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Child Dev. 2003 Nov-Dec;74(6):1720-36.

Does work pay psychologically as well as economically? The role of employment in predicting depressive symptoms and parenting among low-income families.

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  • 1Center for Human Potential and Public Policy, Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


This longitudinal study examined quantity and quality of maternal employment as predictors of depressive symptoms and parenting style in a sample of 94 low-income mothers whose 4-year-old children were enrolled in Head Start at baseline. Results suggest that answers to the question of whether work "pays" are complex: Findings suggest some benefits of greater employment participation while also indicating that women holding lower prestige jobs experienced increases in their use of negative parenting style, net of baseline demographic and psychological characteristics. Sparse evidence for selection processes was found, with cohabitation and maternal depressive symptoms modestly predictive of subsequent maternal employment. Implications of these findings for welfare reform and educationally related policies for low-income families are discussed.

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