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Psychosocial Work Quality, Work-Family Conflict, and Psychological Distress: A Comparison of Single and Partnered Mothers



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Research suggests that single mothers experience poorer mental and physical health than their partnered counterparts. This health differential has been attributed, in large part, to the chronic economic and social stressors to which many single mothers are exposed. Less research, however, has focused on the well-being of single mothers who are employed, despite their growing presence in the Canadian labour force. Using data from a telephone survey of employed parents in a mid-sized Western Canadian city conducted in 2005, the aim of this study was to: (1) compare the mental health of employed, single mothers relative to partnered mothers; and (2) explore the potential role of work-family conflict and psychosocial job characteristics as explanations for any observed differences in psychological distress. Analyses were restricted to 674 employed mothers (438 partnered and 236 single), who were 25-50 years old, with at least one child in the household under the age of 20 years. Bivariate analysis indicated that compared to partnered mothers, employed single mothers reported significantly higher levels of psychological distress, work-to-family conflict and family-to-work conflict. Single mothers were also more likely to be employed in a high-strain psychosocial work environment (i.e., high demand and low control). Multiple linear regression revealed that after adjusting for key sociodemographic characteristics, psychosocial work quality and work-family conflict, single parenthood was no longer statistically significantly associated with psychological distress. These findings suggest that being a single mother in and of itself need not result in poorer mental health, but greater attention needs to be paid to the economic and psychosocial work environment of single mothers, including policies to facilitate work-family balance.



psychological distress, ewelina dziak, partnered mothers, psychosocial work quality, Single mothers, work-family conflict, dziak, employment



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Community Health and Epidemiology


Community Health and Epidemiology


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