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June 8, 2015
by Andrea Ruse, LCPC, LAC, CCDP-D, RPT

New Harvard Study Shows Children Benefit From Having A Working Mother

June 8, 2015 05:55 by Andrea Ruse, LCPC, LAC, CCDP-D, RPT

Challenging The Traditional

Is a woman's career life harmful to the well-being of her child?  New information sheds light on this very question in a study published by Harvard Business School professor Kathleen McGinn, et al.  In this study, the traditional point-of-view that working mothers are harming their children is being challenged as research focuses in on the effects on adult children of working mothers.

According to the research, adult daughters of working mothers excelled in the workforce—earning 23% more income than their counterparts (adult daughters of stay-at-home mothers).  Furthermore, research showed that daughters of working mothers were also more likely to hold supervisory positions than daughters of stay-at-home mothers (33%: 25%; respectively).                          

As for adult sons of working mothers, data from the study did not reveal similar trends (as they were comparably employed in supervisory positions and had comparable income as adult sons of stay-at-home mothers).  However, research did show that sons of working mothers did better in reference to domestic duties.  In other words, the study yielded data identifying that sons of working mothers "spent nearly twice as many hours on family and child care as those hailing from more traditional households – a weekly average of 16 hours compared to 8 1/2 hours" (Aisner, Dey).  In light of this information, traditional beliefs about a woman's role as a mother are being challenged and gender stereotypes are being re-evaluated.  


When it comes to working mothers, many stereotypes have been assigned. According to Merriam-Webster, a stereotype is "to believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same".  More specifically, gender stereotypes are generalizations about the roles and characteristics based solely on gender.                              

In the United States, gender stereotyping continues to exist within mainstream culture in everything from childhood books to television shows. Examples of such include a young child identifying a fire fighter to be a man-only role or a nurse to be a woman-only role. This study relates even more specifically regarding the gender stereotype that men are the "breadwinners" and it is the job of women to stay-at-home as a full-time mother and wife.  This particular stereotype has led to much debate and research relating to the consequences of going against this traditional view and having women enter into the workforce. So, if this age-old gender stereotype exists, just how many women are abiding by it?

The Facts

According to data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 57% of women are currently in the workforce.  That's over half of all women! And of this 57%, 69.9% of women were working mothers with children under the age of 18, 74.7% were working mothers with children ages 6-17, 63.9% were working mothers with children under the age of 6, and 57.3% were working mothers with infant children. These statistics show that a majority of women are already working mothers; thus, identifying whether or not working mothers are negatively impacting their children is highly relevant to many. 


All this being said, there does appear to be a missing component not addressed in the research:  the impact on the working mothers.  If browsing online, one can find article after article discussing this very issue--the price of being a working mother.  In fact, many working mothers report struggling with feelings of guilt and depression at not being at home with their children or fearing that someone else is raising their child in a way that is not consistent with their value system. Therefore, this area of social psychology may warrant further attention to determine overall benefits and costs on the working mothers and children in total.   


In conclusion, while this article does not address all facets regarding the effects that children of working mothers experience (or on working mothers themselves), it does illustrate some benefits for the children.  Furthermore, any such positive information serves to work towards a paradigm shift, which could aid in decreasing the negative stigma associated with working mothers. 


Aisner, J., & Dey, R. (2015, May 18). Harvard Business School. Retrieved May 18, 2015, from 

Latest Annual Data. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2015, from  

Stereotype (n.d.) Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved April 19, 2015 from

Women in the Labor Force: A Databook. (2014). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Report 1049(May 2014), 1-1. Retrieved May 5, 2015, from   

About the Author

Andrea Ruse Andrea Ruse, LCPC, LAC, CCDP-D, RPT

I once saw a bumper sticker that read: One Life.Live It. Don't let relationship struggles, anxiety, depression, trauma history, & other life-events prevent you from living the life you've always wanted! Join me to discover your strengths and learn to manage the waves.

Andrea Ruse can be found at
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