UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The working mother problem for the school? Groome, Agnes Jean (Mills)


In increasing numbers, Canadian women with young children are engaging in work outside their homes. What are the effects upon their children when these mothers seek gainful employment? Will the emotional, intellectual or moral development of the children suffer in any way? Controversial writing, much of it mere opinion or prejudice, can be found dealing with every phase of the problem; however, little is known concerning the precise situations which are favourable or unfavourable to a combination of maternity and gainful employment. Few studies have been made of the relationship between the mother working outside the home and the child's all-round growth. Such studies as were found in the literature dealt with quite small samples and were of the enumerative type rather than of a scientific nature. Essig and Morgan found girls less well-adjusted when their mothers worked. In Rouman's study, the children of the working mothers differed somewhat from the children of non-working mothers. The former were younger and proportionately more were referred for clinical treatment because of withdrawal tendencies, but fewer because of academic failure. In other studies, Beals, Carter, Hand, and Nye did not find significant differences in personality development with their measuring instruments. This study attempted to compare, at the grade-six level, the school achievement and adjustment of the children whose mothers worked outside the home with those whose mothers did not. The writer hypothesized that the factor of the mother's employment would not significantly affect the school achievement and adjustment of her children. The "working mother" was defined as one who was employed full-time and had been so for at least twelve months previous to the collection of the data. Data were collected in two Saskatchewan cities, Moose Jaw and Saskatoon. The children finally selected came from homes where both real parents were living and living together. In the grade-six sample in Moose Jaw, there were 58 children of working mothers and 211 of non-working mothers. In Saskatoon, the numbers were 96 and 500 respectively. The writer studied attendance for the school-year as recorded on the registers, year's average mark given by the classroom teacher, attitude of the pupil to his school work as judged by his teacher, reading grade as measured by the Gates Reading Survey, and manifest anxieties as measured by the children's form of Taylor's Scale of Manifest Anxiety. Means and standard, deviations were calculated for boys and girls taken separately and together in the control and experimental groups. Because two of the Moose Jaw groups differed at the .05 level of confidence in chronological age and intelligence quotient, a second statistical analysis was made in which the cases of the experimental groups were matched in age and intelligence with cases in the control groups. From the t-values of the mean differences between the experimental and control groups, the writer accepted the null hypothesis. At the .01 level of confidence, there were not significant differences in school attendance, year’s average mark, reading grade, attitude to school work, or manifest anxieties between grade-six children with employed mothers and those with non-employed mothers in Moose Jaw and Saskatoon. It may be that the effects, if any, of the single factor, "employed mother," are quite small and hence amenable only to the most refined measuring instruments. Then, too, the variable, maternal employment, is not a simple one. It subsumes many components, such as motivation to work, hours of employment, child-care arrangements, age and number of children. In order to find the working mother's effects upon her school child's overall growth in knowledge, mental health, and social adjustment, subsequent studies need to make provision for greater control of these related sub-variables. Because so little has yet been investigated, this field invites long-term scientific study in all aspects of the problem.

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