The goal of the proposed study is to examine the relations among maternal employment hours, mothers'psychological well-being, and parental role functioning from infancy through middle childhood. Prior research and theorizing has characterized part-time employment in two conflicting ways: either as a strategy for enhancing work-family balance or as a mechanism for maintaining gender role inequity. The proposed study will use 10 waves of data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (infancy through grade 5), a long-term longitudinal study of more than 1,000 children and families drawn from ten sites across the U.S. The three aims of the proposed study are to: (a) identify the longitudinal relations among maternal work hours, their psychological well-being (depressive symptoms and work-family stress for employed mothers), and the quality of their functioning in the parental role (sensitivity, responsiveness, lack of harshness, involvement with the child's school);(b) test a process model of maternal employment hours that hypothesizes effects on parenting and involvement in children's school activities over time through changes in psychological well-being;and (c) examine the moderating effects of familial and work characteristics on the links among mothers'employment hours, their psychological well-being, and parenting outcomes. The results of the proposed analyses will provide valuable information about family functioning when mothers work part-time and will identify the conditions under which part-time employment is a positive strategy to promote individual and family goals.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research will address issues related to the health and well-being of mothers of young children who are and are not employed. Prior research has suggested that maternal mental health is promoted by employment, but there also are indications that full-time employment can be associated with high levels of stress. Identifying the conditions under which employment is and is not associated with positive mental health and the well-being of mothers and other family members is a major goal of the proposed research.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Study Section
Pediatrics Subcommittee (CHHD)
Program Officer
King, Rosalind B
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University of North Carolina Greensboro
Other Health Professions
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Zhou, Nan; Buehler, Cheryl (2016) Family, employment, and individual resource-based antecedents of maternal work-family enrichment from infancy through middle childhood. J Occup Health Psychol 21:309-21
Buehler, Cheryl; O'Brien, Marion; Swartout, Kevin M et al. (2014) Maternal Employment and Parenting Through Middle Childhood: Contextualizing Factors. J Marriage Fam 76:1025-1046
Buehler, Cheryl; O'Brien, Marion (2011) Mothers' part-time employment: associations with mother and family well-being. J Fam Psychol 25:895-906