Woman's work and its effect on children

Nearly 1,000 researchers gathered in Seville two weeks ago for a conference that mixed flamenco and flying cockroaches with a desire to fan awareness of their work across Europe. David Budge reports. Dutch researchers believe they have resolved the perennial debate over whether mothers of school-age children should go out to work or stay at home.

Having surveyed 17,700 pupils Professor Jaap Dronkers and M van Doornik have concluded - as many mothers would have predicted - that it all depends on the job that is on offer and the number of hours they are required to work.

The researchers questioned the children about their lifestyles, attitudes and state of mind and concluded that their wellbeing was generally not affected by whether or not their mothers worked. Even the number of hours worked by mothers was shown to be largely irrelevant, though Dronkers and Doornik did add some important caveats.

The children of women who worked long hours in a low-status, white-collar occupation were more inclined to play truant or contemplate suicide.

Women with high-status, white-collar jobs who had a long-working week, on the other hand, were more likely to have children who took drugs or were failing to fulfil their academic potential. The sons and daughters of women who had their own businesses also tended to have more problems than those with housewife mothers, but women who worked as farmers appeared to have the happiest children of all.

Further information about this study can be obtained from Professor J Dronkers, Scokohnstamm Institute, University of Amsterdam, Wibautstraat 4, 1091 GM Amsterdam. Phone: +31-20-5251327. Fax: +31-20-5251300.e-mail: jaapd@sco.educ.uva.nl.

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