by Emily Peck │ July 7, 2015
After decades of judging and shaming mothers for “abandoning” their kids while they went off to work to commit the horrible and selfish act of providing for their families, Americans are now overwhelmingly OK with working mothers, according to a paper published in the latest edition of Psychology of Women quarterly.
The study, from researchers at San Diego State University and the University of Georgia, looked at nationally representative survey data from the 1970s through 2013, and found big cultural shifts. In 1977, 68 percent of U.S. adults believed “a preschool child is likely to suffer if his or her mother works,” compared to 42 percent in 1998 and 35 percent in 2012. (A recent study found that, actually, having a working mother can have a very positive impact on a child.)
Younger adults were even more supportive of working mothers. The new study found that just 22 percent of high school seniors surveyed from 2010 to 2013 said they believe a child suffers when his or her mother works.
So that’s cool. But the thing is, public policy and most private employers haven’t caught up to changing attitudes. The U.S. still remains the only democratic nation on the planet without any paid parental leave.
Nothing much has changed at the federal level since the U.S. passed a law requiring employers to offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave for caretakers in 1993. “I don’t feel like we’ve made any progress [on family leave] since then,” Anne Weisberg, a senior vice president at the nonprofit research group the Families and Work Institute, told The Huffington Post.
First, not all attitudes have shifted, said Weisberg. “We still have a lot of ambivalence about gender roles. Even though most people say they believe women should work outside the home, we know for a fact that there’s a lot of maternal bias when it comes to hiring women, promoting women.”
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