Children & Families

January 10, 2001 2 min read

Mothers Working Late:
Children whose mothers work during the evening are less likely to do well in school than youngsters whose mothers work traditional hours, according to a recent study conducted by a researcher at Harvard University’s school of public health.

For More Information

More information on the research is available online from the Harvard School of Public Health.

The national study of 1,878 working mothers found that for every hour the parent worked between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., her child was 16 percent more likely to score in the bottom quartile on math tests. The test results came from children in kindergarten through 12th grade.

For students scoring in the bottom quartile in reading and vocabulary, the study also found, 16 percent had mothers who worked in the evenings, compared with 12 percent of the students who scored above the bottom quartile.

What’s more, children whose mothers worked at night were three times more likely to get into trouble at school or be suspended than those whose mothers were home in the evening, according to the study.

“One of the most important factors affecting how children fare in school is parental involvement,” writes Dr. Jody S. Heymann, a professor of health and social behavior and the author of the study.

The research is compiled in a new book titled The Widening Gap: Why America’s Working Families Are in Jeopardy and What Can Be Done About It.

Dr. Heymann and other researchers working on the project also found that children who were in the bottom quartile in reading and mathematics were less likely to have parents who had such employment benefits as paid vacation time, sick leave, or flexible working hours.

Poor Children Bypassed: Only 12 percent of the low-income children who were eligible for federal child-care assistance in 1999 actually received it, according to statistics released last month by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala.

For More Information

Details on state-by-state figures, as well as the Abt report, “National Study of Child Care for Low-Income Families, State and Community Substudy,” are available from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

A companion report, prepared by the Cambridge, Mass.-based research organization Abt Associates, confirmed that even though states have increased their spending on child-care subsidies, many families are still going unserved.

—Linda Jacobson

A version of this article appeared in the January 10, 2001 edition of Education Week