This is important not least because the author of the new research has changed her mind.
An earlier study provided the following abstract;
We investigated the effects of early maternal employment on children's cognitive outcomes, using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth on 1,872 children who can be followed from birth to age 7 or 8. We found some persistent adverse effects of first-year maternal employment and some positive effects of second- and third-year maternal employment on cognitive outcomes for non-Hispanic white children, but not for African American or Hispanic children. These effects are present even after we controlled for a range of individual and family characteristics that affect child development, including those that are likely to be correlated with maternal employment, such as breast-feeding and the use of nonmaternal child care. Controlling for family fixed effects reduces the effects of early maternal employment on some cognitive outcomes but not on others.
That is a departure from the 2010 study then. The new conclusion is further explained in the Guardian:
The new study, led by New York's Columbia University School of Social Work, was published last week by the Society for Research in Child Development. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care followed more than 1,000 children from 10 geographic areas aged up to seven, tracking their development and family characteristics.
It found that, while there are downsides to mothers taking work during their child's first year, there were also significant advantages – an increase in mothers' income and wellbeing, and a greater likelihood that children receive high-quality childcare. Taking everything into account, the researchers said, the net effect was neutral.
"The effect of the parenting itself is the key factor," said Waldfogel. "It is hugely important how sensitive you are to your child's needs. Even for women who have to work more than 30 hours a week, they can make things better for themselves, they just need to take a deep breath on the doorstep, dump all the office worries behind them and go in the door prepared to pay attention to all their children's cues. This is good news for all mothers.
The study is called FIRST-YEAR MATERNAL EMPLOYMENT AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT IN THE FIRST 7 YEARS by JEANNE BROOKS-GUNN, WEN-JUI HAN, AND JANE WALDFOGEL and published here (no abstract available).
Whether women want to return to employment or stay at home is their choice. It is none of my business until that decision relies on somebody else to fund it. Then it becomes a matter of public policy and public opinion unfortunately. If an individual wants to live off the taxpayer, the taxpayer's opinion becomes pivotal.
National should be taking heed of this research and using it to not only counter the considerable opposition to work-testing the DPB, but to push for much tighter time- limits in line with most other countries. I see the Greens once again labelling the requirement for single mothers to find part-time work after their youngest turns 6 as "draconian". Do they even know what draconian means? Harsh and cruel.
Yet thousands of single and partnered mothers take it upon themselves to pay for their own life choices and subject themselves to what is, by the Green's standards, harsh and cruel, everyday.