Supporting New Mothers in the Workplace

Topic(s): turnover, work-life balance
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (SEP 2011)
Article: Health and Turnover of Working Mothers After Childbirth Via the Work-Family Interface: An Analysis Across Time
Authors: Dawn S. Carlson, Joseph G. Grzywacz, Merideth Ferguson and Emily M. Hunter, C. Randall Clinch and Thomas A. Arcury
Reviewed by: Mary Alice Crowe-Taylor

It has been shown that certain resources in jobs such as supervisor and coworker support decrease turnover of new mothers, but little research has been done on other positive aspects of jobs like skill discretion, job security and schedule control, and how they affect the work – family relationship.

Skill discretion is being able to use a variety of skills in a job and provides meaning for a job. It enriches family life via spillover from work life (as shown in previous research). Job security should also be big for working moms, as they tend to have many concerns about job loss. These fears arise from maternity leaves and necessary absences due to childcare. These anxieties can affect performance. Lastly, it seems like having schedule control would be a big benefit to working moms, by allowing them to have some control over their working times.


The findings of this study demonstrate that skill discretion and job security were significant contributors to work-to-family enrichment as hypothesized, but schedule control’s effect depended on the type of job of the working moms. For those moms who were in jobs with high psychological demands, having schedule control exacerbated the work-to-family conflict, which was already higher for them than for moms in jobs with low psychological demands. The authors theorized that perhaps these moms were using schedule control to try to “fit more in” their everyday lives rather than to organize their existing responsibilities.


Additional results were as expected: greater work-to-family conflict predicted poorer physical and mental health over time, and turnover occurred more frequently for those with poorer mental or physical health. Greater work-to-family enrichment did predict better physical health, but surprisingly it did not predict better mental health. Instead, there was not a relationship between work-to-family enrichment and mental health. In other words, those moms who reported greater work-to-family enrichment did not also generally report greater mental health, but they did have a tendency to report greater physical health. So, they may or may not have been mentally exhausted, but physically they were fine.


Carlson, D.S., Grzywacz, J.G., Ferguson, M. and Hunter, E.M., Clinch, C.R. and Arcury, T.A. (2011). Health and Turnover of Working Mothers After Childbirth Via the Work-Family Interface: An Analysis Across Time. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(5), 1045-1054.

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