The Effects of Single Working Moms on Their Kids’ Cognitive Development

This review attempts to study the association between the time spent by single working mothers, the mother’s salary and the cognitive development of their children. Owing to the high possibility of selection issues, the variables and instruments used for the evaluation were drawn based on state welfare policies. The implications range from negative effect of child care, especially informal care, to the child’s age. This is directly associated with scores obtained at ages of 4, 5, and 6 years with the scores obtained during the completion of the child’s education. The results showed that “child care has larger negative effects for older children, and maternal time is more valuable for more educated mothers.”

Recent findings state that the performance capacity of an individual is decided prior to the age of 16. This necessitates probing into child development and understanding the various social and psychological inputs received by children. Hence, the choice of the right child care becomes critical in honing the abilities, social behavior, as well as educational scores of a person at a later stage. The current analysis investigates the function of child care in children below 6 years of age and is sourced from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) study on single mothers. This group was chosen because of the pronounced 19 percent rise in working population of single mothers from 1992 to 2001 as a result of welfare policies. The problem of many instruments and variables arising out of policy complexity has been handled well by using correction factors and reducing the size of the instrument set. The results proved the negative impact of child care and lesser maternal time input by reflecting lower test scores, especially with informal child care arrangements.

The present effort assessed cognitive abilities such as vocabulary, reading, and math scores of children of single mothers from the NLSY-79 study. The mother’s education, employment, and remuneration; maternal time input; total household income; and siblings covering the periods one year before and five years after childbirth were taken into account. The details of the childcare history were collected. The impact of welfare rules across countries was thoroughly examined. The statistical model of limited information maximum likelihood (LIML) estimator was used. It was found to be reliable to eliminate bias and selection errors.

Results/Key findings
* Cumulative child care has a negative impact on children’s cognitive capacity as seen from the 2.9 percent reduction in scores.
* Better welfare policies and thus 10 percent percent more use of child care corresponded to reduction in scores by 2.35 percent.
* Educated mothers with greater intelligence quotient (IQ) had brighter children. Children born to teenage mothers recorded 2.6 percent higher cognitive ability.
* One year of additional informal care leads to 3.5 percent decrease in scores while formal care acts positively, probably due to interactive and cognitive stimulation.
* The negative effect is pronounced in children less than 2 years of age.
* Mother’s income and siblings have no effect on cognition.

Next steps/Shortcomings
This study involves too many instruments and a large number of unobservable variables. On the whole, the mother’s IQ and employment inversely relate to maternal time input and thereby necessitate child care. For example, intelligent mothers would work and so depend on child care, but this also means lesser maternal time with child and vice versa. In addition, intelligent mothers would have children with better IQ. In this study, the balance between basic intelligence and maternal care is not clear. It is difficult to account for some factors indigenous to every mother/child pair.

The use of child care facilities has increased from 59 to 69 percent between 1979 and 1993 as a consequence of well-formulated welfare rules, specifically for single mothers, leading to more employment. However, this brings along with it the complexities of impaired cognitive development in children. Although the cumulative effect of child care points negatively, it is pertinent to investigate the contributory factors to understand the entirety. Changes and the time at which governmental policies come into force directly relate to the utilization of child care. The variable factors include the different types of child care. For instance, informal care hampers scores, especially a compromise in mother’s time after 2 years of age retards later scores because this is the age when challenging skills such as language develop. Educated mothers in good jobs mostly opt for formal care, suggesting that the mother’s academic background indirectly has a positive influence on the child’s development and such mothers spend quality time with the child, directly aiding the child’s skills.

For More Information:
Effect of Child Care on Children’s Cognitive Abilities: The Case of Single Mothers
Publication Journal: Journal of Labor Economics, 2007
By Raquel Bernal, Michael P. Keane; Universidad de los Andes, Colombia; University of Technology, Sydney

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