Mothers’ postsecondary entry during early childhood: Short- and long-term effects on children

Margo Gardner*, Anne Martin, Amélie Petitclerc

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study explored the implications of low-income mothers’ entry into post-secondary education (PSE) during their children's first five years of life. Using propensity score matching to analyze data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth of 1979, we examined associations between maternal entry into PSE during early childhood and children's short- and long-term (ages 7 and 13, respectively) academic and socioemotional outcomes. We found that mothers’ entry into PSE during early childhood had no short-term effects on children. There were, however, long-term positive effects on academic outcomes among children with a coresident father figure, and negative effects on behavior. We also tested explanatory mechanisms and found that maternal PSE entry had positive long-term effects on household income, but income did not mediate effects on long-term child outcomes. Further, maternal PSE had no effects on the home learning environment, mothers’ educational expectations for children, maternal presence at home, or family climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-25
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • Early childhood education
  • Low-income children
  • Low-income mothers
  • Maternal education
  • Postsecondary education
  • Two-generation programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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