Effects of Dual Working Parents


Socio-economic conditions in North America have contributed to 
the need for dual incomes for families. Economically, "the number of 
two parent families below the poverty line would increase to an
estimated 78% if they were to become single income families." (Ontario 
Women's Directorate 9) Socially, it was the norm, in the past, for 
women to stay at home having a more expressive role in the family;
taking care of the children and providing emotional support for the 
family. Presently, women feel that their traditional roles as child 
bearers and homemakers must be supplemented with a sense of 
achievement outside the home. Recent studies reflect an increased 
trend towards the dual income family and projections are for this 
trend to continue. In 1961, 30% of married women were working; in 
1978, 38% were employed; by 1981 50% were working and in 1985, 55% 
held paying positions outside the home. (Jarman and Howlett 95) In 
1961, only 20% of all two parent families were dual wage families, but 
by 1986, more than half (53%) of all families were dual earning 
families. (Ramu 26)
 In light of the fact that the majority of two parent families 
in the 1990's have also become dual wage earning families, it is 
important to examine the effects of such a phenomenon on society in 
general and on child rearing in particular. Children acquire their 
goals, values and norms based on the way that they view or identify 
with their parents as well as from the quality and amount of care, 
love and guidance given to them by their parents. Parents who work 
present a different image to their children than parents who do not 
work. In addition, wage earners, including parents, must (in most 
cases), be absent from the home during the day. When considering 
these modifications to the family dynamics, there is considerable 
basis for proof that the positive effects outweigh the negative 
effects experienced by offspring in families were both parents are 
 The working parent occupies an important exemplary role within 
the family. Working parents often command considerable respect from 
their children, because they demonstrate the worthy characteristics of
industriousness, social compatibility, self reliance, maturity, 
intelligence and responsibility. Because children identify with their 
parents, the feedback from such positive influences tends to be 
positive as well because many of these positive characteristics are 
imparted upon them. A child who observes the competent coping 
abilities of a working parent learns in turn, how to cope with life's 
problems. At first this may translate into an improved sense of 
self-reliance and independence for the child as well as an improvement 
in the ability to be socially compatible. As the child grows, it can 
further render a child more emotionally mature and hence more 
competent in dealing with responsibility and task completion such as 
is needed for school work and extra curricular activities. A study by 
Hoffman in 1974 corroborates these observations and therefore one can
conclude that, in general, the working parent provides a very positive 
role model for the child in a family where both parents are employed. 
(Hoffman 18)
 Attitudes of working parents pertaining to achievement, 
responsibility and independence affect both male and female offspring. 
There seems to be more beneficial effects felt by daughters of working 
women than by sons; however, this neither implies nor concludes that 
males do not receive some positive effects due to maternal employment. 
(Spitz 606) Hoffman has concluded that daughters of employed mothers 
tend to be more independent. (Hoffman 73) This tendency may result 
from the fact that in the mother's absence, a daughter is often left 
to cope with caring for herself: This promotes her independence and 
self-reliance. At the same time, the daughter may also be left with 
the job of looking after a younger sibling, helping to promote her 
sense of responsibility. Significant too, is the fact that daughters 
of working mother's tend to be more decisive about their futures than 
sons. Further studies have demonstrated that a mother's employment 
status and occupation tends to be a good predictor of the outcome of 
the working mother's daughter, since daughters tend to follow in 
their mother's footsteps. Typically, working mothers held higher 
educational aspirations for their children and furthermore, most 
daughters tend to achieve higher grades in school. (Spitz 606) It is 
also important to note that both male and female children acquire more 
egalitarian sex role attitudes when both parents work. Boys with 
working mothers showed better social and personal skills than boys of 
non-working mothers. On a negative note, middle-class boys tend to do 
worse in school when their mothers worked. (Shreve 118) As well, 
boys whose mothers work tend to have strained relationships with their 
fathers due to their perceptive devaluation of their father's worth as 
an adequate bread-winner. (Adele 32) One can conclude that males 
may be negatively affected when their mothers work, but males and, to 
a greater degree, females are affected in many positive ways with 
regards to achievement in independence and responsibility.
 Adequate child care is a necessity for parents who both work. 
It is often complicated to balance both the parent's and child's needs 
when using child care. However, it may be possible to satisfy the
demands of both if forethought and prudence are applied. Many cultures 
worldwide realize that a child's nurturing can be acquired from a 
variety of sources including both adults and older children. Children
can be as comfortable with grandparents, neighbors, professional child 
care attendants, and babysitters as they are with their own mothers. 
In fact, a variety of sources for nurturing not only provide the child 
with a variety of role models, such as in the case of grandparents, 
but it also provides them the ability to compare these role models and 
to choose the appropriate characteristics which they will adopt
as their own. One third of all children are looked after by 
relatives; 50% of all children in child care situations are being 
looked after by someone unrelated to them. (Petterson 533) To date, 
in Ontario as in all of Canada, there is no adequate government policy 
for child care. Funds ear marked for this area of social assistance 
are either misappropriated or abused. Even now, in 1995,
the government of Canada has not yet recognized the fact that children 
are a community responsibility and that they should start treating 
them as such. (Monsebraaten A1) In the end, the responsibility of 
choosing the proper type of child care lies with the working parents.
Proper research of the day care facilities and employees should 
include an investigation into the availability of superior care in a 
quality program where rearing beliefs and practices mirror those of
the parents. When both parents feel confident in their day care 
choices, they will view them as supportive influences rather than 
intrusive ones. This positive attitude will provide the child with
positive feedback because when parents feel good about their lives and 
decisions, they communicate their satisfaction to their children in 
the form of positive feelings. These positive feelings are then
internalized by the children. (Rodman 576) Difficult as it may seem, 
it is clear that if forethought, research and adequate investigative 
techniques are applied, parents can successfully select the child
care facility and/or individual most appropriate to fulfill both their 
own and their child's needs.
 Parents who work alter several traditional methods of 
parenting. The aspects of parenting which are most affected are 
quality, quantity and content. When considering content, a major 
point is the preparation of the child for a society in which those 
children will be adults. Currently, a child has a 50% chance of 
becoming divorced, and in the case of a female, a 50% chance of 
becoming a single mother as well as the probability of becoming a 
member of a dual wage earning family. (Shreve 61) Working parents
are in a good position to prepare their children for that type of 
lifestyle. Healthy family dynamics including team work, sharing, and 
responsibility, are more easily adopted when they are already 
familiar. As far as quality of parenting, it has been observed that 
women who are highly satisfied with their roles whether they work or 
not, display higher levels of warmth and acceptance than do 
dissatisfied mothers and these positive feelings are reflected in 
their relationships with their siblings. (Lerner and Galambous 44) 
Finally, when considering quantity of time spent on parenting when 
both parents work, it has been concluded by Hoffman in 1974 that there 
is no consistent evidence of deprivation felt by children of employed 
mother's. In fact, mothers who were better educated and employed 
outside the home spent more time with their children even at the 
expense of their own leisure and sleep time. (Hoffman 76) Hoffman 
also proposes that the time spent on employment simply substitutes for 
time previously spent on needless or less important household tasks 
which can be performed by others or not at all. Researchers question 
the validity of measuring the number of hours a mother spends with her 
children. Hoffman found that while working mothers spent less time 
with their children , the time spent with them was more likely to be 
in direct contact with them. Mothers who are at home full time spend 
only 5% of their time in direct interaction with their children. 
(Hoffman 75) Employed mothers spend about the same time reading to,
playing with and otherwise paying attention to their children as do 
mothers who stay at home. (Hoffman 76)
 Because society has changed, the family's function within 
society has changed as well. Parental roles have been modified to 
meet these changes. Today, the family's most important task is to 
provide emotional security in a vast and impersonal world. Working 
parents often possess the skills necessary for responding adequately 
and creatively to the increased stress placed on children to succeed 
in such an environment. Parents who work must, out of necessity, be 
adept at providing fresh, innovative and effective modes of parenting 
even when time with the child is limited. The debate as to whether or 
not both parents should work or not is really not significant anymore. 
Both parents are working and will continue to do so and children are 
not being raised today in the same way as they were in the past. The 
next generation of parents will be more confident than their 
predecessors and they and their children will probably never 
experience the dichotomous feelings that today's parents have about 
the dual income family and it's effects on child rearing. Working 
outside the home and being a good parent at the same time is possible 
and in both of these tasks there is much to value and treasure.


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