Parental care and employment in early childhood

7 March 2007

A new report by Professor Shirley Dex and Kelly Ward analysing parental care and employment using the Millennium Cohort Study has just been published by the Equal Opportunities Commission.

A new report by Professor Shirley Dex and Kelly Ward analysing parental care and employment using the Millennium Cohort Study has just been published by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The full report Parental care and employment in early childhood. Analysis of the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) Sweeps 1 and 2 is available from the EOC website.

Executive Summary

It has long been recognised that parents’ roles in caring for their children are inextricably linked to their status in the labour market and that gender equalities and inequalities in the labour market rest on choices parents make within households. Family policy becomes relevant, therefore, to gender equality issues in employment. The analysis contained in this report uses the newly available Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) data to contribute further understanding to mothers’ and fathers’ roles. The MCS is a nationally representative sample of parents of babies born from September 2000 to December 2001, across the 4 countries of the UK. However, in this analysis, we focus only on the three countries of Great Britain. The first sweep was carried out when the baby was 9-10 months old with 16,588 mothers and 11,935 fathers; the second sweep at age 3 contains information on 14,048 families (mothers) and 9,747 fathers. These new longitudinal data offer the potential to complement the Equal Opportunities Commission’s (EOC) other research on parents and, at the same time, its larger sample of fathers and over-representation of parents from ethnic minority groups offer more detail on their experiences. The focus is on childbirth and the early years up to a child’s 3rd birthday.1 These data offers us a better understanding of parents’ involvement with their young child and its subsequent outcomes up to age 3. They present a picture of parents' circumstances at the point when family policy in Great Britain began to change. However, since policy has gone on to change further since these children were born, we need to see the experiences of MCS families as a baseline against which further developments may be assessed. We would expect Millennium children and parents to reflect changes that result from family policies which give parents more time to spend with their children around their birth, with possibly more behavioural changes to come as subsequent enhancements to entitlements kick in.