Non-cognitive development in infancy: the influence of maternal employment and the mediating role of childcare

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Title: Non-cognitive development in infancy: the influence of maternal employment and the mediating role of childcare
Authors: McDonnell, Thérèse
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Date: Feb-2016
Online since: 2016-05-24T09:47:02Z
Abstract: This paper examines the relationship between maternal employment during infancy and the non-cognitive development of pre-school children. Noncognitive skills such as self-control, emotional regulation, empathy and patience are at least as important as cognitive skills for personal development and later labour market success. Drawing on recent advances in the economics literature on the theory of skill formation, this study uses data on Irish pre-school children (Growing Up in Ireland, Infant Cohort) to examine the influence of maternal employment in infancy on children’s non-cognitive skills. Propensity score matching addresses the issue of potential selection bias and mediation analysis is used to investigate possible mechanisms for the effect of maternal employment, in particular the role of childcare, parental stress, quality of parent-child attachment and income. Using the score derived from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to identify a problematic behavioural score at 3 years, no significant effects are found for maternal employment at 9 months. However, when heterogeneity is investigated, effects are identified for children from less advantaged backgrounds, as measured by maternal education, with full-time maternal employment at 9 months having a significant and detrimental effect on non-cognitive development at 3 years old. This effect is primarily mediated by childcare choices, such that children in informal childcare at 9 months, particularly unpaid grandparental arrangements, are more likely to have behavioural difficulties at 3 years. While parent-child attachment plays a modest role, income and parental stress do not explain the effect of maternal employment on child socio-emotional scores. When selection on observables is used to assess bias arising from selection on unobservables, maternal employment estimates are determined to be a lower bound. As no adverse effects are found for children from more advantaged backgrounds, policies that support less advantaged families during this sensitive period, such as adequate paid maternity leave and access to quality affordable childcare, should be considered in order to address this inequality.
Type of material: Working Paper
Publisher: University College Dublin. Geary Institute
Series/Report no.: UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy Discussion Paper Series; WP2016/06
Keywords: Non-cognitive skillsSocio-emotionalMaternal employmentChildcare
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Language: en
Status of Item: Not peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Geary Institute Working Papers

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