File Name: parental leave and child health across oecd countries .zip
- Parental leave
- Paid parental leave and family wellbeing in the sustainable development era
- Paid Leave in the States: A Critical Support for Low-wage Workers and Their Families
Metrics details. The Sustainable development goals SDGs have the potential to have a significant impact on maternal and child health through their commitments both to directly addressing health services and to improving factors that form the foundation of social determinants of health. One particular policy that could advance a range of SDGs and importantly improve maternal and infant health is paid parental leave.
This topic aims to provide a better understanding of the various issues surrounding parental leave policies and their effects on families and child development. Maternity and parental leave policies date back more than years and are now established policy instruments in over nations.
Until recently, much of the research in this area has focussed primarily on use patterns and the economic consequences of leave policies. Affordable, high-quality care for young children and flexible workplace practices are critical contextual factors.
Our review of the empirical literature brought to light various methodological and conceptual problems:.
Over the past 20 years, research on child development has revealed a rich and multi-layered ecology of influences. Longitudinal studies have confirmed the fact that many children and families experience major changes in family structure, economic resources, and parental employment. This research addresses the following questions:. Multiple factors affect the length of combined maternity and parental leave mothers take; however, existing leave and benefit policies are the dominant factors.
Inadequate income replacement appears to be a major constraint on the duration of leave new mothers take, as evidenced in the US. In Canada, research conducted between and revealed that self-employed women who were not eligible for maternity and parental leave and benefits tended to return to work within one month after childbirth, while other new mothers averaged 6.
Much less is known about leave taking among fathers. What is known is that fathers may take several days off, but often as vacation days, rather than as parental leave. Dominant factors in decisions around leave taking appear to be both financial and employment-related. It has been suggested 13 that some fathers who may wish to take longer parental leave must reconcile their desire to be both good providers and involved fathers with workplace cultures that do not support paternal leave-taking.
Maternity leave policies were originally based on legislation designed to protect maternal and infant health. Some authors 14 have estimated that full recovery from childbirth can take up to six months or longer, including time for mothers to recover their strength and energy levels and adapt to the new demands of caring for an infant.
Others 15 have reflected on the importance having time to establish regular biological rhythms and reciprocal interaction patterns between mothers and infants, through which both became attuned to and attached to each other. Several longitudinal studies have indicated that returning to full-time work after a brief maternity leave was a risk factor that compromised maternal mental health depression and anxiety , especially when shorter leaves coincided with maternal fatigue, poor general health, poor social support, marital concerns, and other risk factors.
Moreover, the length of leave taken was not, in itself, a significant contributor to maternal mental health. Interestingly, these researchers and several others have noted that depression was greatest among mothers who preferred to return to work, but who took much longer leaves; or mothers who for some other reason chose to stay at home.
Women who return to work and experience overload and lack of flexibility and support experience anger, distress and depression, and women who are at home but are concerned about role restriction and are depressed are both at significant risk. Further, when an infant is in distress, has a difficult temperament or is ill, it affects mothers and their ability to adapt to demands, both at work and at home. Few studies on mothers who took longer leaves or who left the labour force altogether because their infants were in poor health have confirmed that longer leaves were likely to have positive impacts.
Based on national data for 16 European countries gathered from to , Ruhm 21,22 has suggested that longer periods of paid parental leave but not unpaid leave are associated with reduced rates of infant mortality. It is hypothesized that one reason for this association is that longer leave periods may result in longer periods of breastfeeding, as well as greater investments of maternal time in caring for infants.
Research has confirmed that women are more likely to stop breastfeeding during the month they return to work. Similarly, returning to work is one of the most common reasons for terminating breastfeeding. Women who return to work on a part-time basis and whose workplaces are more flexible and supportive may be able to support breastfeeding for a somewhat longer duration. The research on early maternal employment, child care, and long-term developmental outcomes is very complex, as would be expected given the multiple influences at play.
Clark and her colleagues have made a particularly useful contribution 16 by underscoring the fact that the quality of mother—child interactions is the explanatory factor that intervenes between maternal employment and child development outcomes. Conversely, the quality of mother—infant interactions is affected by individual maternal and infant characteristics, marital quality and support, and by the mix of stressors and protective factors that affect maternal mental health.
Therefore, returning to work early is only one factor to be considered since it interacts with so many others. For example, Clark and colleagues 16 found that mothers who were more depressed or who thought their infant had a difficult temperament and who took shorter leaves were less likely to be positive, sensitive and responsive with their infants.
Other longitudinal research on early maternal employment and the quality of child care confirm that both factors are important within a range of early cognitive and behavioural outcomes. This said, parenting influences predominate over the long term as predictors of attachment and emotional adjustment, and child care factors are perhaps more critical contributors to cognitive and language development, particularly for children in low-income families.
As described earlier, despite inconsistent findings and relatively small effects, studies suggest that early maternal employment ie, returning to work within a year of giving birth, and particularly for more than 20 hours per week slightly lowered scores in measures of language and cognitive development at age 4 and cognitive development and academic achievement scores at ages 7 and 9. This research is limited by the paucity of information available about child care arrangements and, thus far, has failed to consider a range of other important factors that come into play between infancy and later periods.
As parental leave and benefit policies continue to evolve, there is increased interest in examining their short- and long-term impacts on women, children and families. Opinion research suggests that parents appreciate having the option of taking longer periods of paid leave to spend more time with their newborns. Both leave and benefit provisions are important aspects of these policies.
Some studies suggest that longer leaves enable mothers to more fully recover from childbirth and provide more time for mothers and their infants to establish regular, responsive patterns and close attachments. Longer breastfeeding periods may be one additional health benefit.
However, there is now strong evidence that the length of leave in and of itself beyond a minimum of perhaps four months is not as critical a determinant of maternal mental health or child development outcomes as is the set of personal, family, and workplace stresses, resources, and supports that operate jointly and interact with leave experiences.
Together, these factors affect quality of life for mothers, fathers, and infants during a crucial period. Additional research could provide a clearer picture of this complex set of interacting forces and could help identify how workplaces and communities might respond to enhance the positive long-term development of healthy families and children. Over the past decade trends such as minimal increases in young family incomes, greater employment volatility, and welfare reform initiatives have placed economic pressure on parents to participate in the labour force, even when their children are very young.
As we increase our knowledge of the importance of early childhood experiences, we strengthen the impetus to develop more responsive policies, programs and services to support all parents and foster a healthier integration of work and family life. Maternity and parental leave and benefit policies are just one component in a set of public and workplace policies and supports that can help parents reconcile the competing claims of work and family life following the birth or adoption of a child.
To date, little research has actually focussed on what new parents do while they are on leave, or how community-based supports might enhance their experience and better prepare them to return to work. Similarly, there is a need for more research into workplace supports that may make returning to work less stressful and more family-friendly. Specific examples could include flexibility in workplace scheduling and gradual reintegration at work, the promotion of breastfeeding, and the provision of reliable, high-quality infant care.
Community-based resources could provide a range of parenting programs that could be sensitive to a variety of needs and concerns, including information and support for new parents in planning their return to work and choosing child care arrangements. In addition, it is imperative that policies address the need to expand the availability and affordability of high-quality, affordable child care services both centre- and home-based so that parents have peace of mind when they return to work and children benefit from stimulating and sensitive non-parental caregiving arrangements.
Lero DS. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development [online]. Updated March Accessed February 28, Skip to main content. Parental leave This topic aims to provide a better understanding of the various issues surrounding parental leave policies and their effects on families and child development.
March , 2 nd ed. PDF version. Introduction and Subject Relevance Maternity and parental leave policies date back more than years and are now established policy instruments in over nations. Prior to , the US had no national maternity or parental leave policy, although some new mothers did obtain financial assistance after childbirth under temporary disability coverage. The Family and Medical Leave Act FMLA requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to employees who worked at least 1, hours during the previous year.
This provision for leave serves a variety of purposes. Certainly, the lack of any provision for income replacement is a serious disadvantage to workers. In many cases, these factors also make returning to work and using alternate child care arrangements more difficult and more conflicted for mothers. Sample biases, consideration of a limited number of intervening variables between infancy and later years, and the fact that the NLSY the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth , the most widely used longitudinal data set, lacks information about the quality and continuity of child care arrangements greatly limits our capacity to draw meaningful conclusions.
See reference 9for a critical review of the methodological difficulties regarding most of these studies. To date, this research begun in has confirmed the importance of responsive and stimulating parenting and quality child care for optimal development in young children — a challenging balance to strike. Some of the findings on this subject are discussed in detail below. Among other things, researchers have noted that a complex set of factors that must be considered when interpreting how decisions about the duration of leave and alternative child care arrangements are made.
This research addresses the following questions: What determines the duration of leave for mothers? What factors determine whether fathers take a leave of absence? How does a longer or shorter period of leave affect maternal physical and mental health, infant health, and the quality of parent—child relationships?
How might public policies, community services and workplace practices be adapted to provide more support and flexibility to parents and ensure optimal development in children? Recent Research Results What determines the duration of the leave that parents take? Parental Leave and Maternal Physical and Mental Health Maternity leave policies were originally based on legislation designed to protect maternal and infant health.
Parental Leave and Infant Health Few studies on mothers who took longer leaves or who left the labour force altogether because their infants were in poor health have confirmed that longer leaves were likely to have positive impacts. Conclusions and Implications As parental leave and benefit policies continue to evolve, there is increased interest in examining their short- and long-term impacts on women, children and families.
References Gauthier AH. Historical trends in state support for families in Europe post International Labour Conference 87th. Geneva, Switzerland: International Labour Office; Kamerman SB. Journal of the American Medical Womens Association ;55 2 Parental leave policies: An essential ingredient in early childhood education and care policies. Society for Research in Child Development. Social Policy Report ;14 2 Statistics Canada.
Phillips D, Adams G. Child care and our youngest children. The Future of Children ;11 1 Waldfogel J. International policies toward parental leave and child care.
Family and medical leave: Evidence from the surveys. Harvey E. Short-term and long-term effects of early parental employment on children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.
Paid parental leave and family wellbeing in the sustainable development era
Parental leave , or family leave , is an employee benefit available in almost all countries. Often, the minimum benefits and eligibility requirements are stipulated by law. Unpaid parental or family leave is provided when an employer is required to hold an employee's job while that employee is taking leave. Paid parental or family leave provides paid time off work to care for or make arrangements for the welfare of a child or dependent family member. In , the International Labour Organization reviewed parental leave policies in countries and territories, and found that all countries except Papua New Guinea have laws mandating some form of parental leave.
Paid Leave in the States: A Critical Support for Low-wage Workers and Their Families
The composition of the American workforce and family have changed significantly over the last few decades. Single motherhood and dual-earner households have been trending upward, and the majority of mothers with young children are now in the labor force. Some fear that this represents a shift toward an increasingly untenable work-life balance for parents who must choose between their livelihoods and being physically present for their kids or family members in need. Currently, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act FMLA offers 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for newborns or seriously ill family members for employees who have worked at least a year for a larger employer 50 or more employees. While these protections cover 60 percent of the workforce, evidence suggests that many eligible employees do not take leave when they need it because they cannot afford it.