Get access

Do Children's Behavior Problems Limit Poor Women's Labor Market Success?


  • Department of Economics, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, P.O. Box 26165, Greensboro, NC 27402 (

  • Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, 210 S. Bouquet Street, 4123 Sennott Square, Pittsburgh, PA 15260 (

Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Ave., Chestnut Hill, MA 02467 (


Economically disadvantaged mothers face numerous barriers to stable, quality employment opportunities. One barrier that has received limited attention in previous research is having a child with significant psychological or behavioral problems. Using a representative sample of low-income mothers and early adolescent children from the Three-City Study (N = 717), we assessed whether adolescents' behavior problems prospectively predicted mothers' employment status, consistency, and quality. Lagged random-effects regression models suggested that adolescents' psychological distress and delinquency inhibited the labor market success of disadvantaged mothers, although school problems were related to greater work effort among mothers. Links between labor market success and both psychological distress and delinquency differed across mothers with male and female adolescents.