social economic effects of 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 26) 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 boys tend to do worse in
school when their mothers worked. (Shreve 118) As well, boys
whose mothers work