Mothers who believe they can "do it all" at work and home are at increased risk of depression
Working mothers have lower rates of depression than stay-at-home mothers, but women who believe they can “do it all” at work and home are at increased risk of depression, a new study finds. The study, which was presented earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Las Vegas, was led by Katrina Leupp, a sociology graduate student at the University of Washington.
The findings were based on analysis of responses from 1,600 women, all 40 years old and married, some working mothers and some stay-at-home mothers, who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, carried out by the US Department of Labor. As young adults, the participants were asked to rank statements designed to reveal their attitudes toward work-life balance such as: “A woman who fulfills her family responsibilities doesn't have time for a job outside the home," "Working wives lead to more juvenile delinquency," and "A woman is happiest if she can stay at home with her children."
Leupp measured the participants’ level of depression at age 40 and found that the stay-at-home mothers had a greater degree of depression symptoms than the working mothers. Among the working mothers, those who as young adults had most strongly agreed with statements that women can combine employment with family responsibilities were at greater risk of depression than working mothers with more realistic views.
Those with more realistic views may be more comfortable making tradeoffs between their work and family lives, Leupp suggests, while those with the “supermom” attitude may feel that they are failing when they are unable to achieve their ideal. “Employment is still ultimately good for women's health," she said in a press release. "But for better mental health, working moms should accept that they can't do it all."