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Seminar Series: How Does Mothers' Time with Children Matter?

Melissa A. Milkie, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland
When Apr 23, 2012
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM
Where 0124B Cole Student Activities Building
Contact Name
Contact Phone 301-405-6403
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About the Talk

Does the amount of time children spend with their mothers matter for children's well-being? Although intensive mothering ideology underscores the irreplaceable nature of mothers' time for children's well-being, and social theories posit that mothers' time is important, empirical evidence is scant.  In this study, using 1997 and 2002 waves of nationally representative time diary and survey data, we examine how the amount of focused time mothers spend with children ages 3 to 18, as well as the amount of time mothers are accessible to children is related to academic, social-emotional, and health outcomes. At younger ages (3-12), mothers' time matters little for outcomes, especially relative to social status factors; in adolescence, mother-child time does not generally relate to academic, social-emotional or health outcomes, though it is negatively related to adolescent engagement in risky behaviors. In all, fathers' time is as important as mothers' time, and mothers' time matters less than maternal warmth, social class and racial statuses for children's well-being.

Melissa Milkie

About the Speaker

Melissa Milkie received her Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1995, and joined the faculty at Maryland that year. She is currently Associate Professor of Sociology, and an affiliate faculty of the Women’s Studies Program. She is part of two of Maryland’s specialty areas: Social Psychology and Gender, Work & Family.  Professor Milkie’s work takes note of the dramatic changes within work and family life over recent decades, notably the massive entry of women and minorities into college and higher status positions in the paid labor force. These changes, as well as cultural shifts arising in part through the civil rights and feminist movements, have transformed gender and ethnic expectations, ideals and stereotypes. Yet stereotypes remain. Her scholarship reveals the complex, subtle aspects of stratification occurring through cultural ideals and examines how these are reflected in the experiences of individuals. It addresses how cultural meanings attached to social statuses and roles - for example the “ideal” female, the “good” father, or the stereotyped African-American - become manifest in people’s attitudes, behaviors, and identities, and how these are contested and change.


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