New parents' adjustment to mothers' transition back to work: A one-year follow-up study

Date of Completion

January 2002


Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




During the past several decades, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of mothers who are employed, particularly mothers of young children. Learning to balance work and family may be a difficult task for parents of young children. The ability to identify factors that contribute to or ease parental stress during the mother's transition back to work may have important implications for child development. The present study examined 39 first-time parents who had dual-incomes within six months of the child's birth and followed them one year later. The parents completed questionnaires three weeks before the mother's return to work (Time 1), four weeks after the mother's return to work (Time 2), and one year after the Time 2 data collection point (Time 3). An overall measure of well-being was calculated by averaging four separate measures: job satisfaction, depression, parenting stress, and role strain. Correlational analyses were then conducted to predict parental well-being based on self-reported Time 1, Time 2, and Time 3 predictors. Correlational analyses were also conducted to determine the degree to which changes in predictors from Time 2 to Time 3 predicted parental changes in well-being from Time 2 to Time 3. Characteristics of the coparenting relationship, including conflict about child care tasks and maternal gatekeeping, predicted both maternal and paternal well-being at Time 3. Several Time 1 parental cognitive variables were associated with parental well-being at Time 3, including attitudes about maternal employment, maternal separation anxiety, and satisfaction with the parenting role. ^ Contextual variables were only somewhat predictive of parental well-being at Time 3 and included major reasons for the mother's return to work reported at Time 1 and father's involvement in child care reported at Time 1 and Time 2. The data suggests that coparenting and individual parental cognitions during the period before the mother's return to work may play important roles in parental well-being over time. ^