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Good News for New Moms Who Work

A study co-authored by TC's Jeanne Brooks-Gunn finds few ill effects of first-year maternal employment

A study co-authored by TC's Jeanne Brooks-Gunn finds few ill effects of first-year maternal employment. 

The question has drawn a lot of attention from researchers and the media: Do children fare worse if their moms work in the first year of life? The answer, according to a major study recently released by the Society for Research and Child Development, is essentially "no." Co-authored by Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, TC's Virginia & Leonard Marx Professor of Child and Parent Development Education, the report has generated international headlines. 

Brooks-Gunn and her co-authors, Wen-Jui Han and Jane Waldfogel, both Professors at the Columbia School of Social Work, looked beyond the scope of parental employment, to include extensive data on parent-child interactions, family income, child care and other factors that affect child development. They discovered that while early maternal employment carries some downsides, it also offers some advantages, such as increasing mothers' family income along with the likelihood that children receive high-quality day care. In the tally of advantages and disadvantages that accrue from new mothers working, the net effect on infants is neutral. 

"This is great news for the overwhelming majority of mothers [80 percent] who work during their child's first year of life," said Brooks-Gunn, who co-directs TC's National Center for Children and Families. "Many parents, women in particular, struggle with the difficult transition of returning to work, and the new data from our study should alleviate some of the parental concerns about the negative effects maternal working might have on child outcomes." 

The full study is published in the July 2010, volume 75 edition of the Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development and may be found online at:

Published Wednesday, Sep. 1, 2010