Pence in 1997: Working mothers stunt emotional growth of children

Story highlights

  • Mike Pence argued in 1997 that 'day-care kids get the short end of the emotional stick'
  • Pence's letter to the editor argues that 'day-care does not equal at-home care'

Cleveland (CNN)Mike Pence argued in 1997 that "day-care kids get the short end of the emotional stick" and that households with two working parents lead to "stunted emotional growth."

The Indiana governor and Republican vice presidential candidate condemned what he called "the big lie that 'Mom doesn't matter'" in a letter to the editor of The Indianapolis Star.
    "For years, we have gotten the message from the mouthpieces of the popular culture that you can have it all, career, kids and a two-car garage. The numbers in this federally funded study argue that the converse is true," Pence wrote.
    "Sure, you can have it all, but your day-care kids get the short end of the emotional stick."
    CNN has asked Pence's campaign whether he still believes the case he made in 1997, but his campaign has not yet responded.
    It's another example of Pence's social conservatism. A born-again Christian, Pence has long been a strident opponent of abortion rights and same-sex marriage. He wrote in 1999 that Disney's movie "Mulan" was liberal propaganda as he argued against women in military combat roles.

    'Cultural problem'

    That social conservatism could help ease lingering concerns about Trump within the GOP -- but it also makes Pence's past statements a major target for Democrats seeking to portray him as extreme.
    Pence's 1997 letter calls for the same household arrangement as presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump pushed in an interview with ABC News in 1994.
    "I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing. If you're in business for yourself, I really think it's a bad idea. I think that was the single greatest cause of what happened to my marriage with Ivana," Trump said, discussing his divorce with his first wife.
    He said that he disliked hearing her "shouting on the phone" during contentious business deals.
    "A softness disappeared. There was a great softness to Ivana, and she still has that softness, but during this period of time she became an executive, not a wife," Trump said.
    Pence's argument didn't come in the context of his own relationship with his wife, Karen Pence.
    Instead, he cited a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development study's conclusion that, as Pence put it, "a child cared for by others was less affectionate toward his mother."
    He wrote that "this evidence suggests for the first time that day-care does not equal at-home care."
    Pence wrote that his problem was the with culture -- not working mothers.
    "So am I condemning anyone who has chosen the day-care route?" he wrote.
    "Absolutely not. I am criticizing a culture that has sold the big lie that 'Mom doesn't matter.' These statistics should ignite a national debate about the family and precisely who should be raising the next generation of Americans.
    "We should seriously rethink a tax code that makes it less and less possible for one parent to stay home with the kids and replace it with a family-friendly system of tax collection.
    "Or we could just settle for another generation of adults with good language and cognitive skills but stunted emotional growth. Let's take these findings and put families first again."