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Working mother guilt reducer: study says your kids won't suffer academically

Working and child rearing can be a tough balance. New British study erases some of the guilt.
Working and child rearing can be a tough balance. New British study erases some of the guilt.

Mothers don't need to feel guilty for working during their child’s first year of life, British researchers said this week.

After analyzing six sets of studies that followed the lives of 40,000 children over 40 years, researchers found no academic disadvantage to children whose mothers returned to work early.

Previous to this study, data analysis found that children born before the mid-1990s whose mothers worked in their early years showed a disadvantage in literacy. The difference was small – only a few percentage points from the scores of children with stay-at-home moms – but it was statistically significant.

Professor Heather Joshi, from the Center for Longitudinal Studies at the University of London, found children born after the mid-90s don't show any lag in literacy or math skills. Joshi called it a “generational change.”

“There has traditionally been a concern that the employment of mothers comes at the expense of child development,” Yoshi said in public statements presenting her findings. Her study found that “as the percentage of mothers in work has gone up, any impact on children has diminished.”

Joshi credits more family-friendly workplace practices --including paid paternity leave-- and greater availability of child care as possible reasons.

Joshi studied 19,000 UK children born in 2000 or 2001. She also looked at data gathered by other researchers. This “Millennium Cohort Study”  is significant because of its longitudinal nature, she said, studying large groups of children at various points in their lives.