. Healthy family dynamics including team work, sharing, and responsibility, are more easily adopted when they are already familiar. As far as quality of parenting, it has been observed that women who are highly satisfied with their roles whether they work or not, display higher levels of warmth and acceptance than do dissatisfied mothers and these positive feelings are reflected in their! relationships with their siblings.
(Lerner and Galambous 44) Finally, when considering quantity of time spent on parenting when both parents work, it has been concluded by Hoffman in 1974 that there is no consistent evidence of deprivation felt by children of employed mother’s. In fact, mothers who were better educated and employed outside the home spent more time with their children even at the expense of their own leisure and sleep time. (Hoffman 76) Hoffman also proposes that the time spent on employment simply substitutes for time previously spent on needless or less important household tasks which can be performed by others or not at all. Researchers question the validity of measuring the number of hours a mother spends with her children. Hoffman found that while working mothers spent less time with their children , the time spent with them was more likely to be in direct contact with them. Mothers who are at home full time spend only 5% of their time in direct in! teraction with their children.
(Hoffman 75) Employed mothers spend about the same time reading to, playing with and otherwise paying attention to their children as do mothers who stay at home. (Hoffman 76) Because society has changed, the family’s function within society has changed as well. Parental roles have been modified to meet these changes. Today, the family’s most important task is to provide emotional security in a vast and impersonal world. Working parents often possess the skills necessary for responding adequately and creatively to the increased stress placed on children to succeed in such an environment. Parents who work must, out of necessity, be adept at providing fresh, innovative and effective modes of parenting even when time with the child is limited.
The debate as to whether or not both parents should work or not is really not significant anymore. Both parents are working and will continue to do so and children are not being raised today in the same way as they were in the past. The next generation of parents will be more confident than their predecessors and they and their children will probably never experience the dichotomous feelings that t! oday’s parents have about the dual income family and it’s effects on child rearing. Working outside the home and being a good parent at the same time is possible and in both of these tasks there is much to value and treasure.