Silverstein, presents a very interesting point of view on the history as well as the future of psychological research on child care and influence of maternal employment on child development. The very essence of Silverstein’s argument was the biggest shock to me. She claims that psychological research and political culture is highly influenced by, or should I say contaminated with, the myth of motherhood. Up to 19th century motherhood was not a full time job and an essential component for a healthy child development. This approach started to change at the end of the 19th century, when under the influence of politics, clergy and psychology, the weight of child’s development was shifted from the society and father almost exclusively onto mother.
It was believed at that time that “what happens to the child is largely a product of who the mother is and what she does or does not do” (Silverstein, 1026). The theory of heavy influence of mother’s behavior on the child has been the subject of the research by Bowlby and Spitz on child care. It has leaded them both to similar conclusions. The research has shown that “emotional disorders and intellectual retardation observed in institutionalized infants were the result of the deprivation of a continuous relationship with mother” (Silverstein, 1026). This conclusion would seem completely logical if it was not for the fact that mother’s actions, or their lack, were the only factor taken under consideration in the study. That problem was noticed by Rutter, who after analyzing his studies, came to a very challenging conclusion.
He concluded that “emotional disorders and intellectual retardation () were the consequence of a wide range of factors” (Silverstein, 1027). Unfortunately, Rutter’s findings were not accepted by the research community and the scientists kept gathering studies influenced by Bowlby’s theory. Later research conducted by many professionals focused on the child-care disruption of attachment process of child to mother and the degree of that attachment in children put through child care program. That research data has not presented any consistency of significant differences in the degree of bonding between mother and child between child-care and home-care groups of children. The research on maternal employment was more successful in considering a wider range of variables than just the actions of mother. The research concludes that “maternal employment (like separation from mother) has not emerged as a robust variable in and of itself “(Silverstein, 1028).
Moreover, there were some positive effects of maternal employment found. It has been concluded that working mothers state better mental and physical self feeling. There were also positive effect on children of working mothers, who reported “less restricted views of sex roles and more independence in terms of taking of their personal needs”(Silverstein, 1028). On the basis of those conclusions, the American society developed a new myth of “supermom”, who not only works to contribute to the income of the household, but also works another full time job being a mom. It might seem that this achievement depends on mother’s characteristics and determination, but “in reality, the heroic working mother is necessary accommodation to the lack of societal supports in both the public sphere of work and the private world of marriage” (Silverstein, 1028).
Once again the saying that “need is a mother of invention” is reflected in our culture where poverty, hardly any governmental support programs and disproportional involvement of child’s father, push mothers to this heroism’. Some feminist research developed this assumption even further, coming to the conclusion that intrapsychic development of child is influenced not exclusively by mother but also by father and the intergenerational extended family structure. Father’s case has been also examined, concluding a common lack of involvement of father in child’s life, which might lead to increase in aggressiveness and more rigid sex role stereotypes in child (Silverstein, 1031). Undoubtedly, there needs to be a lot more research conducted to develop a complete theory in this case. However, after reading .