Original Paper

Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 83-94

First online:

Depression Risk among Mothers of Young Children: The Role of Employment Preferences, Labor Force Status and Job Quality

  • Margaret L. UsdanskyAffiliated withCenter for Policy Research, Syracuse University Email author 
  • , Rachel A. GordonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology and Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • , Xue WangAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • , Anna GluzmanAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, California State University

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This study examines how desire for employment, employment status, and job quality associate with depressive symptoms among mothers of infants and toddlers. We use the longitudinal NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) to estimate regression models with a variety of controls including prior depression. We find that employment in high-quality versus low-quality jobs is associated with reductions in depressive symptoms, both for mothers who do and do not desire employment. Furthermore, non-employed mothers have elevated depression levels only if they desire employment. Our results demonstrate that neither employment nor non-employment is best for all mothers of young children; rather mental health depends on mothers’ employment preferences and, when they do work for pay, job quality.


Employment preferences Job quality Maternal depression Maternal employment