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Working moms feel better than stay-at-home moms, study finds

Thursday, December 15, 2011  
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Mothers with jobs tend to be healthier and happier than moms who stay at home during their children’s infancy and pre-school years, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.

Researchers analyzed National Institute for Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development data, beginning in 1991 with interviews of 1,364 mothers shortly after their child’s birth and including subsequent interviews and observations spanning more than 10 years.

"In all cases with significant differences in maternal well-being, such as conflict between work and family or parenting, the comparison favored part-time work over full-time or not working,” said lead author Cheryl Buehler, PhD, professor of human development and family studies, at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. "However, in many cases the well-being of moms working part time was no different from moms working full time.”

For example, mothers employed part time reported better overall health and fewer symptoms of depression than stay-at-home moms, while there were no reported differences in general health or depressive symptoms between moms employed part time and those who worked full time, the study said.

The part-time and full-time working moms also showed no significant differences when it came to the women’s perception that their employment supported family life, including their ability to be a better parent, the authors wrote.

The analysis found that mothers employed part time were just as involved in their child’s school as stay-at-home moms, and more involved than moms who worked full time. In addition, mothers working part time appeared more sensitive with their pre-school children and they provided more learning opportunities for toddlers than stay-at-home moms and moms working full time.

Particularly in tough economic times, employers looking for cost savings hire part-time employees because they typically do not receive the same level of benefits, such as health insurance, training and career advancement, the authors pointed out.

"Since part-time work seems to contribute to the strength and well-being of families, it would be beneficial to employers if they provide fringe benefits, at least proportionally, to part-time employees as well as offer them career ladders through training and promotion,” said study co-author Marion O’Brien, PhD, professor of human development and family studies, also of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.



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