Mothers who work part-time fare better than stay-at-home moms - with fewer having symptoms of depression and more having a sense of well-being - according to a survey released Monday. The study also found that in many cases, mothers with full-time jobs fared just as well as mothers who pursued part-time employment.
Researchers interviewed 1,364 mothers shortly after the birth of their first child starting in 1991 and subsequently followed up over the course of more than 10 years, in a survey published in the Journal of Family Psychology. The interview data came from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care.
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, Cheryl Buehler, professor of human development and family studies, at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and study lead author, said in a statement. However, in many cases the well-being of moms working part time was no different from moms working full time.
The well-being of working mothers is important since nearly seven out of every 10 mothers works outside of the home, according to 2010 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Back in 1975, half of mothers worked - a number that peaked in 2000 at 72.9 percent, fell to 70.5 percent in 2005 and then increased back to 71.6 percent in 2009, according to federal statistics.
The research showed that part-time working mothers struck a balance. They were just as involved in the child's school as stay-at-home mothers and more involved than full-time workers.
Since part-time workers are typically the to-go-to labor force during recessions, the researchers also advocated increased support for the labor force that typically has few benefits.
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, professor of human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and study co-author, said in a statement.
The study included 10 locations across the U.S. and the researchers defined part-time work as 32 hours a week or fewer.
The authors said that the study included only one child per family, a limitation future research include other employment-related factors such as professional status, scheduling flexibility, work commitment and shift schedules, according to a press statement.