MATERNAL EMPLOYMENT, MOTHERING
AND OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN
SUSAN HARVEY HOERBELT
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Many people have contributed to this dissertation
and I am grateful to each of them. I would like to thank
the faculty of the Sociology Department at the University
of South Florida. At various times and in various ways,
they have kept me headed in the right direction. The late
Dr. Sol S. Kramer provided the early inspiration for this
research. Drs. Richard Scott and John C. Henretta gave
insight and direction to early drafts of this paper.
Dr. Gerald R. Leslie was my mentor for a number of
years. As such he endured my lack of editorial skills,
my impatience, and my frustrations. I am deeply respect-
ful and appreciative. Without his unfailing support and
encouragement this dissertation would not be a reality.
My committee members, Drs. Alan Agresti, Constance
Shehan, Joseph Vandiver, and Hernan Vera have been helpful
and supportive throughout the long and frustrating
research process. Dr. Felix Berardo has served as the
Chair of my committee. His support and guidance have
provided the momentum for keeping the project on course
and bringing it to fruition. I am grateful for his help.
My family has remained my source of inspiration
through the joys and frustrations of my education.
There are three men who have endured this learning pro-
cess with me. To my sons, Bryan and Gregory, and to my
husband, Richard, my thanks and my love.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . .
LIST OF TABLES . .
LIST OF FIGURES . .
ABSTRACT . . .
I INTRODUCTION . .
Women in the Labor Force .
Preliminary Statement of the Research
Problem . .
Statement of the Research Strategy .
II INFLUENTIAL FACTORS IN SOCIALIZATION
AND CONSEQUENCES FOR CHILDREN. .
The Importance of the Mother Throughout
Stages of Development in Children. .
The Influence of Gender .
Areas of Socialization .
III REVIEW OF RESEARCH . .
Research Summaries . .
Attitudinal Development .
Behavioral Differences .
Sex Role Orientation . .
IV METHODOLOGY . .
Hypotheses . .
Dependent Variable: Children's Attitudes.
Dependent Variable: Children's Behaviors.
Dependent Variable: Sex Role Orientation.
Independent Variable: Maternal Employment
Covariates . .
Description of the Data . .
Method of Analysis . .
Logic of the Analysis . .
V FINDINGS .. . .
Sample Characteristics .. ... 86
Findings: Attitudes Toward Maternal
Employment .. . .101
Findings: Behavioral Outcomes ..119
Findings: Career Orientation. .... .124
Maternal Employment and Its Impact on
Children . .. .131
VI DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS
FOR FUTURE RESEARCH .
Children's Attitudes .
Differences in Behavior. .
Maternal Employment and Careerism.
The Nature of the Data .
The Nature of the Issue. .
Future Research .
Conclusions . .
BIBLIOGRAPHY . .
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . .
LIST OF TABLES
1-1 Annual Rate of Growth of the Civilian
Labor Force by Sex and Age 1975-79 and
Projected to 1995 (in %) . 4
5-1 Means and Standard Deviations (SD) of
Variables ... . 87
5-2 Cross-Classification of Employment
Patterns for Mothers Who Did Not Work
Before Their Children Were in Elementary
School. ... . .. 88
5-3 Cross-Classification of Employment
Patterns for Mothers Who Worked Part
Time Before Their Children Were in
Elementary School . .. 89
5-4 Cross-Classification of Employment
Patterns for Mothers Who Worked Full
Time Before Their Children Were in
Elementary School .... .. . 90
5-5 Zero Order Correlation Coefficients .. 91
5-6 Regression of Maternal Employment,
Maternal Attitude, and Background
Characteristics on Children's
Attitudes--Partial Regression Coef-
ficients and Standard Errors. .... .102
5-7 F Values for Interaction Terms of
Maternal Work Categories and Parental
Attitudes on the Attitudes of Their
Children ... .. 112
5-8 Extreme Cases of Maternal Employment--
Full Time Throughout Children's Lives
and No Work in Any Period of Children's
Lives--and Background Characteristics
on Children's Attitudes; Correlations,
Means, and Standard Deviations. .. .. ..115
5-9 Regression of Extreme Cases of Maternal
Employment and Background Characteristics
on Children's Attitudes--Partial
Regression Coefficients and Standard
Errors . . .. 116
5-10 Regression of Maternal Employment and
Background Characteristics on Behavior
Index for Males and Females--Partial
Regression Coefficients and Standard
Errors. .... . ..121
5-11 Regression of Maternal Employment and
Background Characteristics on Anticipated
Ages at Marriage and Birth of First Child
for Males, Females Whose Mothers Have
Never Worked, and Females Whose Mothers
Have Worked Full Time Throughout Their
Lives--Partial Coefficients and
Standard Errors .. . .126
LIST OF FIGURES
1 Relationship of the Congruence of
Maternal Attitudes and Those of Children
on the Basis of Maternal Employment. ... 51
2 Relationship of Maternal Employment to
Nonconfirming Behavior Index--Males
and Females Tested Separately. ... 55
3 Relationship of Maternal Employment to
the Sex Role Orientations of Children--
Males and Females Tested Separately. ... .58
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate
School of the University of Florida in Partial
Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree
of Doctor of Philosophy
MATERNAL EMPLOYMENT, MOTHERING
AND OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN
Susan Harvey Hoerbelt
Chairman: Dr. Felix M. Berardo
Major Department: Sociology
Possible outcomes for children on the basis of
maternal employment patterns were investigated in this
study. Two hypotheses were derived from previous theory
and research. These were tested using the data described
in a 1980 report by the U.S. Department of Education,
High School and Beyond. These data were gathered from a
national sample of high school seniors and sophomores.
The first hypothesis predicted that the influence of
parental attitudes on those expressed by their children
would be negatively correlated to the extent of maternal
employment. The more mothers work, the less time they
have to inculcate their children with their particular
attitudes. Conversely, the more time the children are
in someone else's care, the more influential attitudes
of caretakers should be. Results of the analysis did
not support the hypothesis.
The second hypothesis predicted differences in the
behaviors and attitudes of children on the basis of
maternal employment. During the periods when mothers are
at work, socialization is accomplished by others; i.e.,
daycare workers. Because substitute socializers do not
have the investment in children that their parents have,
the intensity of the process may diminish. Furthermore,
the influence of peers in the socializing process would
increase. Previous research and theory suggest that the
behavior of males may be more greatly affected than that
of females. Results of this analysis were not able to
support this hypothesis.
Attitudes regarding sex-role orientations of
children should also be influenced by maternal employment.
Sex role orientations are acquired, in part, by observing
behaviors of others, especially close relatives of the
same sex. Mothers who are gainfully employed exhibit
behaviors reflecting a sex-role orientation which differs
from that exhibited by mothers who are not gainfully
employed. Previous research and theory suggest that
maternal employment patterns should be especially impor-
tant to the sex-role orientations of daughters. The
present study could not support this hypothesis.
This dissertation reports the results of a study on
the effects of maternal employment on children. Changes
in the work patterns of mothers over the past two
decades make this a timely issue. The percentage of U.S.
women in the labor force has been increasing for some
time. This has been true for all women: married women,
women with children, and female heads of household.
Women in the Labor Force
In 1940, 26% of women of working age (16 and older)
had jobs or were looking for work (Waite, 1981). By 1960,
this figure had risen to 37.7% (Simmons, Freedman, Dunkle,
& Blau, 1975). By 1980, 52% of these women were working
or seeking work (Waite, 1981). Following this protocol,
the term work is used herein to indicate gainful employ-
ment. The proportion of married women who work has also
increased. In 1940, 13.3% of all married women were gain-
fully employed (Wandersee, 1981). By 1960, 30.7% of this
group was at work (Masnick & Bane, 1980). Two decades
later, 50% of all married women were in the labor force
Traditionally, the women least likely to work out-
side the house have been those with children. However,
gainful employment has also been increasing among these
women. In 1960, 33.1% of mothers with school-age children
participated full time in the labor force (Masnick & Bane,
1980). By 1980, this portion had increased to 54% (Waite,
1981). The most dramatic increases in labor force par-
ticipation rates have been among mothers with young
children. In 1960, 23.5% of mothers with children aged
3-5 years were working full time for at least some part
of the year. Among those mothers with children under age
3, 19.4% held full-time jobs (Masnick & Bane, 1980); 20
years later, 45% of mothers of children under age 6 were
in the labor force (Waite, 1981).
Among households headed by females, figures indicate
high numbers of employed mothers. According to the U.S.
Department of Labor (1983), in 1970 the number of
divorced mothers with children ages 6-17 who were work-
ing amounted to 82.4%. Among mothers with children under
age 6, the number was 63.3%. In 1980, these figures
stood at 82.3% and 65.4%, respectively, showing that
this pattern has remained relatively stable for more
than a decade.
Increasingly larger numbers of young children have
employed mothers. For example, in March 1980, 43% of
all children under age 6 had working mothers. In a single
year, this figure had risen nearly 2% to 44.9% ("Changing
Faces," 1981) (see Table 1.1).
There is every indication that rates of employment
among women will continue to increase. In projecting
future trends in labor force participation of women,
Fullerton (1980) has presented three possible forecasts
through 1995. These reflect conservative (low growth)
estimates, middle range estimates, and high growth pre-
dictions. He concluded that, regardless of how much the
total labor force increases, women will account for most
of that growth. "More than two-thirds of the 1980-95 labor
force growth would come from women" (p. 12).
Fullerton's projections show that prime-age workers
(25-54 years), particularly women, will experience an
important rate of growth. Table 1 contrasts middle-
growth rate projections for men and women by aie groups
(p. 13). For each time period, the rate of growth for
women is nearly double that for men.
Table 1-1. Annual Rate of Growth of the Civilian
Labor Force by Sex and Age 1975-79 and
Projected to 1995 (in %).
Sex, Age Actual 1979- 1985- 1990-
1975-79 1985 1990 1995
16 to 24 3.15 -1.47 -2.17 -1.16
25 to 54 1.83 2.06 1.88 1.10
Over 54 -0.81 0.78 -1.20 -0.57
16 to 24 3.30 0.49 -0.90 -0.21
25 to 54 4.88 4.28 3.24 1.73
Over 54 2.05 0.45 -0.61 0.01
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statis-
tics, Handbook of Labor Statistics. Bulletin No. 2175.
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1983,
Preliminary Statement of the
Experts from various fields have been concerned with
the potentially "negative" effects of maternal employment
on children. Maternal employment sets limits on the
amount of time that mothers have available to spend with
their children. It may also diminish the intimacy of the
mother-child relationship inasmuch as it causes children
to be exposed to surrogate socializing agents such as
babysitters and day-care center personnel. Maternal em-
ployment may produce important changes in the mother-
child relationship and should result in various conse-
quences for children. However, empirical studies have not
been able to provide support for this position. After
reviewing the pertinent research findings, Rallings and
Nye (1979) concluded that, "despite a persistent concern
over the effects of maternal employment on the child, we
can find little evidence of appreciable effects, positive
or negative" (p. 217). Various experts have pointed out
methodological shortcomings of past research which may
account for the disparity between theoretical predictions
and empirical evidence.
This dissertation investigates this debate by focus-
ing on three criticisms of previous research. Specif-
ically, the present study addresses three of these
1. Many studies were conducted using children in
daycare centers associated with universities (Belsky
& Steinberg, 1978). Children who attend these centers
and the centers themselves do not represent daycare
facilities throughout the society. Maternal employment
may not have the same effects on these children as those
which would be found in the general population.
2. They often fail to adequately operationalize
and control for the effects of social class, which may
be important in determining outcomes of maternal employ-
ment for children (Hoffman, 1974).
3. Past research has also been criticized for
failing to take into account past employment histories
of mothers, which may influence any effects of maternal
employment for children (Maccoby, 1980).
This study analyses possible relationships between
maternal employment and outcomes for children using the
data set by the U.S. Dept. of Education (1980). The
data were gathered from a nationally representative
sample of high school sophomores and seniors between
ages 15 and 17. The heterogeneity of the sample permit-
ted generalization of findings to a wider cross-section
of children than allowed by most previous studies. The
data set also contains a detailed operationalization of
social class. Hence, changes in the effects of maternal
employment across levels of social class could be exam-
ined. In response to a third criticism of previous
research, High School and Beyond (U.S. Dept. of Education,
1980) also contains information as to maternal employment
patterns throughout children's lives.
Statement of the Research Strategy
The goal of the present study was to examine the
disparity between speculations regarding gender role be-
liefs and research findings concerning the topic of ef-
fects of maternal employment on children. This was
accomplished by deriving testable hypotheses from widely
accepted theories regarding child development (see
One hypothesis focused on the extent of the influence
parents have on their children's attitudes. Children
whose mothers have not worked--i.e., remained the
traditional socializing agent--should be expected to ex-
press attitudes more closely aligned to those of their
mothers than those children whose mothers worked--i.e.,
used surrogate socializing agents.
A second focus concerned some possible behavioral
and attitudinal differences among children on the basis
of their mothers' employment patterns. Children with
nonworking mothers should be expected to demonstrate a
higher degree of conformity to societal standards of
behavior than those whose mothers have been gainfully em-
ployed. Also, mothers who have never worked provide a
traditional role model for their children. They should
embrace sex-role attitudes which are rather traditional
compared to the sex-role orientations expressed by
children of employed mothers.
Chapter II discusses the various theoretical per-
spectives from which the hypotheses were derived.
Chapter III reviews the other side of the debate, per-
tinent pieces of research revealing the lack of empirical
evidence that maternal employment affects outcomes for
children. The hypotheses, specific models, and analyt-
ic techniques are then formally presented in Chapter IV.
INFLUENTIAL FACTORS IN SOCIALIZATION
AND CONSEQUENCES FOR CHILDREN
Individuals acquire personal identities and develop
values and aspirations through the process of socializa-
tion. This is a complex process which is influenced by
a variety of factors (Broom, Selznick, & Darroch, 1981).
Furthermore, the impact of any single factor may vary
over time (Reid & Stephens, 1985). One relationship
that is influential throughout the process of socializa-
tion is that of mothers and their children (Erikson,
1982). Because maternal employment represents a dif-
ferent child-rearing pattern than that followed by
mothers who are not employed and are the primary
socializers of their children, there may be significant
consequences for children.
The importance of the role of the mother throughout
the process of socialization is discussed primarily in
the context of Erikson's (1950, 1982) idea of psycho-
social development. He conceives of child development as
sequential and emergent. This premise provides one way of
understanding how conditions such as maternal employment
may affect children at various stages in their lives.
This chapter develops the theory from which
hypotheses are drawn. The process of acquiring attitudes
is the basis for one prediction regarding outcomes for
children on the basis of maternal employment patterns.
The perspective of social learning theory provides a
theoretical explanation as to other ways in which children
may be affected by maternal employment. Basic differ-
ences in the socialization of males and females also
suggests that some outcomes may be more important for
males and others may be more important for females. The
specific research hypotheses, based on these theories,
will be formally presented in Chapter IV.
The Importance of the Mother Throughout
Stages of Development in Children
One way to understand the importance of the mother's
role in socialization of children is to trace the acquisi-
tion of personality as it is influenced by that process.
Strong bonds have been found to develop between mothers
and their children within a few hours of birth (Bronfen-
brenner, 1977). Once this link has been established,
maintenance and continuity are extremely important to
young children in the development of a sense of well-
The importance of the mother-child relationship for
children is widely accepted. Social learning theorists
(Kagan, 1984) and parental identification theorists
(Damon, 1983) acknowledge the impact that mothers have
on their developing children's personalities. Erikson's
(1950, 1982) theories regarding the psychosocial devel-
opment of children also stress the mother-child relation-
ship. One way to elucidate the continuing significance
of this relationship in the development of children is
to trace children's psychosocial development using
Erikson, expanding on Freud's ideas on the sexuality
of children, argues that psychosocial development occurs
in a series of ordered stages. Each stage of develop-
ment requires children to acquire certain competencies
if they are to be successful in subsequent stages of
development. In each of these stages, the importance of
the mother in this acquisition process is apparent.
The first task is to develop a sense of trust. Erikson
interprets this process as the evolution of a sense of
reliability. "The general state of trust implies
that one has learned to rely on the sameness and con-
tinuity of outer providers" (Erikson. 1950, p. 220).
Success at this stage of development is the acquisition
of a stronger feeling of trust than its opposite, mis-
trust. The ability to rely on others is crucial as the
foundation for healthy personality development. One way
to establish this trust is through the mother-child
relationship. A strong and consistent relationship with
the mother is central to the success of the development
of this sense of trust (Bronfenbrenner, 1977). To the
extent that mothers leave their children in the care of
surrogates, some continuity in the mother-child rela-
tionship is lost.
This stage is followed by the development of a
sense of autonomy. Feelings of autonomy are encouraged
by a continuity of associations developed previously.
Mothers who enter the labor force at this stage break
this continuity, which is still critical to the develop-
ing child. During this period, children also acquire
their earliest sense of independence. Alternatively,
children may develop feelings of shame and doubt. In
this instance, children doubt their own competence and
autonomy. Continuity in mother-child relationships
provides a foundation for the evolution of feelings of
independence (Kagan, 1984).
By the time children enter school, a third stage has
passed. Critical at this point is the development of a
feeling of initiative or the ability to have some control
over the events in their lives. Children also acquire
feelings of self-esteem. The negative side of this phase
of development is the feeling of guilt. When this feel-
ing dominates, children suffer a loss of self-esteem.
Erikson (1982) supports the view that the major outer in-
fluence in children's development remains the family,
especially the mother.
The elementary school-age years have been termed the
period of latency (Erikson, 1950). During this time,
children expand their range of significant others to
include increasing numbers of individuals outside the
family. If mothers choose this period to enter the
labor force, the danger is that the child may be overbur-
dened with too many new elements in life. This may cause
children to feel overwhelmed by their suddenly enlarged
circle of relationships (Kagan & Moss, 1962).
Another psychosocial task during this period is to
develop a sense of industry. Children must learn to feel
competent outside the family because, according to
Erikson (1950), they have "experienced a sense of
finality regarding the fact that there is no workable
future within the womb of the family" (p. 227). The
alternative to the sense of industry is the feeling of
inferiority. For children dominated by a sense of
inferiority, feelings of inadequacy and mediocrity are
confirmed (Kagan, 1984). Continued support of parents,
especially mothers, in helping children achieve this
sense of competence is important for children's success
(Rollins & Thomas, 1979).
The stage of adolescence involves the development
of a sense of identity (Kagan, 1984). According to Erik-
son (1982), this is a period characterized by a struggle
in which the task is to synthesize an individual identity
from a number of influences which include "constitu-
tional givens, idiosyncratic libidinal needs, favored
capacities, significant identifications, effective
defenses, successful sublimations, and consistent roles"
(p. 74). Children who are unable to develop this
identity suffer from "role confusion." This is the
inability to feel a sense of inner continuity between
one's self-image and various roles. Throughout this
period, mothers continue to provide a sense of con-
tinuity for their children. As teenagers develop their
own values and aspirations, mothers serve as a role
model (Levin & Arluke, 1983). The mother who is gain-
fully employed provides a different role model from the
one who is not (Vanfossen, 1977). Furthermore, if
mothers are spending a significant amount of time away
from home during this period, there is less opportunity
to influence the attitudes of their children (Felson &
The successful evolution of personality has par-
ticular needs of socializers at each stage of develop-
ment. During the preschool years, a sense of trust is
accomplished by providing a continuity in socializers
(Kagan, 1984). The school-age years require careful
introduction into a society larger than the family.
Adolescents must integrate various data into the emerging
adult personality. One source of these data is role
models. Role models impart important cues for behaviors
and attitudes in the form of their own actions and
Erikson (1982) argues that the most important
factor throughout children's psychosocial development
is the home atmosphere. More specifically, the quality
of the parent-child relationship is pivotal in per-
sonality development. Children who have strong positive
relationships with their parents are likely to develop
healthy self-identities. Children who experience con-
sistent home environments are likely to view their
world as reliable and trustworthy. Maternal employment,
inasmuch as it results in a different home environment
from the one provided by mothers who are not employed,
may have various consequences for children.
The Influence of Gender
Behavioral differences between the sexes are observa-
ble from birth (Bardwick, 1971). There is considerable
evidence to suggest the existence of constitutional
variation in males and females. Systematic observations
of responses and activity throughout childhood indicate
such differences. Some of these are apparent before
socialization or other environmental effects could alter
the behaviors of the children. Observations of neonates
indicate that males exhibit higher levels of wakeful-
ness and motor activity (Phillips, King, & DuBois, 1978).
By one year, males and females demonstrate even
greater specificity with respect to preferences of ac-
tivity and stimulus (Bardwick, 1971).
Moving to the preschool years and beyond, there is
still a range of differences which seem to be linked to
the sex of a child. The consistency of results over
time is provocative. Male children demonstrate higher
levels of aggressive behavior than females (Block, 1983;
Roopnarine, 1984). Furthermore, this type of behavior
is apparently more stable and consistent among males
than among females (Kagan & Moss, 1962). Block (1983)
postulates that sex-appropriate behaviors and attitudes
permeate many areas of socialization. For example,
many of the games children play are heavily favored by
one sex or the other (Lever, 1976, 1978). This is the
case during the preschool years, elementary school
years, and high school years. Similarly, many attitudes
seem to remain influenced by the sex of the child
throughout these periods.
To recapitulate, during each stage in the psycho-
social development of children, mothers or their sur-
rogates serve a somewhat different yet important
purpose (Smith, 1984). The experiences of children
socialized primarily by their mothers as opposed to the
experiences of those socialized by a variety of in-
dividuals--caretakers, for example--should be manifest
in observable differences between the two groups.
There is also reason to predict that some outcomes of
maternal employment are mediated by the sex of the child.
Areas of Socialization
On the basis of the theoretical framework presented
in this chapter, it was possible to derive testable
hypotheses. These hypotheses, formally presented in
Chapter IV, focus on two influences in the socializa-
tion process. The first was concerned with the effect
of mothers on their children's acquisition of attitudes.
The second line of inquiry attended to the differences
in males and females with regard to differences in the
Acquisition of Attitudes
One direct method of socialization is to provide a
set of rules. Some behaviors are mandatory, others are
prohibited. However, such explicit socialization covers
only a small portion of situations about which children
must make decisions. Children must also be given a set
of broader guidelines. These guide their decisions
throughout life. These general guidelines may be thought
of as a system of values. Kluckhohn (1961) has defined
values as "a selective orientation toward experience,
implying a deep commitment or repudiation, which
influences ordering of 'choices' between possible
alternatives in action" (p. 18).
By internalizing a set of values, children are
equipped to make a wide variety of decisions throughout
life. Parsons (1964) argues that the indoctrination
of children with a system of values is of paramount im-
portance to their socialization. The process of acquir-
ing a system of values is influenced by a variety of
factors, one of which is the array of individuals who
are influential in the acquisition process itself.
Individuals primarily socialized by a single person
should reflect values similar to those of the socializer
due to the heavy influence of that individual (Levin &
Arluke, 1983). Conversely, individuals socialized by
several persons should have a more diffuse set of
values, reflecting socialization from a number of in-
dividuals. Thus, children who are socialized primarily
by their mothers should have values which are closer to
those of their mothers than the values of children who
have been socialized by a variety of people. On the
other hand, the values of children of employed mothers
should reflect the input from a number of caretakers.
Values themselves may be difficult to identify.
Some values are manifested in the attitudes one ex-
presses (Kluckhohn, 1961). One way to estimate the
influence of parental values on children's values is to
compare the congruence of attitudes expressed by parents
with those expressed by their children.
Theoretically, it has been posited that the mother-
child relationship is of primary importance in
children's evolution of a system of values. Recall
Erikson's (1982) emphasis on the influence of a stable
and strong relationship between parents and their
children as central to the development of a healthy per-
sonality. Any change in the mother-child relationship
may have consequences for children in the degree to
which the attitudes they express are influenced by
those of their mothers.
Sex Role Socialization
Sets of behaviors and attitudes defined as ap-
propriate for males and females are called sex roles
(Damon, 1983). Because different expectations are held
for males and females (McIntire, 1983), an important part
of socialization for children is the acquisition of an
appropriate sex-role orientation. Social learning
theorists argue that sex role orientation is acquired
through a number of ways including observation of others,
role modeling, and reinforcement of sex-appropriate be-
haviors (Marcus & Overton, 1978; Mischel, 1970). Children
often model their behaviors and attitudes after individu-
als of the same sex with whom they identify. A number of
theorists speculate that parents are the most influential
of these role models (Damon, 1983). As children identify
with their parents, they absorb the attitudes and be-
haviors which they have observed in them, especially
the parent of the same sex (McIntire, Hass, & Dreyer,
Social learning theorists also point out that
children acquire their sex role orientations from
sources other than parents. Among others, Kagan (1975)
has noted the importance of other children and adults
to whom children look as role models. It can be said
that, to an important extent, children acquire their
sex role orientations from their parents in two ways:
observing the models their parents present, and observing
role models their parents permit them to be exposed to.
Maternal employment should also affect this process of
acquisition in that sons and daughters of working mothers
are presented with a different role model than children
of nonworking mothers. This should also influence
children's sex role orientations.
Mothers who remain at home present a particular
maternal image for their children. For daughters, the
relationship is fairly obvious. Mothers who do not work
represent what may be termed a traditional model for their
daughters. Assuming paternal employment, sons also re-
ceive a traditional model as fathers go outside the home
The situation for families in which the mother is
employed is somewhat different. Sons and daughters are
presented with a different role model. Rather than the
traditional division of labor between mother and father,
in this case the parents' models represent an overlap in
the instrumental and affective roles. Employed mothers
present their children with different models that should
in turn affect the sex role orientation of children.
There may also be other consequences of maternal
employment for the sex role orientation of children,
some of which may be especially important for sons or
daughters. Also, in families where mothers are employed,
children are cared for by substitutes. This changes
the situation with regard to other sources of role
models to whom children are exposed. Children in group
care settings encounter a wider variety of peers, some
of whom may behave in ways parents would prefer them
not to model. This exposure to a greater range of peer
relationships may have important consequences,
especially for sons. Also, because of the different
sex role models working mothers present for their chil-
dren, the sex role orientation of these children
--especially daughters--may differ from that of
children whose mothers are not employed.
Impact of Maternal Employment on
Behavior, Especially of Sons
It has been established that males exhibit certain
characteristics differently than females (Block, 1983).
For example, male children demonstrate higher levels of
aggressive behavior than females (Roopnarine, 1984).
There is also evidence that the pressure to exhibit sex-
appropriate behaviors is stronger for males than for
females (Currant, Dickson, Anderson, & Faulkner, 1979).
It is more acceptable for a girl to be a "tomboy" than
it is for a boy to be a "sissy."
One way boys meet this pressure is through phys-
ical activities (Lever, 1978). Some of this sex-
appropriate activity is channeled in socially acceptable
directions, such as little league sports. However, other
activities are socially unacceptable according to adult
standards, such as disruptive behavior. Such positive
and negative behaviors may be equally praiseworthy in
the social world of youna males. Furthermore, research
has shown that children in daycare settings are more
desirous of peer acceptance--i.e., peer-oriented--than
those raised primarily by their mothers (Moore, 1975;
Schachter, 1981). Thus, boys who spend a significant
amount of time in daycare centers may adopt more of
these aggressive behaviors than boys who are more
heavily socialized by their mothers (McIntire 1983).
When socialization involves persons other than
parents, as in the case of maternal employment,
children are apt to experience more exposure to peers.
In this case, a greater proportion of children's sex
role orientations is derived from peers (Kagan, 1975).
The aggressive and impulsive behaviors exhibited by
males deviate more from those that are defined as
socially acceptable by adults than the behaviors exhib-
ited by girls (Block, 1983). To the extent that males'
socialization is influenced by their same-sex peers,
also less conforming than their female counterparts,
the task of socialization in behaviors appropriate by
adult standards is more difficult.
Impact of Maternal Employment on Sex
Roles, Especially of Daughters
This chapter has presented the theoretical argu-
ment that the mother-child relationship is a powerful
force in the socialization of children. Another varia-
ble which is important in the socialization of children,
especially with regard to sex roles, is the role models
that parents present to their children (Damon, 1983).
Theorists have speculated that, due to the particular
importance of the same-sex parent as a role model,
mothers should be more influential on their daughters
than on their sons.
Maternal employment, which alters the mother-child
relationship, may also alter the influence of mothers
as sex-role models for their daughters. However, the
circumstance of surrogate care itself may ameliorate
some of the loss. Most substitute caregivers, such as
babysitters and daycare center workers, are females.
Caregivers are often role models to the children they
supervise. Because most of them are women, this may be
particularly important for girls. In effect, these work-
ers provide daughters with a role model of working women,
relatively the same role model as their employed mothers.
Thus, the loss of influence that employed mothers have on
their daughters' sex role orientations may be made up, at
least partially, by their surrogates--employed women them-
It has been assumed that mothers have an important
role in the socialization of their children. Children
who have been socialized primarily by their mothers
should be different in some aspects from those who have
been socialized by a number of persons. These effects
may vary according to the age and sex of the child. Such
effects should be evident in various beliefs and behavior
patterns expressed by children. First, nonworking
mothers should be more influential than working mothers
in the attitudes expressed by their children. Evidence
of this would be a higher degree of congruence between
the attitudes of children and their nonemployed
than among children and their employed mothers.
socialization experiences should also result in
servable differences in their behaviors and sex
REVIEW OF RESEARCH
Increased numbers of mothers have moved into the
labor force in recent years. Researchers have responded
by investigating numerous aspects of the issue. Two sum-
maries provide an overview of the research which has at-
tempted to link maternal employment with various outcomes
for children. In addition to serving as an introduction
to the topic, some methodological shortcomings are also
identified in these reviews. Following these summaries,
particular pieces of research that provide insight for
the present analysis are discussed.
Hoffman (1974), synthesizing the body of research
through the first part of the 1970s, points to several
important theoretical and methodological shortcomings.
Bronfenbrenner and Crouter (1982) followed up Hoffman's
work by providing an assessment of the progress made
through the 1970s and into the 1980s. In so doing, they
indicate directions for the next decade.
Research to 1974: Hoffman's Review
Hoffman's (1974) work identifies research findings
and spells out some theoretical and methodological short-
comings of those findings. She also suggested avenues
for future research.
To organize the research, Hoffman developed five
hypotheses which have been the concerns of most of the
1. Working mothers provide different role models
from nonworking mothers.
2. Employment affects the mothers' emotional states
positively or negatively (satisfaction versus role
strain and guilt), which in turn affects the mother-child
3. Demands of both job and home as well as the
emotional state of the working mother affect child-
4. Working mothers provide less adequate supervision
for their children than do nonworking mothers.
5. The working mothers' absence results in emotional
and possibly cognitive deprivation for children.
Hoffman concluded that, although the evidence is
sketchy and inadequate, there is some support for the
first four propositions. The fifth was not supported by
Hoffman identified three dependent variables on
which most of the studies have been centered:
1. The children's social attitudes and values;
2. The children's general mental health and adjust-
ment, with particular emphasis on the degree of independence;
3. The cognitive abilities, motivation, and intel-
lectual performance of children.
In nearly all cases, the single independent variable
has been maternal employment. She argued that such sim-
plistic research problems were not likely to produce
realistic estimates of the relationships.
Hoffman's review suggests the need for clearer speci-
fication of variables--independent, dependent, and control.
She also suggests that future research be guided by
theory. Extensions of current understandings may best
be accomplished through three changes in research
strategy. A more detailed specification of maternal em-
ployment variables will provide greater insight regarding
any effect of maternal employment. Further attention
should be given to increasing the range of possible out-
comes for children including attitudes and behaviors.
There is also a need to more fully examine the effects
that such covariates as social class may have on out-
comes for children.
Research to 1982: Bronfenbrenner and Crouter
Bronfenbrenner and Crouter (1982) reviewed psycho-
logical and sociological research on maternal employment
and children in 1982. They divided the literature into
items published before and after 1960. This date was
selected for two reasons. Around that time, the women's
movement was beginning to have some influence on labor
decisions of women. Also, researchers were then able to
crystallize issues of concern regarding maternal employ-
ment and its various consequences.
The authors suggest directions that future inquiries
should take, both methodologically and substantively.
They note that most of the research to date has focused
on just two issues:
1. The comparison of characteristics of children
whose mothers work with those whose mothers do not work;
2. The impact of work on the attitudes and actions
of working mothers.
According to Bronfenbrenner and Crouter, the problem
with such studies is that they appear to assume that
families live in a social vacuum, unaffected by outside
influences. In the future, they suggest a focus on the
family milieu and other broader aspects of the environ-
ment which surround children.
Bronfenbrenner and Crouter (1982) also point out a
number of variables that might mediate any impact of
maternal employment, one or more of which are usually
missing from analyses. Included among them are sex and
age of children, race, family structure, social class,
and maternal attitude toward work.
There is an especially strong need for a fuller speci-
fication of the social class variable. In almost all
social science research, social class seems influential.
Family income, one aspect of social class, shifts upward
to some degree when a second paycheck is added to the
family income. This factor may not affect all families in
the same way. Benefits of the additional income may be
greater or different according to the family. Rather than
using a single measure of class such as income, the
authors suggest inclusion of such factors as the educa-
tion of both parents, occupation, and proportional contri-
butions to the family income. By combining a number of
factors for a more detailed measure of class, Bronfen-
brenner and Crouter (1982) predict that the importance
of this variable may become clearer.
Another important consideration is the possible
existence of delayed impact on the children. While
longitudinal studies are ideally suited to this purpose,
cross-sectional studies of late adolescents or young
adults may provide considerable insight. Studies
examining adolescents in the context of their mothers'
work history may be particularly illuminating in tracing
relationships between stages of children's lives and
impacts of maternal employment. Use of such data sets
provides one way of charting variations among children
according to the extent to which their mothers were gain-
fully employed during various periods in their lives.
The guidelines suggested by Bronfenbrenner and
Crouter, along with those of Hoffman (1974), provide
direction for this analysis. The data set (U.S. Dept.
of Education, 1980) enables one to address a number of
methodological problems discussed by these reviews. The
present study was able to use several control variables
in addition to those which measure the extent of
maternal employment. Furthermore, the measure of social
class used in this analysis (see Chapter IV) is a com-
posite variable that includes a number of items. Also,
this study was able to explore the relationship between
maternal employment and its outcomes for children on the
basis of the age of children during mothers' employment.
Various work patterns may affect preschool children in
different ways or degrees than they affect adolescents.
There is also the possibility of delayed effects. By
studying outcomes for high school students on the basis
of past maternal employment history, it is possible to
examine differences among students whose mothers have
worked throughout their lives and those whose mothers
have more recently entered the labor force. Another
consideration is the extent of employment. Logic sug-
gests that part time work while children are in school
will have a different effect from full time employment.
One hypothesis predicts that, as maternal employment
increases, the influence of maternal attitudes on those
of the children should decrease. This hypothesis is
based on the assumption that, as maternal employment in-
creases, the relationship between mothers and their
children will change. Most research has focused on
various ways in which maternal employment affects the
general orientation of children, such as peer versus adult
orientation. While such findings do not directly reflect
on maternal influence, they do suggest that the focus of
influence may vary according to maternal work patterns.
When children are focused more toward one group than
another (parents or peers), that group should be more
influential in their attitude orientations.
Moore (1975) used a longitudinal study to investigate
possible impacts of maternal employment on children. He
divided 167 middle-class children into two groups. One
group had been in the care of someone other than their
mother for at least 25 hours per week for a minimum of
one year before age 5. Moore defined these children as
having been diffusely mothered. The second group com-
prised children who were cared for solely by their
mothers up to age 5. This second group he termed
exclusively mothered. The children were interviewed at
the ages of 6, 7, 9, and 15. Observations were also
conducted at these times. Mothers of children in both
groups were interviewed when their children were age
6, 7, 8, and 15.
Moore's findings indicated that children reared
exclusively appeared more adult-like in their behaviors.
For example, they tended to be more conforming,
restrained, and fastidious than the diffusely mothered
group. However, these children also appeared more de-
pendent on adults; they seemed more anxious to win the
approval of the teacher and more concerned about being
reprimanded by their parents.
Moore's (1975) findings were corroborated by Schach-
ter (1981). She focused on differences between toddlers
with employed mothers and those with nonemployed mothers;
32 children whose mothers were full time employees were
matched with 38 children whose mothers did not work out-
side the home. The groups were compared on cognitive
development using a Stanford-Binet test series. Observa-
tions provided evidence as to the social development of
the children. Emotional development was estimated through
the use of Q-Sort Ideal Comparisons measures.
Schachter (1981) found, as did Moore (1975), that
the exclusively reared children generally interacted
more often with adults than those who were diffusely
socialized. According to Schachter, these results are
consistent with previous research. On the other hand,
older children with employed mothers and/or those in
daycare (many of whose mothers work) were found to be
Ragozin (1980) conducted naturalistic observations
of 20 middle-class daycare children and 17 middle-class
home-reared children. All of the subjects were aged
17-20 months. The author observed the children in
strange situation settings in order to estimate attach-
ment to the mother. She found that those children in
daycare settings exhibited more avoidance behaviors upon
reunion with their mothers than the home-reared children.
Furthermore, the daycare group demonstrated more
generalized responses to adults. Ragozin hypothesized
that this may be due to the children having fewer adult
Gold and Andres (1980) compared 379 ten-year-old
children on the basis of maternal work patterns. They
contrasted groups of Canadian francophone children from
working-class and middle-class backgrounds on a variety
of characteristics. One area of investigation was
parental ratings of the children's personality adjustment.
Their research findings indicated that middle-class
mothers who were employed described their daughters as
more cooperative than those of mothers who were not
employed. Within the working-class group, employed
mothers characterized their daughters as more outgoing
and independent than unemployed mothers. Also, among
working-class families, mothers who were employed were
less likely to describe their sons as domineering.
Maternal employment had no apparent effect on fathers'
ratings of their children or on the type and number of
problems parents reported having with their children.
Gold and Andres (1980) also reported a relation-
ship between class and satisfaction within employment
categories. Middle-class mothers who worked appeared
to be the most contented group. This finding was
similar to those of their earlier study (1978A). Also,
as in the 1978A study, middle-class mothers who worked
seemed to be the most satisfied. Middle-class non-
working women appeared to be the least content. The
sons of employed working-class women were less content
than middle-class sons or working-class sons whose
mothers did not work.
The conclusions of Hoffman (1979) that social class
is influential in determining how children are affected
by maternal employment provide one explanation for the
findings of Gold and Andres. Hoffman reviewed a number
of findings which implied that the impact of maternal
employment for male children was mediated by class.
Working-class males whose mothers are employed seem to
have lower levels of admiration for their fathers than
those whose mothers do not work or than those of higher
class. The presumption she made was that there is a
negative assessment by the sons of the fathers' success
in the provider role.
Propper (1972) found that high school students with
working mothers reported more areas of disagreement with
their parents than those whose mothers did not work.
Her sample consisted of 229 secondary school students.
The questionnaire focused on student activities and
parent-child relationships. Propper found indications
of greater numbers of disagreements with parents among
the group whose mothers were employed. However, there
seemed to be no difference in the perception of close-
ness or in the feelings of affection between parents
and their children in the two groups.
During the preschool years, children whose mothers
work exhibit less attachment to their mothers than
children of nonworking mothers. These children also seem
to display stronger peer orientations than those whose
mothers did not work. Regarding school-age children, the
parent-child relationship does not appear fundamentally
different from that of families where the mother is not
employed. Although high school students with working
mothers indicate more areas of disagreement with their
parents, they do not report feeling less close to them.
Thus, there is little evidence of lasting differences in
the relationships between parents and their children on
the basis of maternal employment patterns.
Another concern of the study reported here is that
there may be behavioral differences in children on the
basis of maternal employment patterns. More specifically,
children of working women should exhibit more behaviors
which are defined as less socially acceptable behaviors
than children of nonworking women. This may be
especially important for sons. Previous research sug-
gests that such outcomes may occur before children are
of school age; however, as time passes, the manifesta-
tions of these early differences become more difficult to
Vlietstra (1981) used teacher ratings and observa-
tions to contrast the behaviors of 17 half-day students
with those of 20 full-day students. All children were
between the ages of 2.5 and 4.5 years. The full-day
students' mothers worked, whereas those attending only
part-time did so for enrichment purposes only. Her
findings indicated that full-day children exhibited more
active and aggressive behavior. On the other hand, the
half-day students seemed to be more cooperative and
less disruptive in the classroom setting.
Schachter (1981) found that children of working
mothers were generally more peer-oriented. They were
approached more often by their peers and engaged in
physical interaction more often than other children.
Teachers rated the children of working women as being more
independent and less jealous than children of nonworking
D'Amico, Haurin, and Mott (1983) reported only
sporadic associations between maternal employment and
educational outcomes for children. They used two sub-
samples drawn from the National Longitudinal Surveys of
Labor Market Experience. These consist of two surveys,
one for young men taken in 1966 with repeated inter-
views until 1981; this survey was begun when these males
were between the ages of 16 and 18. The other survey
comprised women aged 14-17 and was administered in 1968;
the group was followed until 1983. The subsamples
used by D'Amico et al. (1983) were two sets of matched
pairs. One was a group of 784 mothers and daughters;
the other was a group of 768 mothers and sons. They
were repeatedly interviewed between 1968 and 1978.
The findings of this latter study suggest that the
most pervasive impact of maternal employment on the
educational attainment of children seemed to be during
the preschool years. When the mother was employed
during the preschool years, there was a lower probability
of the son's completing high school. However, as mothers
worked a greater number of years from the birth of the
first child, the likelihood that the sons would complete
high school increased. D'Amico et al. also found that,
if maternal employment does affect academic performance,
it does so only modestly and indirectly. The findings
were consistent for males and females.
During the preschool years, children exhibit dif-
ferences in behavior according to the extent of their
mothers' work. Children of working women seem more
aggressive, independent, and peer-oriented. Beyond this
period in children's lives, there are no clear indica-
tions of such differences. The analysis presented in
this work, using the High School and Beyond (U.S.
Dept. of Education, 1980) data, may provide some insight
into differences in children during their adolescent
Sex Role Orientation
Another concern of the present research is whether
maternal employment affects the sex role orientations
of children. More precisely, children of working women
should reflect a different sex role orientation from
that evidenced by children of nonworking women. Research
on this relationship has provided mixed results. Unfor-
tunately, there is no research on this subject which
particularly examines effects on preschool children.
Gold and Andres (1978B) found that 10-year-old boys
of working-class mothers experience greater difficulty in
sex role identification than those whose mothers did not
work. These boys were more often described negatively
by their fathers, had poorer grades and peer relations,
and were rated more shy and nervous than sons of
Gold and Andres (1978A) studied a group of 253
students aged 14-16. Their analysis was limited to in-
tact nuclear families. Members of the sample were
categorized into working and middle class. They were
also grouped according to maternal employment status,
employed or nonemployed. There was some indication
that the sex role concepts of children of working
mothers were more androgynous than those of nonworking
mothers. However, the difference was not as strong
as had been found in a previous study (Gold & Andres,
1978B) with 10-year-old children.
Banducci (1967) studied a sample of 3,014 high
school seniors. He utilized the school records of the
group and also administered questionnaires to them.
His findings provide information regarding academic
achievement and aspirations and plans for future employ-
ment. His results indicated that teenage girls with
working mothers were more likely to report future
plans that included combining career and family. The
D'Amico et al. (1983) study also drew some conclusions
on the impact of maternal employment on the career
orientations of sons and daughters. Their findings
indicated that maternal employment during daughters'
preschool years was associated with those girls who ex-
pressed a more traditional orientation. However, there
seemed to be little impact on long-range career plans.
D'Amico et al. (1983) noted that, "more surprising is the
absence of any strong or pervasive role-modeling influ-
ences, especially on daughters' work-related plans and
ambitions than we might have expected" (p. 163).
For males, there seemed to be an inverse relationship
between work status of the mother during the preschool
years and adult occupational status.
Hoffman (1979), in surveying the literature on
maternal employment, noted the importance of considering
findings in the context of concurrent changes in society.
Her analysis suggests that the literature provides a
fairly clear indication that daughters of working mothers
differ from those of mothers who stay at home in several
important ways. She has concluded that daughters of
employed women hold the female role in higher esteem
than daughters of women who do not work. They also
appear to have higher levels of social, personal, and
educational adjustment. Daughters of women who work tend
to be higher achievers and exhibit more positive adjust-
ments than daughters of nonworking women. According to
Hoffman, this may also be the case foi males. There is
some implication that sons of working mothers are better
adjusted and higher achievers than those whose mothers
While some studies have reported differences in
career orientation on the basis of maternal employment,
the majority of research findings do not support this
relationship. Daughters have been found to exhibit more
positive personal and social adjustment when their mothers
work. Sons and daughters seem more androgynous in their
orientations if their mothers are employed. However,
research suggests that this may diminish with time. The
analysis described in this paper explores the nature of
these relationships more fully.
This review of past research has highlighted find-
ings in two ways. Research summaries including research
through the 1970s summarized findings and identified
deficiencies of numerous studies. Specifically, three
methodological criticisms of previous research in these
summaries were addressed using the data in High School
and Beyond (U.S. Dept. of Education, 1980). Many studies
have been limited in that a single measure of maternal
employment has been the only independent variable. This
study made use of a number of influential variables,
permitting a fuller specification of relationships among
them. Second, the measure of social class used in the
present study was a combination of a number of factors
rather than the single estimate used in most other
analyses. Third, an examination of the High School and
Beyond data permitted an analysis of maternal employment
patterns and their effects on children through various
periods in children's lives rather than effects at
only one point in time.
It has been posited that the relationship between
mothers and children is crucial to the children's sociali-
zation. The importance of this relationship begins at
birth and continues through adolescence (Erikson, 1950,
1982). If the relationship between working mothers and
their children is different from that established by non-
working mothers and their children, there should be
observable differences between children on the basis of
maternal work patterns.
However, empirical studies to date have largely
failed to support this line of reasoning. It has been
suggested by a number of experts (among whom Bronfenbren-
ner & Crouter, 1982; Hoffman, 1979) that various methodo-
logical issues must be resolved in future studies. The
present analysis tests certain hypotheses drawn from the
theory presented in Chapter II. This study also responds
to various shortcomings of past research which were
discussed in Chapter III. This was accomplished by using
the data set of the U.S. Dept. of Education, High
School and Beyond (1980). This data set is drawn from
a national sample of high school students. The set
also contains information regarding maternal work history
and a multifaceted operationalization of the social class
This chapter formally presents the specific research
hypotheses of this study, followed by the operationaliza-
tions of variables used to test the hypotheses. The items
drawn from the data set are also discussed. Finally, the
specific methods used in this analysis are reviewed.
The theory reviewed in Chapter II suggests a range
of relationships from which testable hypotheses might be
drawn. This study explored two of these. One hypothesis
links maternal work patterns to the extent to which
mothers influence the attitudes of their children. The
other hypothesis explores effects of maternal work pat-
terns on school-related behaviors and one aspect of
children's sex role orientations.
Maternal Influence on Children's Attitudes
Maternal influence is measured by the extent to
which mothers' attitudes are congruent with children's
attitudes. Mothers should be more influential in shaping
children's attitudes when they are more constantly in-
volved in the children's socialization (Kagan, 1984).
Conversely, when socialization is divided among a number
of caretakers, as in the case of employed mothers, the
influence of each on the process should be less.
Hypothesis 1. The attitude congruence between
mothers and children regarding maternal employment
diminishes as maternal employment increases.
The model used to test this hypothesis included
a number of covariates which other research has linked
to the relationship between maternal employment and
maternal influence on the attitudes of children. These
include: students' sex (Bronfenbrenner & Crouter,
1982), social class (Bloom-Feshbach, Bloom-Feshbach,
& Heller, 1982), academic achievement (Messaris &
Hornik, 1983), and peer affiliation (Berndt, 1983)
(see Figure 1).
o Maternal Attitude
I ISex of Student
I Grades. --
Siblings at Home
i I I
SRarely Talks on
ITalks LT Once
Maternal Attitude t 1I
ternal Employment Preschool
Maternal Employment Ij
Maternal Employment ,\ Child's
Elementary School Attitude
High School |
Maternal Attitude A (- --
= Relationships tested
= Relationships included in
but not tested
-------- = Relationships assumed but not tested
Figure 1. Relationship of the Congruence of Maternal
Attitudes and Those of Children on the
Basis of Maternal Employment.
This model also contained three interaction terms,
each of which measures the influence of the cross-product
of two independent variables on the dependent variable
(Agresti & Agresti, 1979). In this model, the inter-
action terms test the extent to which three maternal
employment variables--mothers' work during their
children's preschool years, elementary school years, and
high school years--affect the influence of mothers' atti-
tudes on those of their children. The hypothesis pre-
dicted that the influence of maternal attitudes would
diminish as the amount of time mothers were employed
increased. Significance of the interaction terms would
also provide support for the hypothesis.
Another test of this hypothesis compared the
influence of those mothers who worked full time through-
out their children's lives with the influence of mothers
who had never worked. This type of comparison is called
a test of extreme cases. According to the hypothesis,
the influence of mothers who have never worked should
be significantly stronger than that of mothers who have
worked full time throughout their children's lives.
Effects on Children's Behaviors and Attitudes
Chapter II presented a line of reasoning which led
to the prediction that maternal employment affects be-
haviors and attitudes of children. One premise of
social learning theory is that children are socialized
by their role models and their observations of others
(Kagan, 1975). Children whose mothers are employed are
exposed to different role models than those children
whose mothers are not employed. Children of working
women spend an important part of their time with and are
socialized in part by caregivers other than their mothers.
These children also spend an important part of their
time in the company of their peers, who also contribute
to their socialization. On the other hand, children whose
mothers do not work are socialized primarily by their
mothers. The differing nature of these socializing
experiences, caregivers and peers versus mothers, mani-
fests different behaviors and attitudes in children.
The rationale on which the subhypotheses are based sug-
gests the importance of the child's sex. The behaviors
of sons should be more affected by maternal work pat-
terns than the behaviors of daughters. Daughters should
be influenced more than sons by the role models presented
by their parents. These subhypotheses will test males
and females separately.
Hypothesis 2. Particular behaviors and attitudes
of children will differ on the basis of their mothers'
A. Maternal employment patterns directly affect the
degree to which children exhibit school-related behaviors
which are defined as not acceptable by the schools.
B. Maternal employment patterns affect the sex
role orientations expressed by children.
Children's behavior. In Chapter II, it was reasoned
that, as a portion of socialization was accomplished by
peers rather than mothers, children would reflect this
in their behaviors; that is, children socialized in part
by peers would be more conforming to standards set by
peers than those set by adults (McIntire et al., 1972).
Boys exhibit more aggressive behavior (Mischel, 1970)
whereas girls' behaviors appear more passive and
compliant (Duvall & Miller, 1985). Thus, changes in
behavior which are affected by these different patterns
of socialization due to maternal work patterns may be
more apparent in boys than in girls. Figure 2 presents
the model used to test Hypothesis 2A.
Social Class -
Elementary School ) Behavior
S- -- -- Index
= Relationships tested
= Relationships included in this model
but not tested
-------- = Relationships assumed but not tested
Figure 2. Relationship of Maternal Employment to Non-
conforming Behavior Index--Males and Females
Previous research suggests that a number of factors
may be important in explaining the relationship between
maternal employment and nonconforming behavior. These
include sex (Bronfenbrenner & Crouter, 1982), social
class (Bloom-Feshbach et al., 1983), family size
(D'Amico et al., 1983), academic achievement (Heynes, 1982),
and peer affiliation (Jurich & Andrews, 1984).
Children's sex role orientation. Sex role orienta-
tion was defined in Chapter II as one's beliefs concern-
ing behaviors and attitudes appropriate for males and
females. One way in which sex role orientation is
acquired is through role models. Children's beliefs as
to appropriate behaviors for males and females are
based in part on their observations of the behaviors of
those around them, particularly their parents (Kagan,
1975). Working mothers provide a different role model
for their children than nonworking mothers.
Chapter II also emphasized the importance of the
mother-child bond to children's acquisition of values,
which are manifest in attitudes. It would seem, then, that
working mothers--inasmuch as separation of mothers and
their children weakens the mother-child bond--are less
effective as role models than nonworking mothers.
However, when mothers work, children are placed in the
care of surrogate mothers, usually working women them-
selves. As these caregivers also serve as role models,
some of the loss of the maternal role model of a working
mother may be ameliorated by these surrogates. Figure 3
displays the model used to test Hypothesis 2B.
The research of others has suggested a number of
variables that may further clarify the relationship be-
tween maternal employment and children's sex role orienta-
tions. These include social class (Bloom-Feshbach et
al., 1983), family size (D'Amico et al., 1983), academic
achievement (Heynes, 1982), peer affiliation (Bronfenbren-
ner & Crouter, 1982), and parental attitudes regarding
maternal employment (Reid & Stephens, 1985; Smith & Self,
A central theme in the theoretical perspectives
from which these hypotheses were drawn is the importance
of the mother-child relationship to children's socializa-
tion. Thus, maternal influence in the socialization
process should diminish as women work more throughout
their children's lives, inasmuch as employment diminishes
the extent to which mothers have primary control in
that process. From this, it can be predicted that the
Social CT -a
Siblings at HSom
Once W*k / // Age act arriag
S atearaal Employmenc Age at Birth of
Talks On e /L "Elancary School F iro. Chis d
.ict / W/ 2% 7
Matrnal Actitude: / / / /Mat al Emploe
Working ancher as' / as / -- gh School |
zood as aouworkling
a eternal / / /ti
aIc work, -women / /
WoaMn happier ac home.
= Relationships tested
= Relationships included in
but not tested
-------- = Relationships assumed but not tested
Relationship of Maternal Employment to the
Sex-Role Orientations of Children--Males
and Females Tested Separately.
C/ I R I
attitudes of mothers who have never worked are more
influential in shaping their daughters' sex role orienta-
tions than the attitudes of mothers who have worked
full time throughout their daughters' lives. This was
tested by comparing the influence of maternal attitudes
toward maternal employment on their daughters' career
orientations for those daughters whose mothers have
never worked, with those of daughters whose mothers
have worked full time throughout the three periods of
their daughters' lives identified in this sample.
The hypotheses specified in this study provided a
range of predictions. They identified behavioral and
attitudinal variations among children on the basis of
maternal employment patterns. These effects were also
predicted to be consistent when the effects of a number
of covariates were accounted for. Such elaboration
required the use of a large and comprehensive data
set which would permit necessary specification.
High School and Beyond (U.S. Dept. of Education, 1980)
met these criteria and provided the data for use in
Dependent Variable: Children's Attitudes
Three questions were used as dependent variables to
test the hypothesis which predicted that mothers who were
not employed have more influence on their children's atti-
tudes than mothers who are employed. These questions
asked students about their attitudes regarding working
How do you feel about each of the following state-
A. A working mother of preschool children can be
just as good a mother as the woman who does not work.
B. It is usually better for everyone involved if the
man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes
care of the home and family.
C. Most women are happiest when they are making a
home and caring for children.
Response options were given in a Likert-type scale:
agree strongly = 1; agree = 2; disagree = 3; disagree
strongly = 4.
Dependent Variable: Children's Behaviors
It has been argued in Chapter II that maternal employ-
ment patterns increase the likelihood of children engaging
in nonconforming behavior; i.e., deviating from socially
approved norms. The dependent variable used to test
this hypothesis was operationalized as an index. This
index was constructed by adding students' scores on three
Are the following statements about your experiences
in school true or false?
A. I have had disciplinary problems in school during
the last year.
B. I have been suspended or put on probation during
the last year.
C. Every once in a while I cut class.
Response choices were: true = 1; false = 2. The
response of "false" was recorded to zero. By so doing, the
index scores ranged from zero = all false responses to
3 = all true responses. This index provided an ordinal
measure of committal of nonconfirming behavior.
Dependent Variable: Sex Role Orientation
Sex role orientation has been defined as the beliefs
people hold regarding appropriate behaviors for males and
females. One dimension of sex role orientation is career-
ism which may be defined as the extent to which people
wish to delay marriage and family in favor of career
development. Careerism is actually a continuum. For
those who fall on one end, the desire for marriage and
family is already fulfilled or anticipated in the im-
mediate future. Those who fall toward this end of the
continuum express a traditional orientation. Those who
desire to forfeit or delay indefinitely marriage and
family are at the other end of this continuum. Those
who fall toward this end of the continuum express a
career orientation. The longer people choose to delay
these events, the more career-oriented they are assumed
to be. Each indicator was used separately. Students
responded to the following questions:
At what age to do you expect to
A. Get married?
B. Have your first child?
The responses for both questions were in years. In
the original questionnaire, each year was assigned a
value ranging from 3 to 16. These were recorded to the
age they represented. A response code of one was
assigned to those who did not expect to marry or have
children. Even though this group may represent the most
extreme careerists, they had to be dropped from the
analysis. Since marriage and childbirth were not in
their plans, there was no way to legitimately assign
them ages at which they expected these events to take
place. A response originally coded 2 indicated that the
students had already married or had children; they were
assigned an age of 16. Those who responded 30 or older
were assigned an age of 30. The use of adolescents'
expectations regarding their future as measures of
careerism has also been followed by Budd and Spencer
(1984), D'Amico et al. (1983), and Reid and Stephens
Independent Variables: Maternal Employment
This analysis was concerned with how maternal employ-
ment might affect children. The theory presented in
Chapter II and pertinent research presented in Chapter
III suggest that effects of maternal employment may vary
with the children's ages during the times when their
mothers work (Reid & Stephens, 1985). Also, the number
of hours worked may be important (Maccoby, 1980; Reid
& Stephens, 1985) to outcomes for children. For
instance, children whose mothers work part time may be
less affected by their mothers' employment than children
whose mothers work full time. The independent variables
in this study permitted such period specification.
The maternal work variables examined the impact of
employment during three periods of time. Each described
the employment pattern during a particular stage in
children's lives. These variables were operationalized
using the following questions asked of parents.
Did you (your spouse) usually have a job during
the period when your son/daughter was in high school?
Did you (your spouse) usually have a job during the
period when your son/daughter was in elementary school?
Did you (your spouse) usually have a job during
the period before your son/daughter was in elementary
The response categories for each of the questions
were: did not work = 1; worked part time = 2; worked full
time = 3.
To summarize, this study contained three maternal
work variables which measured the amount of work mothers
did during the years before their children went to
school, during the years their children were in
elementary school, and during their children's high school
Previous research has suggested that a number of
factors may be important to one or more of the
hypotheses in this study. The following covariates were
added to the equations as theory and research dictated.
A number of findings suggest that sex is influential
in determining children's attitudes regarding maternal
employment (Canter & Ageton, 1984; Smith, 1984).
Previous research has also implicated sex of the child as
an important factor in predicting the likelihood of the
commission of nonconforming behaviors (Anolik, 1983;
Felson & Gottfredson, 1984; Hogan & Nookherjee, 1981;
Maccoby, 1980). A number of researchers have found that
patterns of career orientation differ for males and
females (Reid & Stephens, 1985).
This is a dichotomous variable which measures the
sex of students. Females had a value of zero, males a
value of one.
Academic achievement has been found to influence
the attitudes of children regarding sex roles (Archer,
1985; Farmer, 1985; Reid & Stephens, 1985; Young, 1983).
There is also evidence to suggest that academic achieve-
ment is related to the likelihood of committing non-
conforming behavior (Hains, 1984; Maccoby, 1980).
Parents were asked to estimate the grades their
children usually received in school. Response
categories represented the mid-points of numerical
ranges of grades of 90-100, 85-89, 80-84, 75-79, 70-74, 65-
69, 60-64, and below 60.
Social class has been found to influence the sex
role attitudes of children (Canter & Ageton, 1984; Lueptow,
1980; Vanfossen, 1977). There are also findings
that suggest that social class of the child contributes
to the probability of committing nonconforming behaviors
(Anolik, 1983; Felson & Gottfredson, 1984; Hogan &
Nookherjee, 1981; Maccoby, 1980). A number of research-
ers have found that students' career orientations differ
according to social class (Archer, 1985; Farmer, 1985).
One strength of the data set was the detailed opera-
tionalization of the social class variable. This com-
bines five indicators of class, and includes father's
occupation, father's education, and mother's education.
Income is measured by asking respondents to classify
themselves into one of seven income categories. Another
component of the social class measure was the number of
the following items in the family: daily newspaper,
encyclopedia, typewriter, electric dishwasher, two or
more cars, trucks, etc., more than 50 books, student's
own room, and pocket calculator. Scores on each of
these variables were standardized within grade,
sophomores and seniors, then averaged to produce a
range from -20 to 20. A score of zero would thus
represent the mid-point of the range of values for
this variable. For purposes of this analysis, these
scores were divided by 100 so that the range of this
variable was limited to -20 to 20.
Family composition has been found to be influential
in the sex-role attitudes of children (Smith, 1984).
This variable has also been reported to be influential
in predicting the proneness toward nonconforming
behavior (Hogan & Nookherjee, 1981; Maccoby, 1980).
Family composition was measured by whether or not
the respondent had brothers and/or sisters living in
the same household. While this does not provide a
measure of complete family size, it does indicate whether
or not the responded resided as an only child in the home
at the time of the survey. The response of "false"
was coded zero, and "true" responses were given a value
Previous research (Kagan, 1984) has shown that peer
influence may play a major role in determining the atti-
tudes and behaviors expressed by children, especially
teenagers. Young (1983) and Archer (1985) found that
peer relationships played an important role in the devel-
opment of sex role attitudes. Maccoby (1980) and
Jurich andAndrews (1984) reported findings that suggested
the importance of peers in the behaviors of children.
Although peer embeddedness is usually estimated
on the basis of self-report (Berndt, 1983), such meas-
ures represent only the respondents' impressions of
their own level of affiliation. Another way of assessing
levels of embeddedness is to compare students on a par-
ticular behavior that suggests the extent of involve-
ment with peers. This study used the extent to which
respondents talk to their friends on the telephone.
Teenagers who elect to spend more of their free time on
the telephone were presumed to be more involved in those
Students were asked the following question:
How frequently do you talk to your friends on the
Response choices were: rarely; less than once a
week; once or twice a week; daily or almost daily.
The categories of this variable were dummied into
three variables. Previous research suggests that peer af-
filiation has its greatest impact on those who have the
strongest ties to their peers. Thus, the response
"daily or almost daily" was the omitted category.
With regard to career orientations, several research-
ers (Archer, 1985; Farmer, 1985; Reid & Stephens, 1985;
Smith & Self, 1980; Young, 1983) have found a relation-
ship between the attitudes of one or both parents and
the attitudes and personal aspirations expressed by their
children. Although mothers' attitudes were of interest
in this study, nearly half of the parental respondents
were fathers. Previous studies (Acock & Yang, 1984;
Lueptow, 1980), which show that fathers' attitudes are
similar to those of mothers, legitimate the assumption
that attitudes of husbands are closely aligned with
those of their wives. On this basis, the research re-
ported in this dissertation assumed that paternal atti-
tudes were appropriate proxies for mothers' attitudes.
Three questions in the parents' survey were used to
estimate maternal attitudes. These were identical to
those in the students' questionnaire. Student
responses were used as dependent variables to test
Hypothesis 2B in this research. The precise wording of
these questions may be found on page 60. To review, how-
ever, each asked the respondent's opinion as to an
issue concerning working women. Responses were rated
on a Likert-type scale ranging from "strongly disagree"
to "strongly agree." Recalling the discussion of these
variables earlier in this chapter, one question asked
whether a working mother of preschool children could be
as good a mother as one who does not work. Another asked
if it was usually better for the man to be the achiever
outside the home and the woman to stay inside the home.
The third question asked respondents if they thought
women were usually happier when they stayed at home.
Description of the Data
The nature of the relationships between maternal
employment and various outcomes for children was explored
through the use of multiple regression. This was accom-
plished through use of a data set which made it possible
to observe the effects of factors identified by previous
research and theory.
The Data Set
The data used in this analysis were compiled by the
National Opinion Research Center (NORC) for the National
Center for Educational Statistics. The set, High School
and Beyond (U.S. Dept. of Education, 1980) consists of five
files, two of which were used in this study. These data
were derived from a national sample of high school seniors
and sophomores and their parents, and were collected in the
spring of 1980. The set is the first wave of a national
longitudinal survey of youth.
One of the two files used in this research was the
Student File. A two-stage probability sample was used to
select respondents. A sampling frame of 26,095 schools
led to a subject sample of 1,122 schools; 36 sophomores
and 36 seniors were randomly selected from each school for
participation in the survey. The total sample from which
the subsample used in this study was drawn comprised
28,240 seniors and 30,030 sophomores.
The second file used in this analysis was the Parent
File. This survey was done in autumn 1980 and used a
subsample of parents of respondents in the student survey.
The sampling techniques followed those used in the student
survey. A subsample of 312 schools was drawn from the
1,015 participating schools. From these 312 schools,
parents of 3,654 sophomores and 3,547 seniors participated
in the survey. Data were collected via mailed question-
naires and telephone and personal interviews.
The senior questionnaire consisted of 121 questions
and the sophomore questionnaire contained 114 questions;
89 questions are common to the two groups. The parent-of-
senior survey comprised 72 questions, and the parent-of-
sophomore survey comprised 68 questions; 58 questions
were common to the two groups, and a number of questions
were common to both student and parent questionnaires.
The Student-Parent File
This analysis was based solely on those families who
participated in the student and the parent surveys. This
made it necessary to use the parent file to draw the sub-
sample from the student file. Each participant was
assigned a unique case identifier. This number for the
students corresponded with the assigned number for
parents. The parent and student data were matched and
those students whose parents were also respondents were
drawn from the student file.
Student data were combined with parent data to
create a new file which consisted of parent and student
responses to selected questions. In the newly created
file, therefore, a case consisted of both sets of
responses. This was done so that responses of parents
and their children could be combined. The next section
describes the sociodemographics of subjects in the newly
created file and the cases drawn from it for use in the
Sociodemographics of the Subsample
The subsample used in this analysis comprised 4,544
cases. There were 2,239 sophomore respondents and 2,305
senior respondents. Among the group, 2,265 (49.9%) were
females and 2,121 (46.7%) were males. The remaining 158
(3.4%) of the cases were coded as missing on this varia-
ble. Within the sample, there were 357 black and 3,760
white respondents. These represented 7.9% and 82.75% of
the total, respectively. The remaining 9.35% of the
sample comprised various other ethnic groups. This
analysis was restricted to whites for two reasons. In
many cases, sociological models appear to be race
specific, appropriate for whites but not for blacks or
vice versa. Thus, limiting the analysis to whites
eliminated some interpretive problems. Second, the sub-
sample drawn from the data set contains data on 3,760
whites and 357 blacks. By using whites rather than any
other group, the sample used in the present study was as
large as possible. Using a large sample permitted the
analysis of subgroups.
There is widespread evidence in the literature that
any impact of maternal employment is mediated by the
particular family situation (Bronfenbrenner & Crouter,
1982; Hayes & Kammerman, 1983). More specifically, there
is an indication that these outcomes may depend on
whether or not the children have grown up in an intact
nuclear family or in some other circumstance, such as a
single-parent home. While the nature of each of these
is certainly provocative, time and space require analyses
to be limited in some ways. This research was limited
to intact nuclear families. This was accomplished by
omitting all those in the sample who responded that
they lived with someone other than both their mother and
There were two reasons for this limitation. The
first involved the research design. Any attempt at
explanation involves the rather complicated task of de-
composing a multifaceted relationship. This can be
accomplished more easily if the population of concern is
homogeneous on some factors. Understanding the dynamics
of the situation for any portion of society would cer-
tainly be worthwhile, but important differences--such
as family composition--may influence how maternal employ-
ment affects the family. For example, some studies
suggest that the trauma of divorce may lead to rebellious
behavior in children. By omitting families who had
experienced divorce, the possibility of divorce as a
causal component was eliminated.
The selection of the families to be used in this
study was made on the basis of student responses to the
Which of the following people live in the same
household with you? A = father, C = mother. Respond-
ents who answered no to either of those questions were
eliminated. Since stepparents were alternative
responses, it was assumed that these responses referred
to natural parents.
Method of Analysis
The statistical method used in this analysis was
multiple regression. This procedure takes into account
the contributions of a number of variables to the
statistical explanation of the dependent variable. This
procedure made it possible to estimate in some detail the
nature and strength of various influences (independent
variables) to a particular outcome (dependent variable).
One assumption of multiple regression is that the
values of the dependent variable are normally distributed
with constant standard deviations at all levels of the
independent variables. Multiple regression is also
based on the assumption that the relationship between
the dependent and independent variables is linear in
form. Put another way, for each unit increase in the
independent variables, there will be a consistent in-
crease in the mean value of the dependent variable. By
examining the influence of the independent variables on
the dependent variable at a number of levels, the
influence of the independent variables on the dependent
variable may be more confidently estimated.
In assuming normality, regression also assumes that
dependent variables are continuous rather than discrete.
As such, scores on a dependent variable could fall any-
where within extremes of a continuum. This condition
allows one to more fully examine the influence of the
predictors. When the dependent variable is discrete,
scores cannot fall anywhere along a continuum but rather
only at specific points along the continuum. In many
variables, these points can only represent approxima-
tions within the response range. Furthermore, the fewer
response choices given for this variable, the cruder
the predictions of the influence of the independent
variables will be. To illustrate, one hypothesis
predicted a relationship between maternal employment pat-
terns and children's attitudes. This was tested using
dependent variables which asked students their opinion
on certain aspects of maternal employment in general.
Students were asked to respond "strongly agree,"
"agree," "disagree," or "strongly disagree" to each of
three questions. In reality, opinions may be
continuous variables, taking an infinite number of
values between absolute agreement and absolute disagree-
ment. When respondents must select a response category
which only approximates their opinion, there is a degree
of error in that response. The farther away from
accuracy one is forced to choose, the greater the error.
One consequence of this is that the influence of inde-
pendent variables can only be roughly estimated and should
be interpreted with caution. One strategy for dealing
with this dilemma is to make use of sophisticated tech-
niques such as logistic regression. This technique
statistically transforms categorical variables into
unbounded continuous dependent variables (Hanushek &
Another dependent variable in this study was an index
of nonconformity to school policies. The index was
created by adding student responses of "true" or "false"
on three questions. The greater the number of items
to which a student responded "true," the higher the index
score. The additive index provides an ordinal measure
of nonconformity. Due to the dichotomy of each item in
the index, the assumption of the continuous nature of
the dependent variables, discussed above, would not
permit use of the items individually. By adding scores
of three items together, the dependent variable, the
index, has a range of 0-3.
There are actually three independent variables in the
present study: maternal employment during children's
preschool years, maternal employment during children's
elementary school years, and maternal employment during
children's high school years. Each variable has three
categories: no employment, part time employment, and full
time employment. These variables were converted into
dummy variables to be used in regression equations
(Agresti & Agresti, 1979). This was accomplished by
creating a series of new variables, each representing
a category of the maternal work variable. Each case
was assigned a value of one for observations which fall
into a particular category, and a value of zero for the
other newly created variables. In the case of maternal
work during high school, for example, a student whose
mother did not work would be assigned a value of one
for the "no work" variable and a value of zero for the
part time" and "full time" variables. It was necessary
to create new variables for all categories of the varia-
ble of interest minus one, since the final category
represents all those cases coded zero on all other
levels of the variable.
The value for the omitted category is the value of
the intercept in the regression equation. The coef-
ficients of the dummy variables are interpreted as the
difference in the mean of that particular category of the
variable and the mean of the omitted category (Blalock,
1972; Kerlinger & Pedhazur, 1973). These coefficients
provide a measure of influence that a category of the
variable has compared to the influence of the omitted
category on the dependent variable. Using the employment
during high school example, the coefficient for the "no
work" variable is actually the difference in the mean of
the dependent variable when the independent variable is
"no work" compared to the mean of the dependent variable
when the independent work variable is "full time." One
hypothesis predicts that careerism, a component of
children's sex role orientations, will be stronger when
their mothers work. Careerism is operationalized by the
ages at which children expect to marry and bear their
first child. According to the hypothesis, the coef-
ficient for the "no work" category should be negative,
as daughters whose mothers do not work should expect to
marry and have children at a younger age than those
whose mothers work full time. The mean age at marriage
for children whose mothers do not work should be lower
than the mean age at marriage for children whose mothers
work full time. The magnitude of the "no work" coeffici-
ent indicates the strength of this category relative to
the "full time work" category. Similarly the coefficient
for the part time variable is the difference of means
between part time and full time work on the dependent
variable. The significance of these were tested using
In this study, the "full time work" category was the
omitted group for each of the work variables. Since the
concern of this research was the effect of maternal employ-
ment, comparisons of the effect of full time work to other
employment patterns were of the greatest interest. Sup-
pressing the category "full time work" provided estimates
of change in the dependent variables resulting from a
decrease in the extent of maternal employment. Alterna-
tive strategies for analyzing nominal data include using
F-tests for equality of means at each level of the inde-
pendent variable or treating the work variables as
ordinal, enabling estimates of the effect of change
throughout the range of the work variables.
One hypothesis predicted that the influence of
mothers' attitudes on those of their children would be
mediated by maternal employment. Recall from the discus-
sion of hypotheses in Chapter IV that this was tested
using three variables identical in the parent and
student questionnaires. To examine this, it was necessary
to assess the extent to which mothers' influence differed
according to the extent of their employment after taking
into account the influence of their attitude alone and the
influence of their employment patterns alone. Interaction
terms measure the change in the relationship between one
independent variable and the dependent variable controlling
for another independent variable. This is done by comput-
ing the cross-product of the two independent variables
(Agresti & Agresti, 1979). Significant interaction terms
would provide additional support for the hypothesis;
that is, the combined effect of maternal employment and
maternal attitudes should have a significant effect on
children's attitudes beyond their separate influences.
Logic of the Analysis
This study attempted to explain the extent to which
maternal employment contributes to the explanation of par-
ticular attitudes and behaviors of high school students.
Given the complexity of human behavior, it is unlikely
that a single element fully accounts for any single out-
come. Therefore, estimating the contribution of a
single variable to a particular outcome necessitates
taking into account the ways in which a number of factors
affect the dependent variable.
Each of the models in this study was initially exam-
ined with the work variables entered into the equation
first. This made it possible to estimate the relation-
ship between the dependent variables and maternal employ-
ment alone, and also to examine the relationships in the
full models. A bivariate relationship that does not
change as control variables are introduced is an indica-
tion that the control variables are not influential in
the model. The Statistical Analysis System (SAS, 1979)
provides the sums of squares in additive form and also as
the unique contribution of each variable in the equation.
By comparing these sums of squares it was possible to com-
pare the influence of a variable dependent on its order
of entry and also on its unique contribution. A variable
may contribute substantially to a model when added first,
but if its strength diminishes when other variables are
considered, this would suggest that there is little
practical contribution of this variable to the model.
On the other hand, if the contribution of a variable to
the model does not change according to its placement in
the equation, the coefficient for that variable repre-
sents its independent contribution to an explanation of
change in the dependent variable net of the effects of
the other variables in the model.
To recapitulate, this research explored possible im-
pacts of maternal employment on children within the frame
of two hypotheses. The first predicted that, as mothers
spend a larger share of their time engaged in gainful
employment, their attitudes would be Jess congruent with
those expressed by their children. Second, some effects
of maternal employment may be contingent upon the sex of
the child. The present study explored two of these ef-
fects. Maternal employment affects the amount of socially
unacceptable behavior exhibited by children, especially
sons. Also, children of working mothers should express
more careerist orientations than children of nonworking
mothers. This should be particularly important for
daughters. The sample on which the analysis was based
is first described; then the results of the tests for each
of the hypotheses are presented.
The first tables in this chapter summarize charac-
teristics of the sample used in the analysis. Table
5-1 presents the means and standard deviations for all
variables other than the three maternal employment
variables. Tables 5-2, 5-3, and 5-4 describe in detail
the work patterns of the mothers in the sample. Table 5-5
presents zero order correlations for all of the variables.
The subsample used in this study consists of 48.6%
females and 51.4% males. Students were asked to report
their average grades in percentages. The mean score on
this variable was 81.2, interpreted as 81.2%.
The social class scores were standardized within
each grade level. This was done by the U.S. Dept. of
Education (1980) in High School and Beyond. The
average score of .966 with a range of -2C to 20 re-
flects this standardization process. The standard
deviation of this variable was 7.076. A major short-
coming of previous research in this area has been the
limited operationalization of the social class variable.
The data set enabled this study to examine families
from every social class group in a single analysis.
Table 5-1. Means and Standard Deviations (SD) of
Variables N Mean SD
Sex (females=0, males=l)
Grades in school (in %)
Social class (-20 to 20)
Siblings in house
Talk to friends on telephone
Rarely talks on phone
Talks less than once week
Talks once/twice week
*Working mother as good as non-
working (l=st agree, 4=st
*Men work women stay home (l=st
agree, 4=st disagree)
*Women usually happier at home
l=st agree, 4=st disagree)
**Working mothers as good as non-
working (l=st agree, 4=st
**Men work and women stay home
(l=st agree, 4=st disagree)
**Women usually happier at home
(l=st agree, 4=st disagree)
Behavior Index: Males
Age expect marry: Males
Age 1st child: Males
*Asked of parents of sophomores only.
**Asked of sophomore respondents only.
Cross-Classification of Employment Patterns
for Mothers Who Did Not Work Before Their
Children Were in Elementary School.
During High School
No Part Full Row N
work time time Row %
During N N N
Elementary % % %
No work 813 434 213 1460
35.53 18.97 9.31 63.81
Part time 63 272 242 577
2.75 11.89 10.85 25.22
Full time 25 20 206 251
1.09 0.87 9.00 10.79
N 901 726 661 2288
Table 5-3. Cross-Classification of Employment Patterns
for Mothers Who Worked Part-Time Before
Their Children Were in Elementary School.
During High School
No Part Full Row N
work time time Row %
During N N N
Elementary % % %
No work 37 13 6 56
8.37 2.94 1.36 12.67
Part time 35 152 89 276
7.92 34.39 20.14 62.44
Full time 8 5 97 110
1.81 1.13 21.95 24.89
N 80 170 192 442
% 18.10 38.46 43.45