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Int J Public Health. 2011 Aug;56(4):385-96. doi: 10.1007/s00038-011-0272-6. Epub 2011 Jun 29.

What accounts for depressive symptoms among mothers?: the impact of socioeconomic status, family structure and psychosocial stress.

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Hannover Medical School, Medical Sociology, Germany.



Based on a cross-sectional population survey of 3,129 women with minor children, it was analyzed how socioeconomic status, family structure and perceived psychosocial stress are linked and how they contributed to women's self-reported depressive symptoms.


Pearson's χ(2) test and multi-factor analysis of variance were used for investigating relationships between social status, family characteristics and psychosocial stress. Logistic regression models were computed for estimating their impact on depressive symptoms.


Mothers having more than two children, early mothers and single mothers were prone to socioeconomic disadvantages. Low income was associated with higher psychosocial stress, however also an inverse social gradient was found indicating increased psychosocial stress among higher educated mothers. Having a youngest child below 16 years and low income increased while being a housewife was associated with decreased risks of depressive symptoms. Psychosocial stress, in particular due to family demands, conflicts with (former) partner and loneliness revealed to be highly relevant for depressive symptoms.


The findings are pointing to the importance of life-phase specific stressors for explaining depressive symptoms among mothers.

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