Where should you invest if you want to make the biggest impact on children, the future of the country? In their mothers.
There are so many ways to improve the lives of children:
- Improving their schools
- Changing their nutritional habits
- Increasing access to healthcare
- Reducing violence in and around their homes
But mothers have the biggest impact on children by far. Help the mother be terrific, and you help the child. This makes sense intuitively, but many studies reveal the surprising size and nature of that impact. Here’s just a sampling:
- Who is more important: Parents or schools?
- Impact on learning: An 8-year study of teenagers found that, regardless of income level, “the parental effect on test results is around five times more powerful than the influence of pupils’ schooling.”
- Impact on the foundations for learning: Researchers found that the more that parents talk to (and with!) their infants and toddlers the higher the children’s IQ and school performance.
- Does a mother’s education affect the child?
- The impact on performance at school: One study of welfare-to-work mothers who were given education found that causal positive impact. “Increases in maternal education are positively associated with children’s academic school readiness, and negatively associated with mothers’ reports of their children’s academic problems “
- The impact on how much schooling the child pursues and social mobility: Another study found that mother’s education level, not the father’s education level influenced whether teens stayed on at school and went on to study at university and to social mobility within the family. “Researchers found that for every year a woman stayed in full-time education, the likelihood of her daughter also staying for an extra year increased by 20 per cent.”
- Does good parenting lead to better citizens? The Partnership for America’s Economic Success did an exhaustive review of whether parenting education initiatives lead to big societal benefits. The initial results are exciting: “Benefit-cost ratios ranged from 1.8 (for the HIPPY program) to 2.9 (for the Nurse Family Partnership program, full sample), with even greater benefit-cost ratios for higher-risk families (5.7 per high-risk mother in the Nurse Family Partnership program, and 2.2 per at-risk family, on average, across numerous rigorously evaluated home visiting programs). Thus, every dollar invested in these parenting education programs returned, on average, between $1.80 and $5.70 (depending on the sample, the program, and the range of benefits considered in the estimations).
So parents — especially mothers — hold the key to what kind of employees, neighbors, and citizens will roam this country. The impact of boosting the parenting and personal development of low-income mothers is especially high. With solid nurturing from mothers, children can get the full benefit of the opportunities available to them, regardless of how meager or rich those opportunities are. Moreover, a mother who can impart foundational traits like character, dedication, ambition, or discipline, positions her child to succeed despite challenges.
Wondering where to put your energy or money to make the US strongest? Invest in low-income mothers.
– George Washington, son of a single mother