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It’s OK, moms. You can work.

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Women who return to work after childbirth shouldn’t worry that they are dooming their offspring to future developmental and emotional problems because they aren’t at home to tend to them around-the-clock. An analysis of all of the solid studies on the topic -- 69 to be exact -- found that children whose mothers return to work before the child turns 3 are no more likely to have academic or behavioral problems compared with kids whose mothers stayed at home.

“For years, there has been a lot of debate in this area of research and now we can see more clearly for which families there are positive and negative associations with having a mom who works,” a co-author of the study, Rachel Lucas-Thompson, of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., said in a news release.

The analysis, of research conducted between 1960 and 2010, suggests some kids are better off if mom does work. Children from single-parent or low-income families whose mothers worked had better academic and intelligence scores and fewer behavioral problems compared with similar children whose mothers did not work. This is due to the better economic environment these children experience and because the mothers became positive role models for their children, the authors said.

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Moreover, the study suggests that children of middle-class and upper-class families with two working parents were slightly more likely to experience decreases in achievement later on in childhood. And these children had a slight increase in behavioral problems if the mother went back to work full-time during the first year of the child’s life.

“This suggests that families who are not struggling financially may not see as many benefits of maternal employment on very young children,” Lucas-Thompson said. “For these families, it’s possible that alternate care arrangements may not be as emotionally supportive as the child’s mother.”

The study appears online in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

-- Shari Roan / Los Angeles Times

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