NBER Study Finds New Mothers Who Also Work Are More Stressed, Depressed

In news that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever raised a child, a new study finds that mothers who were back at work 6 months after their child was born reported higher levels of depression and parenting stress and lower overall health than mothers who were not working. Previous research suggests that juggling the responsibilities of work and parenthood may be challenging for new mothers with male partners in part because mothers, even those who work, devote more of their time to childcare than fathers.

The findings of the NBER study suggest that more generous opportunities for maternity leave and better support for women who return to work soon after their child is born could improve new mothers’ well-being. There is some good news, however, for those who can’t or don’t want to take time off work: the study found that whether or not mothers worked in the months after their child’s birth did not affect the quality of parenting during the child’s early years.

Early Maternal Employment and Family Wellbeing
National Bureau of Economic Research // Pinka Chatterji, Sara Markowitz, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn // July 2011