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Last Updated: Monday, 12 May, 2003, 02:57 GMT 03:57 UK
Working mums' children 'unharmed'
Mothers play with their children, whether they work or not

Young children whose mothers go out to work do not suffer as a result, a decade-long study has found.

The survey shows that in terms of psychological well-being and behaviour, young children of working mothers do just as well as those with mothers who stay at home.

For 10 years, researchers from Bristol University have tracked the development of 14,000 children in the south west of England.

A study of children in their first three years of life found that those who were looked after in nurseries suffered "no measurable psychological or behavioural ill effects because of their mothers' absence".

The result of the ongoing battle between mothers who work outside and those who are at home is officially a draw, they concluded.

The researchers looked at the development of children up to the age of three in terms of how active they were and in terms of their emotionality - how likely they were to be moody or fussy for example.

They found no difference between the development of children of working mothers and of those who stayed at home - an active baby would develop into an active child, for example.

They measured the stimulation babies received and found that this was the same whether they were in day care or were looked after by their mothers at home.

Mothers were much more likely than fathers to spend time playing with their children.

Making mothers feel guilty whatever they do is one of this country's most flourishing industries
Rosemary Chamberlin, England

Quality time

Professor Dieter Wolke, from the research project, said women who went out to work still spent 50% of their time playing with their children or talking or singing to them.

Although fathers generally spent less time with their children, this increased the more hours a mother worked, Professor Wolke said.

"The findings did not surprise me, as they reflected what has been found in some other studies," he said.

"People are not going to make decisions on this. Women are going out to work more and more, they have the education and will continue to go back work."

He said he did not agree with advocates of the concept of "quality time," - the idea of setting aside time to fully devote to a child - because young children were not predictable.

"You can't switch them on and off. If they are in the mood they will engage with you but if they are not, they won't," he said.

The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"The study looked at 14,000 families with children under three"

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