Estimating effects of participation in parental leave on children's and mothers' well-being

Aelesia E Pisciella, Fordham University


The purpose of this research was to build on the post-FMLA literature on leave participation in working mothers and its effects on children's and mothers' well-being. Propensity score estimates were used to select two comparable subgroups from a nationally representative data set. Leave status would be predicted by various factors: individual and household characteristics, employer-level, family finances, child-level, and child care use. Demographically-comparable subsamples of leave-takers and nonparticipants would be selected with which to compare on outcomes. Differences were expected between leave-takers and nonparticipants on attachment at 2 years of age, social-emotional functioning at 9 months and 2 years, and maternal depressive symptomatology at 9 months. Focusing within leave-takers, longer leaves were expected to predict better attachment relationships at 2 years, better social-emotional functioning at 9 months and 2 years, and lower levels of maternal depression at 9 months. Data were drawn from the ECLS-B at 9 months and 2 years and the final sample included 6,645 children. The primary modes of data collection were home interviews and direct child assessments, including the TAS-45 at 2 years, the NCATS at 9 months, the Two Bags Task at 2 years, and the CES-D at 9 months. Results indicated that the full model of 9 month characteristics adequately discriminated among subgroups. Children of leave-takers scored higher for the cooperative profile and lower on the upset by separation and demanding/angry profiles than children of nonparticipants at 2 years. Leave status was predictive of these profiles. For social-emotional functioning, differences were found between groups at 2 years, but not at 9 months, and leave status was predictive of these scores at 2 years. The strongest impact of leave was found for maternal depression, with leave-takers reporting lower scores than nonparticipants. Results indicated that variability within leave-takers was not consistently predictive of these outcomes. Findings suggest that nonparticipation in leave did have negative consequences for the well-being of children, and especially for mothers. Expanding duration and coverage under the Act could give working families the time and financial security necessary for the development of quality relationships that are so important for children's development.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Pisciella, Aelesia E, "Estimating effects of participation in parental leave on children's and mothers' well-being" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3310424.