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Int J Health Serv. 1994;24(4):607-28.

Work and health in mothers of young children.

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Istituto per l'Infanzia Burlo Garofolo, Trieste, Italy.


Although most mothers of young children work, we do not know much about the effect of this work on the mothers' health. The aim of this article is to review and discuss some of the findings on this subject, in order to understand whether paid and unpaid work are associated with mothers' health. Results from available studies show that, while employment tends to be associated with better physical and mental health in mothers, its effects are inconsistent when mothers of babies or young children are specifically examined. For physical health, employment is likely to have a negative effect for working-class mothers and a positive effect for middle-class ones. For mental health, the trend is unclear; mothers' psychological well-being is negatively affected, however, by the presence of one or more preschoolers, a lack of involvement by the husband, difficulties linked to child care, and the women's preferences concerning their professional status. Moreover, variables such as education, income, social class, housing, and marital status are likely to affect the health of mothers of young children, just as they affect the health of other women.

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