Work-family life courses and psychological distress: Evidence from three British birth cohort studies

Adv Life Course Res. 2021 Dec:50:100429. doi: 10.1016/j.alcr.2021.100429. Epub 2021 Jun 4.


This study uses multi-channel sequence analysis to characterize work-family life course types between the ages of 16 and 42, and multivariable logistic regression to examine their association with psychological distress at age 42/43 for men and women in three nationally-representative British birth cohorts born in 1946 (N = 2,858), 1958 (N = 9,140), and 1970 (N = 7,095). We hypothesised that work-family life courses characterized by weaker links to employment and earlier transitions to partnerships and parenthood would be associated with a greater probability of psychological distress at age 42, and that this association would be become more pronounced across cohorts. Levels of psychological distress were higher amongst men and women with weaker long-term ties to employment, although these were largely explained by early life factors. Teen mothers had higher levels of psychological distress in the two later-born cohorts, and this remained unexplained in adjusted models for the 1970 cohort.

Keywords: British birth cohort studies; Family; Gender; Lifecourse; Psychological distress; Work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Employment
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Psychological Distress*
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Young Adult