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maternal employment, prematurity, single-parent families



  1. Youngblut, JoAnne M.
  2. Brooten, Dorothy
  3. Singer, Lynn T.
  4. Standing, Theresa
  5. Lee, Haejung
  6. Rodgers, Willard L.


Background: Effects of maternal employment for preschool children vary based on specific characteristics of the mother's employment, the family's economic status, and the mother's attitudes about employment. However, there is limited research on a growing group of children at developmental risk-those born prematurely and living in a single-parent family.


Objective: To examine the effects of maternal employment and prematurity on child cognition and behavior in single-parent families.


Methods: Sixty preterm and 61 full-term preschool children were recruited through NICU admission records and birth records. Data were collected with the Kaufmann Assessment Battery for Children, Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Child Behavior Checklist, Parenting Stress Index, and the Life History Calendar.


Results: Greater hours employed was related to higher achievement and mental processing scores only. Less discrepancy between actual and desired employment was related to higher achievement, mental processing, and language scores and lower behavior scores. Prematurity was not related to child cognitive and behavioral performance. Only the relationship between discrepancy and language remained after statistical control.


Conclusions: The concerns about negative effects of maternal employment on young children may be overstated, especially in low-income, single-mother families. These findings are especially important in the context of welfare reform.