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Effects of Low-Wage Employment on Family Well-Being By Chris Pull Abstract Assumptions about the processes that link a mothers employment to the development of her child must underlie expectations about how children may fare when their mothers move from welfare dependence into employment This article explores the idea men- tioned in the research overview by Zaslow and Emig in this journal issue that the working conditions such as wages work hours and task complexity that mothers experience on the job can influence their behavior as parents and shape the home environments they pro- vide for their children This article discusses the significance of home environments for childrens intellectual and emotional development and considers how home surroundings change when mothers begin jobs that are more rewarding or less rewarding The authors conclude that while maternal employment is not necessarily harmful if welfare recipients find only low-wage stressful jobs working may prove costly for both family and child well- being The authors recommend that welfare-to-work programs devote attention to 1 assisting mothers to obtain more complex work at good wages 2 helping mothers understand the role home environments play in shaping childrens development and 3 encouraging parents to make their childrens home surroundings as positive as possible A s our society continues to struggle with questions about how to lower wel- fare expenditures and attempts to define the levels of support that are appropriate to families in need a small number of researchers have asked how the parental transition from welfare to work might affect children To assist in policy formulation this article discusses ways that specific aspects of maternal employment shape childrens home environments which in turn influence child outcomes Maternal employment can affect the family in conflicting ways Obviously employment contributes to a familys financial well-being especially when the mothers wages make the difference between dependence on welfare and self- sufficiency On the other hand poorly paid stressful jobs with long hours can jeopardize
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