|low graphics version | feedback | help|
|You are in: Talking Point|
Friday, 16 March, 2001, 18:16 GMT
Do working mothers harm their children's education prospects?
A long-term study concludes that if mothers went back to full-time work early, their children would be less likely to achieve A-levels.
Campaigners for equal rights say that more should be done to address poverty and improve education.
The government says the figures were based on children born 30 years ago, when there was little quality childcare or nursery education.
Is the level of support for children and mothers today adequate? Or do children still suffer? Do working mothers harm their children's education prospects?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
You don't need a study to prove that it is harmful to abandon your children in their youth. We should also be reminded that "working mothers" is a communist ideal, not one for a free country. Somewhere along the line, the struggle for women's rights has been side-tracked to turning women into men with different genitalia.
I have brought a grandson up from when he was born. His mother, who did not work, left him when he was 3 so he had to go to a childminder. He is a most stable and secure child of nearly 14 now and doing well at school. He is given a lot of love and support from his family. I am sure there are lots of women out there on their own who have to go to work who are able to bring their child or children up in a secure family unit. As for Tony, aren't you lucky, you must have a good job! Wait until the next one comes along, let's hope your wife is still able to stay at home.
I think it is important for there to be 1 parent at home full time - mother or father.
We live in central London where (good) childcare is prohibitively expensive - more than my partner's net income. Hence an easy decision.
As Professor Ermisch admitted himself on
the Today programme, where the full-time
working mother is earning a higher
income the 'damage' to the child's
educational achievements was greatly
Did this not lead him to consider the
possibility that other social factors,
such as poverty, the lower wages
paid to women, lack of good-quality childcare, inability to pay for
education or access to good schools,
might just account for the difference
in educational achievement?
Yes children will suffer but what else can a mother do when for most families both parents must work in order to have a reasonable standard of living, or simply to survive, in rip-off Britain?
Women want 'equality'; well it comes at a price. Of course this is all a social experiment going wrong, and the real consequences will be felt in the coming years. Pretty soon you'll be seeing evidence of 'equality' playing a part in explaining why there are so many teenage mothers!
People still think that 'income' levels determine the upbringing of their children and not nurture.
Motherhood IS a fulltime job, you can't have it both ways! This is where you'll start hearing women say fathers should spend more time 'mothering'!
Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire, UK
This is a not a question of gender but of economics. A group previously excluded (or undervalued in) from the labour market has been to a large extent assimilated, in effect increasing the potential of the economy. With more earning power, spending power has reciprocally increased pricing the poor non-worker out of society. Unfortunately there is no longer a segment of the population available for child rearing and other socially useful functions.
This really annoys me. Some women may not want to stay at home (what a thought!). This does not mean they want their children any less that most men for whom the idea of giving up their career to look after their children is almost unthinkable. Why do women have to feel any different? The comments of Tony are typical - while he thinks that his child will benefit from having a parent at home it is his wife who will be leaving her job.
Couples should plan ahead if they want children. They should make sure that they can financially handle parenthood. If this means one parent works and the other doesn't, or both work part-time or one full-time and one part-time, then that's OK. Many people have children to fulfil a basic biological urge without thinking about the realities of parenthood. It's these people who are creating the damaged children that are the disease in our society.
Phyllis Carter, England
In my experience there is incredible peer and family pressure, even today,
against working mothers. This research
just adds to the guilt society seems to want us to feel
for needing to work or achieve something outside the home.
Please lighten up on working mums - our life is hard enough!
I think we are getting too obsessed with these 'studies'. My mother worked full-time when I was growing up and I now have a university degree. Therefore I wouldn't say that mothers (or fathers) can potentially harm their children by working full-time. Failing children is more often than not a result of bad parenting. I agree with more flexible approaches for both working mothers and fathers, but at the end of the day it is their responsibility to bring up their children, not the state's.
So what about single mum's who have to work full-time to provide a roof over the heads of their children and put food on the table supposed to do? Are we expected to apologise to our children when they reach 18 saying, "it's alright sweetheart, you'd have passed if I hadn't worked. We could have lived off the state, but I chose to pay my own mortgage, bills etc."
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation know what they can do with their report.
I do not have any children at the moment but would like to have some in the future. However, even with both my partner and myself working full time we are struggling to make ends meet now. The Government should take measure to reduce the cost of living but re-instating MIRAS tax relief, cutting the cost of petrol etc which may make it feasible for one of us to be a full time child carer.
A Mother, London, UK
The tax and benefits system should enable a family to live, run a car, and take a holiday, on 35% of the average adult income. One adult - not two.
This will then free time to run parents and toddlers groups, cubs, scouts and generally rebuild communities.
It would also make businesses massively more productive.
It's hardly fair to pick on mothers going back full-time. They probably don't have a choice in this credit-crazy "spend now pay later" economic climate. And it's not just the kids that suffer because of the pressures of work. The whole family is at risk as long as people are willing to put their jobs first. We already work the longest hours in Europe, and until that work ethic changes there's not much hope for anything else.
Why does the phrase "working father" never appear in any of these debates?
I am tired of seeing mothers of young children criticised for everything. They get criticised if they stay at home and criticised if they don't.
Anyone would think that kids didn't have fathers. When are we going to hear about the negative effects of fathers' long working hours that result in effective absence from the family?
Most families need two incomes to live on so it stands to reason that the type of family where the mother can stay at home is going to be one with a high earning partner in it. This brings in other factors such as the merits of a stable two parent family situation and the likelihood that a richer family will be able to pay for private education etc. I'm not forming any judgements here but just pointing out that taking two separate factors and assuming one is the direct cause of the other implies a lack of detailed thought on the subject.
The question as to whether mothers should work or not is surely academic. They form such a significant part of the workforce nowadays the economy would probably collapse if they all decided to stay at home. And anyway, the days of being able to live on one wage are long gone. You either struggle like hell on one salary or, if you both work fulltime, find you've got more than you need. Which would you choose?
Yet another stick to bash working women with. Why does the press always have to rub its hands in glee every time some study shows flimsy 'evidence' that working women supposedly harm the prospects of their children?
I'm sick of it and I'm sure most of the country's women (whether they are mothers or not) are too. We've spent years campaigning for the right to work on equal terms with men but it seems the patriarchy still exists with a vengeance and is still all-out to push back the gains we have made for women's rights, freedoms and above all CHOICES about how we live our lives.
Why is there a presumption that childcare is the mother's problem. Working "parents" may affect the upbringing of a child but suitably trained staff who have had lessons in childcare, as opposed to most parents, are quite capable of giving children a good start in life. Emotional support is very important in creating a balanced personality but parents are not necessarily the best to deliver this.
John Weir, UK
No, working mothers would not harm their children's education prospects. On the contrary, doesn't one more working parent means more income? Wouldn't more income in turn lead to a better education environment for the child?
This kind of thing really infuriates me. Why mothers?? I work fulltime while my husband stays at home to look after our son. Is the care he provides in some way inferior?
It would be a help if fathers had the right to more paid leave so that they could help their spouse at this very important time in their lives.
14 Mar 01 | Education
Working mothers' link to school failure
27 Oct 00 | UK
Working mothers 'find more child time'
24 Jan 00 | UK
Mothers shun careers for baby
24 Jan 00 | Archive
Back to the kitchen sink January 24 2000
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Other Talking Points:
Links to more Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy