Mothers' Part-Time Employment: Child, Parent, and Family Outcomes


Human Development and Family Studies, University of North Carolina Greensboro, 228 Stone POB 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170 (


This article examines mothers' part-time employment, comparing working part-time with full-time employment and not working at all. Our analysis is organized around 2 paradigmatic views of maternal employment, 1 centered on the adaptive nature of mothers' part-time employment and the other on the detrimental nature of mothers' part-time employment. In each perspective, a variety of theories have been used to shape the literature, influencing the choice of research questions and interpretation of findings. These theories include stress and coping, life course, role, family systems, ecological, and feminist theory. In general, findings support part-time employment as an adaptive strategy. As an exception, mothers employed full-time had better marital quality and performed less household and child-care work than did mothers employed part-time. We also document limitations regarding attention to diverse familial outcomes in subgroups of mothers or families and to potentially important selection factors.