Employment in Low-Income Families

Nina M. Philipsen Hetzner and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn

in The Oxford Handbook of Poverty and Child Development

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199769100
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Employment in Low-Income Families

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In the past 50 years the labor force participation rate of mothers has surged, and rising numbers of children are spending time in nonparental care. These increases are especially dramatic for single mothers and mothers with young children. As a result, the effects of parental employment on child socioemotional, cognitive, and health outcomes in a low-income context have gained research attention. Findings highlight important differences between employment in low income samples versus higher or nationally representative income samples. In a low-income context results suggest that employment has either no association or a small positive association with child development. Yet, in a nationally representative context, the majority of studies suggest that early employment has a negative association with child socioemotional and cognitive development. Differences in effects by income are likely due to differences in the way low- and higher income children experience the pathways through which employment is linked with development. Parental employment out of the home influences aspects of the child's environment. Employment has been associated with the amount of time spent with a child, the amount of language used by parents with the child, the parent-child attachment relationship, the home environment, child care arrangements, the household income, and the family's access to health care. In turn, these environmental characteristics impact the socioemotional, cognitive, and physical development of the child. Implications and future directions for this field of work are discussed.

Keywords: maternal employment; paternal employment; parental employment; cognitive development; socioemotional development; child health; low income; poverty

Article.  15461 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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