Background: Poor balance between work and family can be a major stressor for women with young children and have a negative impact on emotional well-being. Family-friendly workplace attributes may reduce stress and depressive symptoms among this population. However, few studies have analyzed the role of specific workplace attributes on mental health outcomes among women with young children because available data are limited.
Purpose: This study examines the impact of workplace attributes on changes in depressive symptoms among working women with young children between 6 and 24 months of age.
Method: This study uses data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) collected between 1991 and 1993 to examine the effects of work intensity, work schedule (night/day/variable), schedule flexibility, working from home, and work stress on changes in depressive symptoms among a national US sample of 570 women who returned to work within 6 months after childbirth. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the CES-D score. Treatment effects were estimated using fixed effects regression models.
Results: Working from home and work stress predicted within-individual changes in depressive symptoms between 6 and 24 months postchildbirth. Women who worked from home reported a statistically significant decrease in depression scores over time (β = -1.36, SE = 0.51, p = 0.002). Women who reported a one-unit increase in job concerns experienced, on average, a 2-point increase in depression scores over time (β = 1.73, SE = 0.37, p < 0.01). Work intensity, work schedule, and schedule flexibility were not associated with changes in depressive symptoms.
Conclusions: This study is one of the few to use longitudinal data and causal-inference techniques to examine whether specific workplace attributes influence depressive symptoms among women with young children. Reducing stress in the workplace and allowing women to work from home may improve mental health among women who transition back to work soon after childbirth.
Keywords: Maternal depressive symptoms; Maternal employment; Workplace policies; Workplace stressors.