Bad jobs: Why they make some women bad moms

May 01, 2009

( -- The kind of job a woman has may be just as important as whether she works or not when it comes to the well-being of her child.

That's the implication of a new study by University of Michigan researcher Amy Hsin, presented today (April 30) in Detroit at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America.

"Bad jobs" have been on the rise in the United States for decades. According to one estimate, the share of U.S. labor hours spent in low-paid jobs that require little education has increased by 35 percent since 1980. And for those with less than a college education, the rise in these jobs, most in the service sector, has exceeded 53 percent.

For the study, supported by a grant from the National Institute on Child Health and Development, Hsin, a sociologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), and colleague Christina Felfe at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), defined bad jobs by the amount of physical hazards and social stress involved.

They compared these rankings with occupations reported by 1,090 mothers interviewed as part of the ISR Panel Study of Income Dynamics. The researchers also had information on how much time the women spent with their children, and tests of children's verbal and math skills.

In general, the researchers found that the worse a mother's job, the worse their children did on verbal skills. But the mother's had a significant impact on how harmful a bad job was to her kids.

Bad jobs for more educated mothers were different from bad jobs for less-educated moms, they found. The most common bad jobs for mothers with high school educations were assemblers, cleaners, foremen and nurse's aides, for example, while the most common bad jobs for college graduates were registered nurses, therapists, and elementary school teachers.

Stressful jobs for more educated moms tend to pay relatively well, and Hsin believes the higher pay compensates for the higher stress mothers experience in these occupations. For less educated mothers, Hsin says, they suffer a double whammy—high stress plus low pay. This seems to intensify the negative impact on their children's behavior and reading and vocabulary skills.

Hsin and Felfe found that moms with bad jobs were spending just as much time with their children as other mothers. "This suggests that it's the quality of time mothers are spending with their children that suffers when have bad jobs," she said. "Because they've had such stressful days, they may be less patient, attentive, and responsive than they would otherwise be able to be, and this is what may be having a negative impact on their children's achievement."

What can moms do, especially in an economy where it may be necessary to take any job you can get, even a bad one?

"It's hard to expect women who are stressed out and exhausted to be able to put their feelings aside for the sake of their children," Hsin said. "In these circumstances, quality daycare may be a major help, but unless they receive some kind of aid, that is usually out of reach for women with bad jobs that don't pay well."

Provided by University of Michigan (news : web)

Explore further: Wives with more education than their husbands no longer at increased risk of divorce

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Verbally aggressive mothers direct their children's behavior

Jul 09, 2008

A new study in Human Communication Research reveals that verbally aggressive mothers tend to control their children's choice of activities as well as use physical negative touch, along with directives, when trying to alter ...

Long work hours widen the gender gap

Aug 01, 2008

Working overtime has a disproportionate impact on women in dual-earner households, exacerbating gender inequality and supporting the "separate sphere" phenomenon in which men are the breadwinners while women tend to the home, ...

Recommended for you

Election surprises tend to erode trust in government

9 minutes ago

When asked who is going to win an election, people tend to predict their own candidate will come out on top. When that doesn't happen, according to a new study from the University of Georgia, these "surprised losers" often ...

Awarded a Pell Grant? Better double-check

21 hours ago

(AP)—Potentially tens of thousands of students awarded a Pell Grant or other need-based federal aid for the coming school year could find it taken away because of a mistake in filling out the form.

Perthites wanted for study on the Aussie lingo

Jul 23, 2014

We all know that Australians speak English differently from the way it's spoken in the UK or the US, and many of us are aware that Perth people have a slightly different version of the language from, say, Melbournians - but ...

User comments : 0