Johnson, Kalil, and Dunifon focus on this tenuous work-family balance, or lack thereof, and its effects on children. What they discover is that work per se is not detrimental for single-mother families. In fact, it brings stability, routine, and a sense of pride to working women and their families. However, they also find that the nature of the work— the type of work, number of hours worked, and the flexibility of the job—is a key factor in maintaining an acceptable balance and in promoting positive outcomes for their children.
Basing their findings on the Women's Employment Study (WES), the authors provide evidence of the links between maternal work experiences and longer-run trajectories of child well-being. When a working mother is not on a regular work schedule, has hours that fluctuate from week to week, or works at a full-time job that presents limited wage growth and menial tasks, her children's behavior is more likely to deteriorate. Similar results are seen for those who bounce from job to job or are laid off or fired, since this churning often leads to frequent residential moves. The aspects of child well-being that the unique data from the WES allow the authors to examine include externalizing and internalizing behavioral problems, disruptive behavior at school, school absenteeism, grade repetition, and placement in special education.
Johnson, Kalil, and Dunifon conclude that more employment opportunities offering the flexibility required by working parents to balance their work and family lives, along with affordable and safe housing, health insurance, and reliable child care, are needed to bolster the economic security and child well-being of low-income working families.
Overall, this book sheds light on whether one of TANF's original goals—putting low-income mothers on a path to economic growth—is being met. (Publisher abstract)
- The Road to Welfare Reform
The Ideological Divide on Helping the Poor
The New Welfare Bill
The Response: What about the Children?
Surprising Results: Caseloads Plummet
The Low-Wage Job Market
Mothers’ Work and Children’s Development
The Focus of this Book
- The Women's Employment Study
The Policy Context in Michigan
The Data Source: Women’s Employment Study
Snapshot of the Study Participants
The Connection between Mothers’ Employment and Changes in Child Development
- The Effect of Low-Income Mothers' Employment on Children
The Juggling Act
Unpredictable Work Schedules Associated with Behavior Problems
Job Churn and Associated Risks for Children
Not All Work Is Detrimental
Effects of Other Measures
Recap of Main Results
- Conclusions and Policy Implications
Anticipating the Future
Promising Options – Improving Job Retention and Advancement for Low-Income Working Parents
Beyond Intervention: Strengthening the Safety Net