See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. Yet little research has addressed whether welfare and work transitions are linked with other changes in family functioning. Movements into employment also were associated with declines in financial strain and food insecurity.
Sustained or initiated welfare receipt was related to relative declines in income, physical health, and psychological well-being, but also to improved access to medical care.
These patterns were similar for families with young children and those with adolescent children. Results suggest that parenting behaviors are more resistant to change than are maternal emotional and economic functioning. Some viewpoints held that leaving dependency and moving into self-sufficiency would help boost the financial resources of families and enhance economic security.
Finally, it was hoped that these changes would enhance the family environments and parenting provided to children raised in low-income families, affording greater structure, support, and resources provided to children.
Alternative arguments predicted just the reverse— that low-income mothers, faced with lost welfare benefits and lacking the skills or opportunity to gain and sustain stable employment, could suffer diminished financial stability, increased psychological stress, and declines in the quality of parenting and environments provided to their children see DeParle, and Haskins, , for overviews of the arguments concerning welfare reform.
Economic theory states that welfare and employment experiences could alter both the time and economic resources that parents provide to their children, but that these two factors would likely operate in counteracting ways Becker, Psychological models of family processes also provide insights into how welfare and work changes may influence parental and family functioning.
A host of research studies have provided support for various aspects of this model Conger et al. However, much of this research focuses on income as the primary exogenous variable, rather than considering the source of income. Research that specifically addresses employment and welfare as sources of income provides a less consistent story regarding whether moving women off welfare or into employment leads to more positive or more negative family processes and resources for children.
Below we briefly review empirical evidence regarding these conceptual models and hypotheses. Welfare and employment experiences and changes in income and financial strain Beginning in the early s, a number of experimental evaluations of state welfare reform programsfound that welfare-to-work transitions did not necessarily lead to substantial net increases in economic resources see Slack et al.
More recently, some argue that more disadvantaged and less job-ready mothers are being moved off welfare, sometimes involuntarily e. Since both access to in-kind supports e. Studies of low-income mothers have also found significant relationships between employment and enhanced physical and psychological health, but it is important to acknowledge that this relationship may be bidirectional or endogenous.
Results from the WES e. Additional research and analytic techniques are needed to further tease apart the temporal and causal relationships between welfare and employment and psychological well-being among women. Data from the experimental assessments have found no consistent effects of welfare reform programs on aspects of parenting including warmth, harshness, and cognitive stimulation see Huston et al.
Mixed findings are also apparent regarding the home environments provided to children, as indicated by measures of resources and cognitive stimulation in the home. In pre-welfare-reform studies, some research found that movements off welfare and into employment predicted improved home environments for children Brooks-Gunn et al. Two additional parenting constructs are important to assess: Research on poverty suggests that welfare dependency and lack of employment may contribute to inconsistent and less structured family routines Wilson, Very limited research has empirically assessed these claims.
The New Hope study found no effect of this work program on warm and structured parenting, a measure which included the regularity of routines Huston et al. In a demographic overview, Bianchi found that dramatic increases in maternal employment over the past decades have not brought with them substantial decreases in the time mothers spend with their children. Because employed mothers tend to spend less time in leisure and other non-child activities, they compensate for time away from their children due to work Chase-Lansdale et al.
Thus, child age may serve as a moderator of the link between welfare and work experiences and family processes. For example, Chase-Lansdale et al. Research goals In this investigation we attempt to address the inconsistencies and overcome some of the limitations in extant literature assessing whether welfare and work experiences induced by welfare reform are related to changes in family well-being. We also assess whether these links may differ for families with younger versus older children.
Method Sampling and data collection Data are drawn from waves one and two of Welfare, Children, and Families: A Three-City Study, a longitudinal, multimethod study of the well-being of children and families in the wake of federal welfare reform.
The Three-City Study includes, among other components, a household-based, stratified, random-sample survey with over 2, low-income children and their mothers in low-income neighborhoods in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio. For further sampling details see Winston et al. To put the study into historical context, the data were collected approximately three to five years after the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in , and five to ten years after many states had implemented waivers to alter their welfare policies.
In each family, focal children and mothers participated in separate in-home interviews. Sections of the interviews which covered particularly sensitive topics e. All respondents were paid for their participation in the study. Attrition analyses found that families who were excluded from analyses had lower incomes and more medical hardship, and were more likely to be on welfare and less likely to be employed 30 hours per week or more in the first wave than were included families.
Excluded families were also less likely to be African American or to report English as their native language than were included families.
In addition, however, excluded families reported less time apart from their children and more regular family routines than families included in analyses. Sample probability weights adjust through the inverse of the sampling probability for sample clustering, stratification, and nonresponse. Using these weights makes the sample representative of mothers of children and adolescents in low-income families living in low-income neighborhoods in the three cities.
At each interview, mothers used a calendar format to report on their welfare receipt, employment status, and employment hours over the previous 2 years or since the previous interview. The dichotomous on or off welfare variables were then combined across the two waves into a set of exclusive categories: Stable Welfare on welfare at both waves , Into Welfare off welfare wave 1; on welfare wave 2 , Off Welfare on welfare wave 1; off welfare wave 2 , and No Welfare off welfare both waves.
This definition of employment focuses on essentially full-time employment. Alternative definitions of employment i. Economic well-being Three sets of dependent variables were considered in the realms of economic well-being, maternal functioning, and parenting practices.
All were measured identically at wave 1 and wave 2, and all were reported by mothers. Total household monthly income was calculated by ascertaining the income received for each individual in the household from a variety of sources e.
The income across household members was then summed. Total scores ranged from 0 to 2. A reduced version of the U. Mothers completed the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale Rosenberg, , which includes 10 items measuring both positive e.
The BSI 18 contains three subscales: Parenting The final set of dependent variables tap into central aspects of parenting and the quality of the home environment provided to the focal child.
The total time the mother was apart from the child, in hours, was assessed using a time diary from the day before the interview. Four items were rated using a Likert scale e. Scores were summed, age-standardized, and transformed into standard scores.
Demographic characteristics Because numerous demographic and human capital characteristics often select people into welfare and employment experiences and may mask the relationship between welfare or employment and family processes, a variety of characteristics were used as covariates in the multivariate analyses. For characteristics that vary over time, both the wave 1 level of the variable as well as the change between waves 1 and 2 were included. Child age at wave 1 and change in age by wave 2 were coded in years.
Mothers who were never married constituted the reference group. Change in education dummy variables indicated whether the mother achieved a high school degree or greater than high school education by the second wave. Additional dummy variables indicated whether the mother was the biological mother of the focal child, and whether the primary caregiver changed by wave 2.
Mothers also reported whether English was their first language, and their city of residence was coded as Boston or Chicago, with San Antonio as the omitted category. The number of minor children in the household was coded as a continuous variable, as was change in the number of minors by wave 2.
The base regression model is the following: