AHRQ and the journal Demography report research finding that the more education a mother has, the more time she spends caring for and playing with her child. This seems to suggest that education makes the difference, or that less educated mothers are less invested in their child’s health and development.
More likely it is the advantage that afforded educated mothers opportunity to go to college and the further advantage that accumulates from higher education....more money, more resources, more skill, better jobs, more discretionary time and energy. All these things create more options and opportunities to obtain, understand and use information and services in ways that enhance personal and child health - maternal health literacy.
The other side of the coin is that mothers who have less education come from less advantaged backgrounds, start with fewer resources and opportunities, are relegated to low paying jobs, and work more and to earn less.
I was a single mother with a high school education and few marketable skills. I worked three part time jobs - one to pay childcare so I could work the other two to pay the rent and take a course here and there. It took 12 years to get my BA while working full time. I was in my 50s by the time I could afford a PhD. My daughter got less attention than I wanted to give her. So the reports are right -- until they say that educated mothers “invest more time” in their children than less educated mothers.
If you don’t have money, you have to invest more time for your child than with your child. Less educated mothers are no less invested in their children. Lack of income and education prevents parents from making the kinds of investments they want to make in their children. I hope economist James Heckman is right when he argues that it is the quality of parenting, more than the number of parents, their income or education that determines outcomes for children. But that, too, is an over simplified argument.
AHRQ Research Reports Sept 2013 www.ahrq.gov
Kahil A, Ryhan R, & Corey M (2012) Demography 49 pp 1361-1383
Heckman, James J. (2013) Giving Kids a Fair Chance (A Strategy That Works) MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. ISBN 978-0-262-01913-2