Indeed, in accounting for the variability among young adults (i. e., has their prior development been smooth or bumpy? ), there is evidence based on research in developmental behavioral genetics that both hereditary factors and influences outside of the home account for much of the variability in development. In other words (Bronfenbrenner & Ceci, 1994), individuals are born with genetic predispositions for a variety of personality characteristics.
(Depression, Behar, 1980; attitudes, Tesser, 1993; verbal and other forms of intelligence, Neisser, at al., 1999; alcoholism, Hill, 1990; altruism, Ruston, 1989; shyness, Kagan, Reznick, & Snidman, 1988) which interact with their experiences and their cognitive interpretations of their experiences in determining whether the predispositions will become manifested (whether genotypes will become phenotypes).
There has been no evidence supporting earlier research conclusions that parenting style (Baumrinds popular theory, 1971) or even parents behaviors (Harris, 1998) influence children but lack of evidence probably is attributable to measuring only what parents do, neglecting the major role children play in influencing parents (there is no one right way to be a parent the right way depends upon the needs of different children).
But there have been enough well-designed studies to justify the conclusion that neither cognitive, social, nor personality development is influenced by whether or not mothers (the focus of most research) work outside of the home (Clarke-Stewart, 1993; Hoffman, 1989). So why does it matter who cares for our children?
One reason alone should compel us to care: Babies and young children may be happier in their own homes with a loving adult. They arent able to recognize that the (probably) highly inadequate childcare theyre receiving (Gable & Halliburton, 2003), whether at home or at a daycare center, isnt conducive to contentment and happy play.
As with just about any variable, children from low-SES homes, on average, have access to poorer quality care than others (Gable & Cole, 2000), but did the mothers who listened to Betty Friedans famous call to middle-class women to join the workforce (1963/2001) and do those now out banging against the glass ceiling really believe the poor women, often of color, they are shamefully underpaying are all that concerned about the quality of their work? Why should they be?
When considering who is best suited to provide care for children, we must dispel the myth of either a within- or across-culture tradition of the man-as-breadwinner/woman-as-homemaker model. From ancient times, economic necessity forced most women to work (lets remember that prostitution is said to be the oldest profession) and the aristocratic minority hired others to care for their children (Coontz, 2005), as wealthy women not in the workforce now have nannies for their children so they can go to thousand-dollar-a-plate lunches to plan good works benefits.
In 1952, a major anthropologist, Ashley Montagu, wrote a popular book based on previous research findings which probably was one of those best-sellers no-one read. The book (revised and updated, 1999) had a title, The Natural Superiority of Women, which was misinterpreted by second-wave feminists of the 1960s as an earlier statement of Friedans admonishment that women get out of their homes and go to work (1963/2001).
To the contrary, Montagu proposed that if those with the predispositions more generally found in women than in men were able to stay home with their pre-school children and women also were given major responsibility for conducting domestic and foreign policy, we could undo the mess that the men who had been in charge made. From earliest times, world history has been one of wars and other bloodshed, with no period where one group of people was not inflicting cruelty on another group, seemingly for whatever reason was convenient (Braudel & Mayne, 2003).
If societies valued relationships, rather than winning, peace and civility might be favored over war and rivalry. Maybe its time to give parents who want to care for their own children a chance to do so. Mothers now forced to sling hash probably would rather care for their babies. While mothers have a history of working, being in positions near that glass ceiling is a relatively new phenomenon and freely chosen. However, it might not be surprising if fathers were to choose becoming the nurturers of their children.
Having more experience in corporate enterprises, they might have learned that theres less work thats inherently interesting or rewarding than work that is so meaningless and mind-numbing that those doing it are leading lives of quiet desperation (Thoreau, 1854/1995).
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