Is there any economic impacts to having children in a woman’s teenage years? Does the “Sandwich Generation Family” phenomenon has any consequence to working women? And do breast milk and mother’s working hours affect children’s cognitive development?
Bachelor degree graduates of the Economics Department at University of Indonesia answered those questions comprehensively during a panel discussion themed “The Economics of Relationship & Family Life” hosted on Aug. 22 by the Forum of Development Studies at Universitas Indonesia’s Institute for Economic and Social Research at the Faculty of Economics and Business.
Six presenters gave a 10-minute presentation each based on the result of their undergraduate thesis researches. They all mined their data from the Indonesian Family Life Survey (IFLS), a large-scale household survey that monitors in detail the life transformation of Indonesian low-mid class families from generation to generation.
Bertha Fania Maula, one of the presenters, explored the topic of teenage childbearing on “Shattered Future: Does Having Children Early Disadvantage Women in Their Later Life Soft Skill Development?”.
Mining the data from IFLS-5 (2014-2015) with 50,148 individual samples, Bertha found that teenage childbearing doesn’t affect overall women’s soft skills. However, it has a paramount impact on their “openness to experience” trait.
“It turns out that teenage mothers are more likely to have lower scores on ‘openness to experience’ compared to non-teenage mothers. I found that it is closely related to the termination of teenage mothers’ education. It’s proven that those who have higher education tend to be more open to new experiences,” said Bertha.
Openness to experience includes the creative and innovative characteristics of a person. Bertha explains that having those particular traits is very crucial when it comes to finding a job.
“In post-industrial labor market and borderless labor competition, one needs to be adaptive and open to technological advances, and also has a good cognitive flexibility, as well as be open to the dynamic change of the global market demand. No wonder those who are deprived of those qualities tend to get left behind,” she explained.
“Thus, I conclude that teenage childbearing tremendously disadvantages women in future labor market. Limited education deprives them of the very quality that is high on demand at the workforce,” Bertha added.
Another presenter, Sri Puji Lestari, explores the impact of “Women’s Decision to Work in Sandwich Generation Family”. A sandwich-generation family refers to a situation in which a married couple lives in the same house with at least one of their parents and at least one child, she explained. In other words, it is having three generations living under the same ceiling.
This condition, she said, highly affects women.
“Although the common assumption is that in a Sandwich-Generation Family, the grandparents can help to take care of the grandchild, it turns out they don’t actually contribute much. Women still often become the ones who take care of the whole family,” told Sri, who also gained the data from IFLS-5 based on 2,542 individual samples.
It is also predicted that the dependency ratio will significantly increase by the year of 2020.
“The population will soon be dominated by the elderly, which means there will be higher financial reliance on the younger, less populous generation,” Sri pointed out.
In addition, Sri also mentions that the presence of grandparents can possibly bring negative impact to the family when they’re not in a good health and thus require intensive care.
“Taking care of sick, old parents becomes one of the factors why most women decide not to work,” Sri said.
However, she points out that women’s main reason for not working is still the need to raise children.
“I conclude that: Women living in Sandwich Generation Family have a real tendency to be unemployed,” she summed it up.
When it comes to working mothers, people also often link them to children’s development. Does lacking breast milk really affect children’s cognitive development?
Ina Erdawita answered the question in her undergraduate thesis entitled “Breastfeeding and Children’s Cognitive Score in Indonesia: The Role of Mother’s Socioeconomic Status”.
“Yes, breast milk is a contributing factor to children’s cognitive development, but it’s merely from the nutrition aspect,” said Ina, who collected 2,458 individual samples from IFLS-3,4,5 (1993-2015).
“However, I found that there are more important factors than breast milk: it’s the education level and the profession of the mother’s,” she added.
Ina explains that children’s cognitive development, which is the ability to think and acquire knowledge, can be improved not only by providing nutrition (breast milk) but also by engaging them in good interaction.
“Children can totally benefit from mothers with good social statuses and high level education. Hence, it’s not just the matter of breast milk nutrition, but rather the quality time spent during breastfeeding,” she said.
Besides that, family financial stability also becomes a significant aspect that helps in improving children’s cognitive development.
The next presenter, Olga Stephiana, also examined children’s cognitive development but more on its connection to mothers’ working hours in her research entitled, “The Role of Mother to The Children: The Effect of Working Mothers to Children’s Cognitive Development”.
Olga found that when the children are at the age of 0-3 years old, working mothers can result in the decrease of children’s cognitive score.
“However, I need to point out that the decrease is relatively very low compared to other positive variables, such as nutrition and children’s participation at school,” she explained.
Olga points out that the decrease of cognitive score is merely at 0.08. It can be considered as insignificant compared to other positive factors, such as nutrition and child’s growth factor that can improve children’s cognitive development by 21.5 and formal education by 44.8.
“In other words, mothers can compensate the small decrease by breastfeeding the children at an early age, and then later stimulate them throughout their formal education years,” she explained.
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