Balancing work and family after childbirth: a longitudinal analysis

Womens Health Issues. 2011 Jan-Feb;21(1):19-27. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2010.08.003.


Background: in the United States, women with young children have dramatically increased their participation in the workforce, resulting in greater potential conflict between work and family roles. However, few studies have examined postpartum work-family conflict. This study examined associations between work-family conflict and women's health after childbirth.

Methods: employed women, 18 years of age and older, were recruited while hospitalized for childbirth and followed for 18 months (n = 541; 66% response rate). Health outcomes were measured using the Short Form 12, version 2. Longitudinal fixed-effects models estimated the associations between work-family conflict (modeled as job and home spillover) and health.

Results: women who reported high levels of job spillover to home had mental health scores slightly, but significantly, worse than women who reported low levels of spillover (β = -1.26; SE = 0.47). Women with medium and high levels of home spillover to job also reported worse mental health (β = -0.81, SE = 0.30; and β = -1.52, SE = 0.78) relative to those with low spillover. Women who reported medium (versus low) levels of home spillover reported slightly improved physical health (β = 0.64, SE = 0.30). There was no significant association between job spillover and physical health.

Conclusion: this study focused exclusively on employed postpartum women. Results illustrate that job and home spillover are associated with maternal mental and physical health. Findings also revealed that flexible work arrangements were associated with poorer postpartum mental health scores, which may reflect unintended consequences, such as increasing the amount of work brought home.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Health
  • Minnesota
  • Parturition
  • Postpartum Period
  • Psychometrics
  • Regression Analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Women's Health*
  • Women, Working / psychology*
  • Young Adult