L. Jensen & M. Borges. (1986, Fall). “The effect of maternal employment on adolescent daughters.” Adolescence, 21(83), 659-666.
Does the working mother have any effect on the adolescent girl? A study by Yussen and Santrock (1984) suggests that “both boys and girls whose mothers are employed seem to benefit.” But this study was conducted with a group of children who received optimal care through a university. The adolescents of today do not have that advantage. How does maternal employment effect these kids? Jensen and Borges try to address this question.
Jensen and Borges interviewed 53 undergraduate females (40 from Brigham Young University and 13 from San Diego State University) who lived with both natural parents during adolescence, and who classified themselves as middle class or higher. The questionnaire was designed to reveal the impact of maternal employment (and non-employment) on general home climate, relationship to mother and father, and its effect on them. (Note: Mothers who worked part-time were considered non-employed.)
The study did not provide specific numbered results to each question but instead offered a numeric value for each question that was obtained by giving a 1,2, or 3 value to each question asked. A number 3 represented the most favorable response. A higher numeric value would indicate agreement with question or statement. Below are the results to specific questions:
(E=Employed full-time N=Not employed full-time)
“During adolescence, I turned to my father for emotional comfort.” E=1.7. N=2.7.
“In our home I experienced anger.” E=2.2. N=1.7.
“In our home I experienced stress and tension between parents.” E=2.0. N=1.6.
“In our home I experienced considerable freedom in making choices.” E=2.2. N=2.6.
“In the future I want to work full-time and have a marriage with children.” E=2.3. N=1.6.
“During my teen years I considered my father basically happy.” E=2.1. N=2.7.
“During my teen years I considered my father basically friendly.” E=2.3. N=2.8.
The authors concluded that the most surprising result is the effect of maternal employment on daughter-father relationships. Daughters whose mothers did not work full-time perceived their fathers and the general climate of the home happier than those whose mothers worked full-time. Another significant finding of this study is that non-full-time employment may result in less anger, stress, and tension between family and among daughters.
Critique and Evaluation
It should be noted that this study only interviewed those who went through adolescence with both parents at home. The women interviewed grew up during the period of 1960-1968, reflecting a much different culture. A thorough investigation of this topic should include one parent, step- and combined families, and the effects of maternal employment on daughters in these situations. Also of note is the fact that the women interviewed were from middle to upper middle class families. We can expect the effects on children in less fortunate social backgrounds to be different because of the quality of day care available and opportunities for play and interaction while mom is at work.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- Would you have qualified for this survey? If so, how would you have answered these questions?
- How many of the kids that you work with have both parents still at home? How many of those both work full-time?
- How did the fact that your mother worked or did not work affect your communication with her?
- When did your most significant conversations take place? Would there have been more of them if she had not worked?
- It is vitally important to understand your students’ relationships to their parent(s).
- The questions used in the survey could be used and/or reworded to include a broader interview group. Parents could ask similar questions to better understand the effect of their work on their own children.
- Understanding the effect and perceptions of parents’ work on adolescence will better equip youth workers to deal with affected kids and to formulate healthy goals for when they are also parents.
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