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Theses Doctoral

First Year Parental Employment and Child Developmental Outcomes at Two and Four Years of Age

Philipsen Hetzner, Nina Mareike

The goal of this project was to explore associations between maternal and paternal employment around nine months after the birth of a child and child socioemotional, cognitive, and health outcomes at two and four years of age. Three research aims were addressed.
Aim One: To Examine Associations Between Maternal Employment And Child Outcomes
Findings indicated that few links exist between maternal full and part time employment (compared to no employment) and child outcomes at two and four years. A series of home and family process variables were also analyzed to determine whether they served as significant mediators or offsetting variables in the association between employment and child outcomes. Although there was some variation by outcome, generally full and part time maternal employment was linked with more maternal knowledge of child development, less maternal depression, more maternal income, better attachment classification, and a higher quality home environment. Each of these process variables were, in turn, linked with positive child outcomes. On the other hand, full and part time maternal employment was also associated with less time spent with the child, which was associated with poorer child outcomes. Full and part time maternal employment was linked with greater participation in nonparental child care, which was associated with both better and worse child outcomes, varying by type of care and the specific outcome. Compared to non-working mothers, full time employment was linked with a shorter duration in breastfeeding, while part time employment was linked with a longer duration in breastfeeding. Duration of breastfeeding was associated with better child outcomes at age two. Lastly, the number of well child visits was not found to be a significant pathway between maternal employment and child outcomes. It appeared that positive and negative pathways existed, and in most cases balanced out to a non significant direct effect of
employment on outcomes.
Aim Two: To Examine Associations Between Parental Employment And Child Outcomes
Findings from the second study indicated that, compared to children with a non working mother and full time working father, children with two full time working parents displayed more illness by age two. At age four, compared to children with a non working mother and full time working father, children with a part time working mother and a father with part time or no work showed less engagement of a parent. Children with a part time working mother and full time working father, children with a part time working mother and part time or non working father, and children with two full time working parents displayed more externalizing behavior. A series of home and family process variables were analyzed to determine their role as mediators or offsetting variables in the association between parental employment and child outcomes. Although there was some variation by outcome, generally the employment groups that included a full time working father and a part or full time working mother fared best on process variables. These groups were associated with more mother and father knowledge of child development, less maternal depression, more use of child care, more income, more maternal sensitivity, and a better home environment. These process variables were, in turn, associated with better child outcomes. On the other hand, those families with a non working mother and a part time or non working father generally fared worst on process variables. This group was associated with less mother and father knowledge of child development, more maternal and paternal depression, a lower quality home environment, less income, less months breastfed, and lower maternal sensitivity. These process variables were generally associated with poorer child outcomes at ages two and/or four.
Aim Three: To Examine the Mediating Role Of Child Care Quality In The Association Between First-Year Parental Employment And Child Outcomes At Age Four
Results indicated that overall there were associations between employment and child care, but few and inconsistent links between child care type and quality and child outcomes. The child outcomes for which some types of child care served as a significant pathway for parent employment were math ability, reading ability, engagement of the parent, and expressive language. High quality center-based care, high quality relative care, and high quality non-relative care were all positively linked with at least one child outcome measured at age four. However, low quality center based care was also positively linked with both math ability and engagement of the parent. The positive link with math was surprising, particularly in the absence of a positive link between high quality center-based care and math ability, which was expected based on previous findings.
Engagement of the parent was the only socioemotional outcome with a positive link with parental employment though child care. The pathway emerged through both high and low quality, center-based settings. Because of the large groups and decreased one-on-one time with an adult, center-based care, at the onset of the study, was expected to have a negative link with socioemotional outcomes. No links with child health were found.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Developmental Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 12, 2017
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