Young children are better off growing up with a mother who works than one who doesn’t, new research has shown.
A recently conducted study by the Harvard Business School shows that children of both genders experience economic, social and education benefits from being raised by a working mum.
The study, which surveyed 50,000 adults in 25 countries, shows that daughters whose mothers worked while raising them are more likely to be employed in higher-responsibility roles and more likely to earn higher incomes than daughters of stay at home mothers.
Across the 25 countries, daughters of working mothers were 3% more likely to be employed and 4% more likely to have landed supervisory roles.
While working mum weren’t found to affect the career trajectories of sons in the same way as daughters – because in general men are expected to work throughout their lives regardless of personal circumstance – it did affect their caring patterns. Interestingly, men raised by working mothers grew up to be more likely to undertake more household work and share more equally in caring responsibilities.
The study showed the effect of working mothers on their sons and daughters was particularly pronounced in the United States. American daughters raised by working mums earn 23% more than daughters of stay at home mums. American sons raised by working mums spend seven and a half more hours per week on caring responsibilities and 25 extra minutes on unpaid household work.
Sons raised by women who work are also more likely to end up in relationships with women to work. This could either be a result of wanting to be a relationship similar to the one they were raised by, or a result of these sons making better husbands to working women due to their increased tendency to share in household and caring roles.
While previous studies have shown that parents’ attitudes to gender and work impact their children’s attitudes, the Harvard study is novel in that it shows that parents’ attitudes to gender roles also impacts their children’s behaviour and choices in their own families.
The positive effects of working mothers has been demonstrated in recent years in a variety of arenas: A 2010 study found that children raised by working mothers were also more likely to be high achievers in high school, less likely to have learning or social problems and less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
These results have led Harvard study author Kathleen McGinn to describe women’s workforce participation as “as close to a silver bullet as you can find in terms of helping reduce gender inequalities, both in the workplace and at home”.
“Part of this working mothers’ guilt has been, ‘Oh, my kids are going to be so much better off if I stay home,’ but what we’re finding in adult outcomes is kids will be so much better off if women spend some time at work,” she said.