The impact of caring for children on women’s research output: A retrospective cohort study

2019-03-21T17:31:55Z (GMT) by Lauren Sewell Adrian G. Barnett

We used a retrospective cohort study to measure the impact of caring for children on female Australian researchers. Our aim was to see whether caring for children was associated with reduced outputs and collaboration. Women were randomly selected for inclusion if they published a first author paper in one of three Australian journals during 2007 to 2015, women who did not publish during this time were not included. One-hundred and sixty women were approached and 95 (59%) completed a survey on their history of caring for children. Two key outcomes were the women’s publication and citation counts, which were accessed from Scopus. We also examined the number of authors, affiliations and countries on their published papers, as a reduction in these numbers could indicate an impaired ability to collaborate. We examined the probability of being first or last author as a measure of esteem. There was a small increase in publication counts after the first child that was reversed after the second child. Average citations counts declined after children, particularly after the second child. There was some evidence of a reduced collaboration with overseas collaborators after the first child. The probability of being the last author increased after the second child. Three women were identified as statistically influential and all three had children and were in the top 10% of overall publications and citations. After removing these women the estimated changes in outcomes were noticeably different for most of the outcomes. The repeated presence of statistically influential women shows that it may be impossible to find an “average impact” of caring for children when considering research output. Adjustments may need to be made individually, with women explaining how caring for children has altered their career.