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The Stay-At-Home Mom Myth "Debunked"?

As you know, I'm fond of bursting the bubbles of various myths, lauded by the so-called experts about such diverse health issues, as fact that can do great harm to your health:

Here's a new one to think about: University of Texas researchers have found no difference or effect in the intellectual or social development of children raised by working moms -- with far less time on their hands -- compared to stay-at-home moms who spend much more time with their kids in infancy. That's a far cry from many parents and psychologists who have believed the time mothers spent away at work from children early on diverted their attention and sensitivity away from their babies' cognitive stimulation, among other crucial needs.

Scientists analyzed the diaries of some 1,050 mothers collected in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care. They also examined videotaped observations of mothers interacting with their babies to measure how sensitive they were to their children's needs and visited homes to observe the quality of their environment.

Although mothers who were employed spent less time with their infants than nonemployed mothers, working women compensated by spending more time with their children on weekends and decreasing the time spent in housework, leisure, outside organizations, travel and social activities. No big surprise, mothers who spent more of their available time with their babies - regardless of employment status - were slightly more sensitive and provided higher quality home environments.

Nevertheless, a mother's personality, beliefs and family circumstances were much more important than time as predictors of their parenting. In fact, you could argue the three myths I listed at the top of this item probably have as much effect on your babies as the time you spend with them.

Child Development, March 2005, Volume 76, Issue 2: 467-482

EurekAlert March 25, 2005

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