More time with mum 'best for children’s development'

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A new study suggests the amount of time mothers spend with their children has a ‘noticeable influence’ on their early development.

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The more time mothers spend with the children, the better their cognitive and social skills will be

According to academics from the University of Essex and University College London, who carried out the study, the more time a mother spends with her child between the ages of three and seven, the better that child’s cognitive and social skills will be.

The research, thought to be the first of its kind to look at the effect of time spent with mothers on their children, uses data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study of more than 8,000 children and their mothers.

It also found that first-born children tend to benefit the most from spending more time with their mothers than siblings born after them, as well as those whose mothers are highly educated.

The academics claim that the time mothers spend with their first-born is more productive than with subsequent children. As well as this, mothers are likely to change how much time they spend with their children in the early years depending on how they are progressing.

Co-author Professor Marco Francesconi said, ‘Our results emphasise that the time spent by mothers with their children has a noticeable influence on early child development.

‘Mothers are also likely to change time investments over the early years of life of their children in response to earlier outcomes. This suggest that there may be limited scope for later policy interventions that aim to affect mothers’ time availability or inform them about the effectiveness of their time investments.’

Dr Eva Lloyd, Professor of Early Childhood at the University of East London, said, 'No need to panic about working mothers! This study found no relationship between mothers' work status and their children's intellectual development between the age of three and seven.

'The researchers established that for all mothers in the study, more time spent engaging in educational or recreational activities with their children corresponded with better child development. They carefully avoided linking these findings to any policy recommendations at this point.'

  • The study, ‘Early Maternal Time Investment and Early Child Outcomes’ is published in the October 2016 issue of the Economic Journal.
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