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The Effects On Children When Both Parents Are Employed

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Social Issues

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Socio-economic conditions in North America have contributed to the need for dual incomes for families. Economically, "the number of two parent families below the poverty line would increase to an estimated 78% if they were to become single income families ." Socially, it was the norm, in the past, for women to stay at home, taking care of the children and providing emotional support for the family. Presently, women feel that their traditional roles as child bearers and homemakers must be supplemented with a career outside the home. Recent studies reflect an increased trend towards the dual income family and projections are for this trend to continue. In 1961, 30% of married women were working; in 1978, 38% were employed; by 1981 50% were working and in 1995, 70% held paying positions outside the home. (Jarman and Howlett 95) In 1986, only 53% of all two parent families were dual wage families, but by 1996 nearly75% of all families were dual earning families. (Ramu 26) In light of the fact that the majority of two parent families in the 1990's have also become dual wage earning families, it is important to examine the effects of such a phenomenon on society in general and on child rearing in particular. Children acquire their goals, values and norms based on the way that they view or identify with their parents as well as from the quality and amount of care, love and guidance given to them by their parents. Parents who work present a different image to their children than parents who do not work. In addition, wage earners, including parents, must (in most cases), be absent from the home during the day. When considering these modifications to the family dynamics, there is a considerable basis for the opinion that the increaced household income outweigh the negative effects experienced by offspring in families were both parents are employed.
The working parent occupies an important exemplary role within the family. Working parents often command considerable respect from their children, because they demonstrate the worthy characteristics of industriousness, social compatibility, self reliance, maturity, intelligence and responsibility. Because children identify with their parents, the feedback from such positive influences tends to be positive as well because many of these positive characteristics are imparted upon them. A child who observes the competent coping abilities of a working parent learns in turn, how to cope with life's problems. At first this may translate into an improved sense of self-reliance and independence for the child as well as an improvement in the ability to be socially compatible. As the child grows, it can further render a child more emotionally mature and hence more competent in dealing with responsibility and task completion such as is needed for school work and extra curricular activities. A study corroborates these observations and therefore one can conclude that, in general, the working parent provides a very positive role model for the child in a family where both parents are employed. Attitudes of working parents pertaining to achievement, responsibility and independence affect both male and female offspring. There seems to be more beneficial effects felt by daughters of working women than by sons; however, this neither implies nor concludes that males do not receive some positive effects due to maternal employment. It was concluded that daughters of employed mothers tend to be more independent . This tendency may result from the fact that in the mother's absence, a daughter is often left to cope with caring for herself: This promotes her independence and self-reliance. At the same time, the daughter may also be left with the job of looking after a younger sibling, helping to promote her sense of responsibility. Significant too, is the fact that daughters of working mother's tend to be more decisive about their futures than sons. Further studies have demonstrated that a mother's employment status and occupation tends to be a good predictor of the outcome of the working mother's daughter, since daughters tend to follow in their mother's footsteps. Typically, working mothers held higher educational aspirations for their children and furthermore, most daughters tend to achieve higher grades in school. (Spitz 606) It is also important to note that both male and female children acquire more egalitarian sex role attitudes when both parents work. Boys with working mothers showed better social and personal skills than boys of non-working mothers.
The majority of the negative aspects of a dual-income family seem to be centered on the boys. Boys tend to do worse in school when their mothers worked . As well, boys whose mothers work tend to have strained relationships with their fathers due to their perceptive devaluation of their father's worth as an adequate bread-winner. One can conclude that males may be negatively affected when their mothers work with regards to achievement in independence and responsibility. Adequate child care is a necessity for parents who both work. It is often complicated to balance both the parent's and child's needs when using child care. However, it may be possible to satisfy the demands of both if forethought and prudence are applied. Many cultures worldwide realize that a child's nurturing can be acquired from a variety of sources including both adults and older children. Children can be as comfortable with grandparents, neighbors, professional child care attendants, and babysitters as they are with their own mothers. In fact, a variety of sources for ...

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