A mom's employment status has no significant tie to her kids' happiness in adulthood, recent research finds
Daughters of working moms more likely to be successful in the workplace, data suggest
Growing up with a working mom may have some benefits for both daughters and sons later in life.
A team of researchers from the United States and the United Kingdom analyzed data on more than 100,000 men and women across 29 countries to determine whether a mother’s employment status has any link to her children’s outcomes in adulthood.
As it turns out, the research suggests that girls raised in homes with working mothers are more likely to grow up to have successful careers. Whereas, the sons of working mothers spent more time as adults caring for family members, according to the research.
Additionally, the research showed no significant associations between a mother’s employment status and whether her children grew up to be happy adults. In other words, the children are just as happy in adulthood as the children of stay-at-home moms.
The findings were published in April in the journal Work, Employment, and Society. Some of the preliminary research was released in 2015.
As the study intended to measure only the relationship between a mother’s employment and her son’s or daughter’s outcomes later in life, the findings in no way suggest that there are no benefits for children of stay-at-home mothers as well.
“This research doesn’t say that children of employed moms are happier or better people, and it doesn’t say employed moms are better,” Kathleen McGinn, a professor at Harvard Business School and lead author of the study, told CNNMoney in 2015.
“What it says is, daughters are more likely to be employed” and hold supervisory responsibility, she said. “And sons spend more time in the home.”
The study relied on self-reported data from two cross-national social surveys: the “Family and Changing Gender Roles” of the International Social Survey Programme, from 2002 and 2012, and the “Generations and Gender Survey” from the Generations and Gender Programme, administered in two waves from 2002 through 2013.
In measurements using International Social Survey Programme data, the likelihood of being employed was 1.21 times greater for women raised by an employed mother compared with those whose mothers were not employed, the researchers found.
Employed women raised by working mothers were 1.29 times more likely to supervise others at work, spent roughly 44 additional minutes at their jobs and reported significantly higher annual incomes, according to the data.
The Generations and Gender Programme data confirmed those findings, showing that women whose mothers were employed when the women were 15 were 1.19 times as likely to be employed and 1.17 times as likely to supervise others.
Among men, a mother’s employment status was not a significant predictor of his employment outcomes. Rather, men raised by working mothers spent about 50 additional minutes weekly caring for their family members than those whose mothers were not employed, the researchers found, using International Social Survey Programme data.
The Generations and Gender Programme data also showed that men raised by employed mothers were marginally more involved in child care.
Join the conversation
Limitations of this research included that data were based on self-reported survey responses, and more research is needed to evaluate ongoing changes in gender roles, as the research explored associations with only women’s employment.
Overall, the researchers wrote in their study, “these findings add to a growing body of research providing a counterpoint to persistent beliefs and rhetoric that employed women are negatively affecting their families and society.”