Doctoral Student Fellowship

Sunyoung Jung, School of Social Welfare

The effects of maternal employment on parenting behaviors of low-income mothers: The "parental economic stress" model and the "work-to-family spillover" model



This study aims to examine the effects of employment on parenting behaviors of low-income mothers through two distinct and contradictory conceptual frameworks: the parental economic stress model and the negative work-to-family spillover model. While the parental economic stress model focuses on the economic aspects of maternal employment, the negative work-to-family spillover model emphasizes the psychological aspects of maternal employment. The parental economic stress model suggests that employment of low-income mothers improves parenting behaviors through decreased economic hardship, whereas the negative work-to-family spillover model posits that low quality work may cause parenting behaviors to deteriorate – that is, the low-quality work may cancel out the positive effects of increased income through employment. The present study investigates (1) whether maternal employment reduces economic hardship and, thereby, improves parenting behaviors – warmth and affection, negative disciplines, rules for routines, and educational activities – , (2) whether the use of public assistance moderate the relationship between maternal employment and economic hardship, and (3) whether the quality of maternal work mediates the relationship between employment and parenting behaviors. Data on 1,653 pairs of single mothers and their young children whose family income was below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level over all three waves (2001, 2003, & 2005) were drawn from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Birth Cohort (ECLS-B). The present study uses a structural equation modeling (SEM) to investigate a moderating role of public assistance and mediating roles of the economic hardship and the quality of maternal work.