Diverging Destinies: Maternal Education and the Developmental Gradient in Time With Children

Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago, 1155 East 60th St, Chicago, IL, 60637, USA, .
Demography (Impact Factor: 1.93). 08/2012; 49(4). DOI: 10.1007/s13524-012-0129-5
Source: PubMed


Using data from the 2003-2007 American Time Use Surveys (ATUS), we compare mothers' (N = 6,640) time spent in four parenting activities across maternal education and child age subgroups. We test the hypothesis that highly educated mothers not only spend more time in active child care than less-educated mothers but also alter the composition of that time to suit children's developmental needs more than less-educated mothers. Results support this hypothesis: not only do highly educated mothers invest more time in basic care and play when youngest children are infants or toddlers than when children are older, but differences across education groups in basic care and play time are largest among mothers with infants or toddlers; by contrast, highly educated mothers invest more time in management activities when children are 6 to 13 years old than when children are younger, and differences across education groups in management are largest among mothers with school-aged children. These patterns indicate that the education gradient in mothers' time with children is characterized by a "developmental gradient."

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    • "This research note provides a preliminary description of data relevant to this issue from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which, we argue, is a valuable source for demographers interested in studying family structure in a time of rapid change in how families are defined. The ATUS captures how and with whom people spend their time in a given day, with a long line of social science research underscoring time spent with children as a developmentally important marker of parenting investments (e.g., Bianchi 2011; Kalil et al. 2012). "
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    • "The greater quality and quantity of engagement in these activities illustrates contemporary redundancy. Moreover, the tailoring of these activities to children's development across time (Kalil et al., 2012) illustrates the concept of thematic elaboration, which suggests that the continuity and regularity in the use of these parenting practices over the course of children's development contributes to their effectiveness in enhancing children's academic outcomes. A substantial amount of research demonstrates that cognitively stimulating parenting practices are a strong influence on children's academic outcomes (Path e in Figure 1). "
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    • "First, mother's highest grade completed may proxy for the level of human and social capital in the child's home. Guryan, Hurst, and Kearney (2008) and Kalil, Ryan, and Corey (2012) show that, controlling for hours spent in employment, more educated mothers not only spend more time with their children , but also spend that time in activities tailored to the child's developmental stage. Second and third, PIAT-math score and 8th grade grades, like the ASVAB math-verbal percentile score, proxy for the adolescent's cognitive skills at the time we begin observing her. "
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