Social & Emotional Development of Children with Working Parents

Since women began entering the workforce in increasing numbers in the late 20th century, psychologists and child development experts have questioned the effects of working parents on a child's overall development. Many families must rely on financial support from both parents, thus necessitating the dual-income family, but healthy social and emotional development depends on more than just the amount of time spent with children.

Importance of Bonding

Many factors, such as parenting styles, parental availability, the presence or lack of siblings, socioeconomic status and the child's individual temperament, influence a child's social and emotional development. One of the most important factors in normal social and emotional development, however, is the ability of a child to bond with her parents, starting from the moment she leaves the womb. Parental bonding helps a child feel safe, secure, nurtured and loved. According to, the parent-child bond is one of the strongest predictors of mental, social, physical and emotional health.

Quality Vs. Quantity

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The quality of the time spent with your child may be more important than the quantity. Parents who provide round-the-clock child care and try to follow all of the conventional rules of parenting may still be unable to form a secure bond with their children, according to a pivotal study published in 2000 by the The Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development. Working parents who make family time a priority and are committed to their child's development are just as capable of establishing a healthy bond with their child as non-working parents. Creating a secure, healthy attachment with your child requires more than a certain amount of time spent together -- it requires love, nurturing, commitment, attending to your child's physical needs and developing a sense of connection to your child.

Potential Negative Effects

Certain factors may negatively impact a child's social and emotional development and affect his ability to bond with working parents. According to a clinical review published in 2009 in the "Michigan Family Review," factors such as nonstandard work schedules and financial stress may have a negative impact on a child's social, emotional and behavioral development, resulting in issues like behavioral problems and poor academic performance. The quality and quantity of time spent in child-care settings may also impact development. A longitudinal study published in the May/June issue of the journal "Child Development" found that teens who spent the most time in child-care settings as young children were more likely to exhibit impulsiveness and risk-taking behaviors than peers who had spent less time in child care.

Possible Benefits

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Despite the possible negative effects of having working parents, children may also experience certain benefits if they have working parents who responsibly attend to their needs. According to, children with working parents may view the world as a less threatening place. They may feel a sense of pride knowing that their parents have careers -- girls in particular may feel motivated and sense that they have more career options if they have a mother who works -- and participation in quality day care or after-school child-care settings has been linked to positive developmental traits in children in the areas of cognitive, social and emotional development, according to Cornell University's Cooperative Extension.