Married with children: predictors of mental and physical health in middle-aged women

Psychiatry. 1991 Aug;54(3):292-305. doi: 10.1080/00332747.1991.11024558.


The relationship between current mental and physical health and history of education, marriage, child-rearing and employment was studied in 541 women aged 42-50. Participants, recruited from the community for a longitudinal study of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, were all premenopausal and free from major diagnosed physical or mental disorder. Physical health measures included weight, cigarette and alcohol consumption, and current physical symptoms. Self-report psychological measures included depression, anxiety, anger, stress, and coping. Women who were mothers and still in their first marriage ("married with children") were somewhat healthier and happier than others. However, women with only a high school education, even when "married with children," were at a fourfold risk of depression compared with college-educated women, unless they were in paid employment, in which case their risk was not increased. Employment did not affect the risk of depression for college-educated women who were "married with children." Among other women, lack of paid employment more than doubled the risk of depression, whatever the educational level. Among the measures of physical health, the only significant finding was a high rate of smoking among high-school-educated women not in traditional marriages. Possible pathways linking education, marital history and current mental health are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology*
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Menopause / psychology
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Risk Factors
  • Sick Role*
  • Single Person / psychology