Combining jobs and motherhood: is it worse when raising children alone?

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BACKGROUND: Paid employment has been shown to benefit childless women's health, while employed mothers experience poorer health, and more pronounced fatigue. This study measures the association between job characteristics and the health and well-being of employed mothers and the differential susceptibility to job characteristics between coupled and single-parent mothers.

METHODS: We used data from the 5th Portuguese National Health Survey from 1649 employed women (aged 25-54) living with a child under 16. We modelled depression (assessed by the Personal Health Questionnaire-8) and self-reported health as a function of job characteristics, adding interaction terms to compare coupled and single-parent mothers, using logistic regressions.

RESULTS: Working part-time was associated with depression (odds ratio (OR) = 3.39, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 3.31-3.48) and less-than-good health (OR = 1.28, 95%CI = 1.26-1.31), compared to working full time. Compared to high-skill jobs, the likelihood for depression among low-skill occupations was lower among coupled mothers (OR = 0.25, 95%CI = 0.24-0.26), and higher among single-parent mothers (OR = 1.75, 95%CI = 1.54-1.99). Unstable jobs were associated with depression among coupled mothers.

CONCLUSIONS: Part-time jobs are detrimental for mothers' mental health, but high-skilled jobs are protective for single-parent mothers. Part-time and unstable jobs are linked to poorer self-reported health among coupled mothers. Results question the gendered arrangements that may face employed coupled mothers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-515
JournalJournal of public health (Oxford, England)
Issue number3
Early online date15 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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