Effects on Children

When Both Parents are Employed

Socio-economic conditions in North America have contributed to the need for dual incomes for
families. Economically, the number of two parent families below the poverty line would increase to an
estimated 78% if they were to become single income families. (Ontario Women\'s Directorate 9) Socially,
it was the norm, in the past, for women to stay at home having a more expressive role in the family;
taking care of the children and providing emotional support for the family. Presently, women feel that
their traditional roles as child bearers and homemakers must be supplemented with a sense of achievement
outside the home. Recent studies reflect an increased trend towards the dual income family and
projections are for this trend to continue. In 1961, 30% of married women were working; in 1978, 38%
were employed; by 1981 50% were working and in 1985, 55% held paying positions outside the home. (Jarman
and Howlett 95) In 1961, only 20% of all two parent families were!
dual wage families, but by 1986, more than half (53%) of all families were dual earning families. (Ramu


In light of the fact that the majority of two parent families in the 1990\'s have also become dual
wage earning families, it is important to examine the effects of such a phenomenon on society in general
and on child rearing in particular. Children acquire their goals, values and norms based on the way that
they view or identify with their parents as well as from the quality and amount of care, love and
guidance given to them by their parents. Parents who work present a different image to their children
than parents who do not work. In addition, wage earners, including parents, must (in most cases), be
absent from the home during the day. When considering these modifications to the family dynamics, there
is considerable basis for proof that the positive effects outweigh the negative effects experienced by
offspring in families were both parents are employed.

The working parent occupies an important exemplary role within the family. Working parents often
command considerable respect from their children, because they demonstrate the worthy characteristics of
industriousness, social compatibility, self reliance, maturity, intelligence and responsibility. Because
children identify with their parents, the feedback from such positive influences tends to be positive as
well because many of these positive characteristics are imparted upon them. A child who observes the
competent coping abilities of a working parent learns in turn, how to cope with life\'s problems. At
first this may translate into an improved sense of self-reliance and independence for the child as well
as an improvement in the ability to be socially compatible. As the child grows, it can further render a
child more emotionally mature and hence more competent in dealing with responsibility and task completion
such as is needed for school work and extra curricu!
lar activities. A study by Hoffman in 1974 corroborates these observations and therefore one can
conclude that, in general, the working parent provides a very positive role model for the child in a
family where both parents are employed. (Hoffman 18)

Attitudes of working parents pertaining to achievement, responsibility and independence affect
both male and female offspring. There seems to be more beneficial effects felt by daughters of working
women than by sons; however, this neither implies nor concludes that males do not receive some positive
effects due to maternal employment. (Spitz 606) Hoffman has concluded that daughters of employed
mothers tend to be more independent. (Hoffman 73) This tendency may result from the fact that in the
mother\'s absence, a daughter is often left to cope with caring for herself: This promotes her
independence and self-reliance. At the same time, the daughter may also be left with the job of looking
after a younger sibling, helping to promote her sense of responsibility.

Significant too, is the fact that daughters of working mother\'s tend to be more decisive about their
futures than sons. Further studies have demonstrated that a mother\'s employment status and occupation
tends to be a good predictor of the outcome of the working mother\'s daughter, since daughters tend to
follow in their mother\'s footsteps. Typically, working mothers held higher educational aspirations for
their children and furthermore, most daughters tend to achieve higher grades in school.
(Spitz 606)

It is also important to note that both male and female children acquire more egalitarian sex role
attitudes when both parents work. Boys with working mothers showed better social and personal skills
than boys of non-working mothers. On a negative note, middle-class