Working might be healthy for mothers of young children. Via Google images.
Back when most families were single income families, many mothers thought that their husbands had the better deal, going to work all day and not having to cater to the whims of a demanding young child. It turns out, they may have been right. A new study shows that mothers of young children who go to work are happier and healthier than those who are not employed.
Working mothers surveyed for the study, which is published in the December issue of the Journal of Family Psychology, reported less depression and better health overall than stay-at-home moms with young children. There was not a noticeable difference once the kids got to their school years. The researchers also reported no health difference between mothers who worked part time and full time.
The researchers theorized that moms who stay home may suffer more social isolation than working moms, which might increase their chance of depression. As any parent knows, being home with a child all day every day might also be putting a mother under more stress. When the children start school, this stress may be relieved somewhat, possible explaining why the link disappeared when children entered preschool.
The data for the survey was collected through interviews with 1,364 mothers across nine states, dating back to 1991. The interviews were conducted with the mothers throughout their children’s infancy, preschool years and beginning of elementary school.
For the purposes of the survey. part time was defined as working one-to-32 hours each week. During the study, about 25 percent of mothers were employed part time at some point, but mothers did move in and out of part-time work. Mothers rated their overall health as “poor,” “fair,” “good” or “excellent” and reported whether or not they experienced any symptoms of depression. They also answered questions about their involvement with their child’s education and about conflicts between work and family life.
The researchers found that working moms were more likely to describe their health as “excellent” and they also reported fewer symptoms of depression, compared with unemployed mothers.
Part time working mothers reported experiencing less conflict between work and family than full time working mothers. They also claimed to be just as involved in their child’s education as stay-at-home moms, and more involved than full time working moms. Also, mothers working part time provided the most learning opportunities for their toddlers, according to researchers.
There appeared to be no difference in couples’ emotional intimacy based on the mothers’ employment status.
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