National welfare reforms enacted in 1996 imposed stricter work requirements for all recipients and established a 5-year limit for receiving federally funded welfare. Reformers and their critics clashed over whether children might suffer if their mothers were moved off welfare and into jobs.
A new study, published in the March 7 Science, offers encouraging but far from conclusive evidence that welfare reform hasn't undermined children's mental health or intellectual development, at least in the short-run.
Preschoolers in low-income families exhibited stable emotional health, consistent reading and number skills, and no change in problem behavior during the first 16 months after their mothers left the welfare rolls for either a full- or part-time job, say psychologist P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and her colleagues. Young adolescents in low-income families also exhibited academic and behavioral stability, as well as a sl