Mother’s education, job flexibility shapes infants’ nurturing environment

January 31st, 2009 - 2:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 31 (IANS) What contributes most to a nurturing environment at home for three to five-year-old children of single working mothers? A mother’s education is the most important factor, followed by her job routines that offer either standard daytime hours or some flexibility, according to a new University of Illinois (U-I) study.

“If young single mothers had even one more year of school, they did much better in terms of parent-child relationships,” said Christy Lleras, U-I assistant professor of human and community development.

“Mothers with more schooling may also be better able to find jobs that pay higher wages and allow them to work a daytime shift or have predictable work schedules with some flexibility, which is important with pre-school children,” she said.

Mothers with children under five are now the fastest-growing segment of the female labour force. In the past decade, huge changes in welfare policy have resulted in increased pressure for low-income single mothers to work, she said.

Lleras’s study followed 737 single mothers, 417 of them employed, in a national sample taken from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth in 1990, 1992, and 1994, in the years before welfare reform was enacted. The mothers ranged in age from 25 to 32 years.

“It’s the last time we have a national picture of single working mothers before welfare reform, which occurred in 1996,” she said.

Lleras said her study highlights the need for flexitime and standard working hours for single mothers with preschool-aged children, according to a U-I release.

The study was published in the Journal of Family Issues.

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