“Does the amount of time children spend with their mothers matter for children’s developmental outcome?” The answer, according to researchers, is an emphatic no.
Under the microscope of this new study is what the researchers termed “intensive mothering” and its impact primarily on children ages 3-11:
Indeed, this ideology of intensive mothering –the belief that the proper development of children requires mothers lavishing large amounts of time and energy on offspring (Hays, 1996)— is pervasive in American culture, is central to the spirited debates over whether maternal employment harms children (Bianchi, 2000), and is embodied in the “Mommy Wars,” an alleged dispute between homemaker and employed mothers in which the former are said to accuse the latter of being selfish and harming children by being away from home too often (Hays, 1996). Journal of Marriage and Family
The study measured the quantity of time mothers spent with their children and compared that with the desired outcomes of academic achievement, behavior, and emotional well-being. The study concluded that “ideology of intensive mothering” (defined as lavishing large quantities of time on one’s offspring) not only had no bearing on the stated desired outcome, but in some cases was considered detrimental.
Researchers told the Washington Post their findings should relieve a lot of guilt for working parents. The study states cases deemed harmful were with children spending their time with emotionally drained mothers. It’s important to note that these were not just stay-at-home moms, but women who felt stressed, guilt-ridden and sleep-deprived.
It wouldn’t surprise me if many, if not most of the mothers in the study are “helicopter” parents.
Mothering young children is intensive. It evolves over time. The desired outcome can’t be measured by academic success or the mental stability of an adolescent.
The deposit slips invested in a child’s life by a good mother are most accurately tallied when life is done.
Photo credit, Shutterstock, Frank Fennema