Maternal employment, mothering and outcomes for children


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Maternal employment, mothering and outcomes for children
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xi, 166 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Hoerbelt, Susan Harvey
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Children of working mothers   ( lcsh )
Working mothers   ( lcsh )
Child development   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1987.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 155-165).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Susan Harvey Hoerbelt.
General Note:
General Note:

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University of Florida
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Full Text








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.









Women in the Labor Force .
Preliminary Statement of the Research
Problem . .
Statement of the Research Strategy .


The Importance of the Mother Throughout
Stages of Development in Children. .
The Influence of Gender .
Areas of Socialization .


Research Summaries . .
Attitudinal Development .
Behavioral Differences .
Sex Role Orientation . .


. ii

* vi

* viii

. ix

. 1
. 1

. 16
. 7

* 9

. 10
. 16
. 18

. 28

. 28
. 34
. 40
. 43



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 . .


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


Children's Attitudes .
Differences in Behavior. .
Maternal Employment and Careerism.
The Nature of the Data .
The Nature of the Issue. .
Future Research .
Conclusions . .



. 133

. 133
. 134
. 135
. 136
. 139
. 148
. .152

. 155

. .166

. 48

. 85


Table Page

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

Table Page

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



Figure Page

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



Susan Harvey Hoerbelt

August 1987

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

(Waite, 1981).

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,
p. 13.

Preliminary Statement of the
Research Problem

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

Chapter II).

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.


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's theories.

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 &

Gottfredson, 1984).

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

socialization process.

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

to work.

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







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.

Research Summaries

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-

rearing practices.

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

research findings.

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.

Attitudinal Development

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

more peer-oriented.

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.

Behavioral Differences

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

nonworking mothers.

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

stay home.

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

SSocial Class.F

I Grades. --

Siblings at Home
i I I

SRarely Talks on
ITalks LT Once

Talks Once/
1TwicE Week




Maternal Attitude t 1I
ternal Employment Preschool

Maternal Employment Ij

Maternal Employment ,\ Child's
Elementary School Attitude

Maternal Employment
High School |

Maternal Attitude A (- --
Maternal Employment
Elementary School

Maternal Attitude
Maternal Employment
High School

= Relationships tested

= Relationships included in
but not tested

this model

-------- = 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'

employment patterns:

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 -
Grade _

Siblings at

Rarely Talks
on Phone-

Talks LT
Once Week
Talks Once/
Twice Week

Maternal Employment

Maternal Employment
Elementary School ) Behavior
S- -- -- Index

Maternal Employment
High School

= 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
Tested Separately.



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

I :l.aschool
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

others /
a eternal / / /ti
aIc work, -women / /
//, /

,aternal Actitude:
WoaMn happier ac home.

= Relationships tested

= Relationships included in
but not tested

this model

-------- = Relationships assumed but not tested

Figure 3.

Relationship of Maternal Employment to the
Sex-Role Orientations of Children--Males
and Females Tested Separately.

- 0-6

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

this analysis.

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

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

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

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

of one.

Peer Affiliation

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

peer relationships.

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.

Maternal Attitudes

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

present analysis.

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

following question:

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 &

Jackson, 1977).

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.

Sample Characteristics

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

Independent Variables
Sex (females=0, males=l)
Grades in school (in %)
Social class (-20 to 20)
Siblings in house
(false=0, true=l)
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)

Dependent Variables
**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







1789 2.422

1801 2.521

1794 2.468

1789 2.387

1801 2.473



*Asked of parents of sophomores only.
**Asked of sophomore respondents only.










Table 5-2.

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

31.73 29.16


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