Working moms in the study did spend less time overall with their young children than mothers who did not work outside the home. But they tended to make up for lost time on their off days at the expense of other activities like housework.
The researchers reported that the quality of the interaction between mother and child had a much greater impact on the child's social and intellectual development than the total number of hours spent together.
So while a caring mother's house may suffer if she works outside the home, her young children probably won't, researcher Aletha C. Huston, PhD, tells WebMD.
"The things that really predicted a child's development were the characteristics of the mother — how sensitive she was and whether she engaged in stimulating and interesting activities with her child," she says.
Less Than 2 Hours Difference
Huston and University of Texas at Austin colleague Stacey Rosenkrantz Aronson examined time diaries kept by 1,053 mothers of 7- and 8-month-old infants enrolled in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care.
The study also included information on various aspects of the children's development up until age 3.