Getting Better with Age: Employment, Gender Attitudes, and Depression

Katrina M. Leupp, University of Washington

This paper considers the effect of mother’s employment, their attitudes about combining employment and family care, and the interaction between the two, on their risk of experiencing depressive symptoms at three time points across key childrearing years. At ages 40 and 50, the interaction between employment status and attitudes suggests that older mothers suffer from a mismatch between their expectations that women should be able to combine career and family, and their lived experiences of work-family conflict. This finding is set against the backdrop of an increasingly protective effect of employment on mental health as women approach mid-life. Results suggest that in light of women’s continued disproportionate share of domestic responsibilities and limited employer supports for parents, skepticism over women’s ability to manage employment and family care may mitigate the negative mental health implications of work-family conflict as mothers approach mid-life.

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Presented in Session 74: Families and Well-Being among Older Adults