Working Moms: People Hate Your Kids (Says New Study)

Suzanne Murray

red briefcaseWhether we like it or not, some moms judge other moms. Some working moms criticize stay-at-home moms, some breastfeeding moms look down on bottle-feeding moms, and some co-sleepers snub, um, whatever non co-sleeping moms are called.

It's not the best-case scenario, given that we can all use all the support we can get (a greeting card here and there would be nice!). But we're grownups, we can handle it. What's harder to deal with: children getting judged based on what their moms do.

A new study shows that if a child has a working mother people don't like that child as much.

Researchers at Kansas State University studied the perceptions people have of women and their children based on the women’s work status. (The participants were unmarried college students—99 percent of them childless.) Here's what researchers found:

1. People value mothers who stay at home.

2. People value mothers who compromise between working and staying at home—moms who work part-time, for example.

3. People devalue moms who work full-time outside the home.

4. People perceive the children of moms who work full-time to be "troubled" and their relationships to be "problematic."

5. People think that moms who work full-time don't have good relationships with their children. 

"The most interesting and potentially dangerous finding is the view that if a child has a working mother, people don't like that child as much," says lead researcher, Jennifer Livengood of Kansas State University. "People really devalue a mom who works full-time outside the home in comparison to a mom who doesn't. People like mothers who fulfill traditional stereotypes, like staying at home. That's just not a reality and not a preference for women as much as it used to be."

Livengood added that the results could mean that people treat children of working mothers differently and have negative expectations, which could initiate a self-fulfilling prophecy with the child.

Wow! The results of this study really surprise me. My mother worked and I don't think I was a "troubled" child with "problematic" relationships. I also never felt like teachers or other adults liked me any less than kids whose moms didn't work. But what's scary is that the wackos people who participated in the study did feel that way—and that's not a good thing for all the kids of working moms that they encounter. Also worth noting: Since the participants were college students a lot of them will probably be working moms themselves someday!

Do the results of this study surprise you? If you are a working mom, does it distress you that others may not like your kid simply because you work? Do you think your child is "troubled" and "problematic"?

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