Have children adapted to their mothers working, or was adaptation unnecessary? Cohort effects and the relationship between maternal employment and child well-being

Jeremiah B. Wills, Jonathan R. Brauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Drawing on previous theoretical and empirical work, we posit that maternal employment influences on child well-being vary across birth cohorts. We investigate this possibility by analyzing longitudinal data from a sample of children and their mothers drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. We introduce a series of age, cohort, and maternal employment interaction terms into multilevel models predicting child well-being to assess whether any potential short-term or long-term effects of early and current maternal employment vary across birth cohorts. Results indicate that maternal employment largely is inconsequential to child well-being regardless of birth cohort, with a few exceptions. For instance, children born in earlier cohorts may have experienced long-term positive effects of having an employed mother; however, as maternal employment became more commonplace in recent cohorts, these beneficial effects appear to have disappeared. We discuss theoretical and methodological implications of these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-443
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2012



  • Cognitive development
  • Cohort efforts
  • Maternal employment
  • National longitudinal survey
  • Socioemotional development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this