By:Esmail Biabangard & Mahmoud Hatami
Summary: Working mothers, in comparison to household mothers, spend
less time in childcare and looking after their children However,
qualitatively this time spent is more purposeful and deliberate. Daughters
of working mothers generally perceive their mothers as individualistic, self-
confident and socially competent role models; however, sons in .
households in which both parents are employed, in comparison to
traditional households, are found to be more attached combined with
signs of less security in relation to their fathers, less successful in school
and show less aptitude in intelligence tests.
In this research in order to establish the effects that working
mothers have on the social development and educational progress of
their children, we have used a sample size of 100 randomly chosen
students from the third grade elementary class, based in Tehran city
districts 14 and 6. Social development tests were applied and in order to
measure the educational progress of the students an average of their first
and second trimester grades were taken.
The results show working mothers to have positive effects on
the social development and educational progress of children especially on
Due to vast social and economic changes throughout many
countries in the present century, the labor market has seen considerable
changes and an inevitable increase in the work force. The variety in work force demand and the increase of administrative and service sector
occupations has enabled the policy makers to employ as many women as
possible in the labor marKet. TJ an extent, emproying women in the labor
market is considered as an indicator of the level of growth and social
Considering the above mentioned points, many countries
endevour to employ as many women as possible in the labor market and
even, at least to employ their services part time.
At present in Iran, four census' have been conducted by the
Iranian Statistical Center from the yedrs 1956 to 1986. The ratio of
working women to total work force in these years, respectively, are as
follows: in 1956,9.7%; in 1966, 13.26%; in 1976, 13.77%; and in 1986,
8.86%. Considering the latest statistical figure indicates that women only
comprise 8.86% of the total work force. In general, research, statistics
and figures indicate that today a more noticeable percentage of women
work outside their homes and also that the number of single parent
households has increased.
It seems that the traditional role of families and family interest
patterns today has changed, as a result of having mothers who spend
most of their time at work and less at home. Answers to the following
questions can elucidate this trend:
- What. are the positive and negative effects of working mothers on their
- When the mother is working, what role should the father play in the
- Does the employment of the mother influence the social development
and educational progress of children?
- Is this influence equal in boys and girls?
- What are the conditions that can reduce the negative effects caused by
the mother's employment?
In this article, the effects of working mothers on the social
development and educational progress of children will be examined with
respect to their gender.
Psychologists have recently focused their research and studies
on the types of relationships between parents and children and the
effects that a working mother has on family life. "Hoffman" on reviewing
the history of this discipline, found that working mothers in comparison to
household mothers spent less time in childcare and looking after their
children. The amount of time a university graduate working mother spent
on looking after her child was one-third the time a household mother
spends on this task. In addition, working mothers spend less time
watching television or sleeping (Hill and Stanford, 1988). In the light of
this, two points must be added to the above findings:
Firstly, the amount of time a working mother spends on childcare
and looking after her children, in terms of quality is more active,
purposeful and deliberate than the time a non-working mother spends on
this task. Secondly, fathers in working-wife families in comparison to fathers in housewife families spend more time with their children and
doing household jobs.
Some research findings portray that the type of employment, job
position and the level of the mother's commitment to work, play an
important role on the quality of her actions and level of care for her
children. For example, a job which makes a mother feel self-worthy and
in good temperament will obviously improve the mother-child
relationship. On the contrary, a job which excessively tires, innervates
and nurtures low confidence in a mother, will naturally negatively affect
her relationship and actions with her child.
In recent years, psychologists have stressed that the relationship
between infants and children with those people who look after them and
their reciprocated actions and affections set the folJndations of social
development, kindness and recognition (Bowlby 1969, Freud 1864).
These researchers to date have focused all their attention on the child's
mother as the person who demonstrates kindness and care and - also of
great importance - as the person who provides or subtracts security to the
child. Considering the above points, although the mother's presence at
home especially in the first two years of birth is essential in order to
establish "attachment" between mother and child, however, due to social,
cultural and economic conditions of society, many women are pulled
back to the work force shortly after the birth of their child. Research
shows that when the mother is employed, the father is normally more
involved with the home and childcare. In the light of this, working
mothers feel more satisfied with themselves than non-working mothers. A
child whose mother works is witness to a more equitable relationship
between father and mother, given more attention from people outside the
family and in comparison to other children, will be given more
responsibilities at home (Hoffman and Nye, 1974).
Contrary to popular belief, that working mothers cause harm to
the child, eVldence shows that it may in fact be advantageous to the
child. Childrerl of working mothers compared to children of household
mothers normaJly display stronger personality and social compatibility in
school, they have a more mature perception and understanding of gender
and regarding the roles of men and women, they have less stereotyped
opinions. (Huston.. 1983). It seems girls benefit more from having working
mothers than do boys. Girls with working mothers compared to girls with
non-working mothers, are more self-sufficient, sociable and educationally
advanced and sh,ow a greater tendency to employment (Gold, 1979;
Hoffman, 1989). Boys with working mothers in comparison to boys with
non-working mothers are also more self-sufficient and sociable, however
their academic progress and recognition test scores are lower (Banducci,
1967; Hoffman 1984). How can these findings be explained? Several
methods may be examined in order to explain these findings. It is
possible that a lack of mental stimulation which results from a mother's
employment can have undesirable effects on both girls and boys,
however in the case of girls, this deficiency is compensated by other benefits such as being more self-sufficient and having a successful and
competent mother as a role model. Pre-school aged children with full-
time and unemployed mothers, may possibly have a greater mental
capacity in adolescence, at the same time however, compared to other
children of their own age group, they may exhibit more withdrawal
symptoms and fear. A non-working mother may possibly become $0
involved in her role so as to foster a greater attachment by her son,
whereby she may be unable to release him, so that he may acquire
further development behaviors.
Hoffman (1989) confirms that girls with working-mothers, have a
socially worthy and virtuous model; they are brought up in such a way
which increases their self-confidence, self-worthiness and independence.
This is a different matter for boys; in working families, the employment of
the mother may have negative effects on the son. On the one hand, the
employment of the mother may be deciphered to mean that the father
cannot financially support and sustain the family, and on the other hand it
may be portrayed as the mother playing the male role.
It has been said that the educational progress of working-
mothered boys in comparison to non-working mothered boys is of a lower
standard. It must be added that this is only true for middle class. boys. On
the contrary, in very successful families, boys with working-mothers score
much higher marks on recognition and intelligence tests than do other
boys. This contrasting effect is perhaps caused by many factors, however
it seems the most important of these is the mother's role and function as
a teacher. Middle class mothers compared to lower class mothers are
subjected to a higher level of education and can be better teachers for
their children and offer them greater mental stimulation. Therefore, a
mother's employment causes less shortcomings in middle class children
than in lower class children. If in the absence of a lower class child's
mother, an environment filled with mental stimulation is provided (for
example, sending the child to a very qualified kindergarten with well
experienced teachers), progress can be expected in the child's academic
skills. One research finding which has been approved by many other
findings is that working-mothered children compared to non-working
mothered children have a more general and liberal perception to gender
roles. Even girls are more advanced than boys in this regard and both
groups have less formed opinions on what is considered a man or
woman's role. A further point is that mother's who are in non-traditional
type occupations such as the fire department, are more inclined to have
their daughters enter the same occupation. However, the mother's
occupation does not have any visible effect on the son's choice of
occupation. This should not be surprising as research shows that the
occupations which girls are more in favor of are more formed than that of
boys. Hence, girls in comparison to boys are more eager to be employed
in occupations in which a high percentage of women have already
entered Selcko (1989) believes that not only is the presence of a role model significant to girls but the views and values of family members and
society is also an important tool and model.
The benefits of working mothers are more advantageous to
adolescents than infants and children. Research shows that working
mothers educate a more responsibility-accepting and independent
adolescent. Gold and Andres (1979) researched that adolescents with
working mothers compared to those with household mothers felt more
self-worthy, sociable and more protected and accepted by society This
pattern is more useful especially for adolescent girls Girl adolescents
Iwith working mothers are more sociable, compatible, successful, more
independent and active and in educational progress and intelligence tests
they score higher marks.
Research Conducted in Iran
Till date in Iran, there has been barely a handful of studies
conducted on working women. Four studies are mentioned below:
A) In 1988/9 Halimeh Enayat examined the effects working mothers
had on family relations in the city of Shiraz. In this study, the effects
working mothtfS had on family relations were measured and evaluated
by the following three factors: participation of men in household jobs,
women sharing the decision-making role in household affairs and child
discipline. The research findings show: women with higher income levels
are more involved in decision-making, working women are included more
in decision-making than household women, the higher the occupational
position of women the more noticed they are in decision-making, and the
higher the educational level of women the greater share they have in
decision-making. Men with working wives have a higher participation in
household jobs than men with housewives. In relation to the upbringing
and discipline of the child, the higher the educational qualifications of
both parents the more attention is paid to the upbringing of the child. An increase in the number of live born children in the family causes a
decrease in the care and attention given to the child (Enayat 1988).
B) In 1989, Fereshteh Amir Faryar in a paper entitled "Selected
Statistical Cases" produced an in-depth discussion on the Employment
Distribution and Level of Education of Employed Women. Part of this
publication looks at the employment distribution and level of education of
working women within Iran. This research compares the 1986/7 and
1987/8 census' with each other and the result of this comparison shows
that the statistics of working women (10 years and above) has declined
from 13.8% to 8.9%. The occupation of women in urban areas is mainly
in teaching and in rural areas it is mainly in agriculture. In villages,
working women are mainly uneducated and in the cities they mostly have
completed middle school diploma levels. Women with higher education comprise a low portion of the working force as only 11.5% of the total
female working population have higher education.
C) A further research which has been conducted in Iran on
employed women has been done by Mr. Bahram Amir Ahmad and was
reflected in the Journal "Social Science Development Training". This
research is based on Bakhtiari women and their role in nomadic
lifestyles. The author on using 1986/7 census statistics has tried to
examine the women's employment situation in the Bakhtiari tribe. These
statistics show that the percentage of employed women in the Bakhtiari
tribe is higher than the percentage of employed women in the country's
villages (15.1%) and most of the employed women (86%) work within the
family without any salary. Based on this research the decision-making
role of urban and rural working women is greater than that of nomadic
women (Amir Ahmad 1990).
D) Saied Zahed Zahedan and Jalil Mahboub (1992) in a research
titled "A Study on the Opportunities and Hardships of Working Women in
the Township of Shiraz" found the following factors and conditions
effective as a basis to the employment of women:
- Women educated with diplomas and higher, - higher marriage age for
men and women, - higher education level of men, - less number of
children, - closing the gap between men's and women's household duties,
- the role of decision-making between men and women becoming more
equal, - men's occupation as an employee, - an increase in family
arguments, - women being more satisfied with financial independence, -
husbands as:c'isting more in household affairs, - child upbringing and
discipline and last but not least encouraging their children to marry at an
Some of these factors can be seen as the cause of the increase
in employed women; for example a higher education and higher marriage
age, whilst others may hinder women's employment; such as the
increase in family arguments and women and men becoming more equal
in decision-making; and finally some of the variables may have no
connection to the employment of women.
Description of the Research Method
In order to survey the effects of full-time working mothers on the
social development and educational progress of children, in this research
a sample of 100 elementary school students was chosen. The sample,
which was chosen randomly out of 4 schools in the districts 6 and 14 of
Tehran, consisted of 2 samples of each 50 third grade students (25
female and 25 male): one with working mothers and the other group with
household mothers. The test known as "Social Development Basis
Researcher" was applied on the sample and the average mark of their
first and second trimester exam results was used as an indicator for
Details about the Interviewees
25 girls 9.3 years 18.70 22 Teacher,
Children Third Grade Nurse,
with 50 Secretary,
Working 25 boys 9.5 years 18.06 18 Taylor, ..
Mothers Third Grade
Housewife 25 girls 9.2 years 15.95 13
Mothers 25 boys 93 years 16.29 15
IX (1st and 2nd tri-mesters - 20 being the highest)
~ (25 being the highest)
The Test: "Children's Social Development Basis Researcher"
This test consists of 30 questions which are based on the "Social
Dignity Tests" by Pope and colleagues, "Social Dignity Tests" by
Cooper Smite, "Social Maturity" by Wyland, "Social Adjustment /
Flexibility" by Rutter, and "Social Development" by Whitzmann. The
answers to the questions are yes or no. The test time is approximately 15
minutes and designed for children between 6 and 12 years. In order to
keep the test objectives from the interviewees, 5 neutral questions (nos.
5, 10, 15, 21 and 27) were included which do not play any role in the
evaluation of the test.
In order to determine whether the designed test had the needed
credibility and truthfulness, at first the test was applied to a sample of 30
students from the second, third and fourth grades in the elementary
school. The test results were then compared to judgments by the pupils'
teachers who were asked to give a ranking of 0 to 25 to our sample
students under consideration the features of social development (e.g.
helpfulness, number of friends, preference towards team work, shyness,
preference towards written tests, compatibility with others, satisfaction
with gender and family background ...). The comparison of test results to
teachers' evaluations showed a relatively high correlation (R=0.92)
between the two. The average ranking extracted out of the test results
was 19 and the rankings given by teachers resulted in an average of 18.
The optical design of the test was also examined by two specialists (one
child development specialist and one testing specialist) who eventually
confirmed the test design after minor changes. The test questionnaire is
presented in the followings from:
Analysis of Results
After extracting the data and analyzing it, the following results
were reached in comparing the averages of both groups:
A) The social development of those students with working mothers was
meaningfully higher than the other children. In other words, the average
indicator of social development for children with working mothers was 20
out of 25, while the other average was only 14.
B) The educational progress of those students with working mothers was
meaningfully higher than the progress of children of household mothers.
The average indicator of educational progress (i.e. the average marks of
the first and second trimester exams results) for children with working
mothers was 18.28 out of 20, while the other group reached an average
was only 16.12.
C) The social development of working-mothered girls was meaningfully
higher than the girls in the other group. In quantitative terms, the social
development indicator of girls with working mothers was 22, while
daughters of housewives gave an average of 13 out of 25 It should be
noted that the same comparison between boys did not show a meaningful
difference (18 as opposed to 15).
D) The educational progress of female students with working mothers
was meaningfully higher than the children of household mothers In
quantitative terms, the average mark of first and second trimester exams
of children with working mothers was 18.7 out of 20 while the very same
indicator amounted to 15.95 in the second group. Nevertheless, there
was no meaningful correlation in this matter in the male category.
E) The social development indicator of girls with working mothers (22)
was meaningfully higher than that of boys (18). At the same time, the
social development indicator of girls with household mothers did not
differ from the boys in the same group (both 15).
F) The educational progress of girls with working mothers (18.7) showed
a meaningful correlation with the same indicator for boys (1806).
However, the educational progress of female students with household
mothers (15.95) was not higher than that of male students in the same
In the light of this survey's results and other research conducted
Iin this matter, the following guidelines are presented in order to promote
social development and educational progress of children and to reduce
the side-effects of having working mothers:
1) Considering the phenomenon of "Attachment" and the child's special
need for a mother in the first two years of its life, we suggest that mothers
do not go to work, if possible, especially in the first year The lack of
attachment to one or more close persons in the first years would affect a
child's ability to get close to other people later during adulthood.
2) We suggest mothers avoid full-time employment and consider part-
time employment schemes.
3) Considering the fact that a mother's satisfaction with her job, is an
important factor in family relations and emotional atmosphere, it is
deemed crucial that mothers avoid jobs to which they are not attracted or
those which do not give them job satisfaction.
4) In those households where mothers are working outside the house, it is
crucial that fathers take a greater share in the household responsibilities