Traditional mothers found most depressed

February 15, 1993|By San Francisco Chronicle

BOSTON -- A sociologist has driven another nail into the traditional Ozzie-and-Harriet belief that the happiest women are those at home with the kids.

Her survey concludes that, on average, the least depressed women are those with no children and a job. Among the most depressed are those who stay at home with their children. The biggest factor in determining whether working mothers are happy apparently is child care. Right behind that is whether fathers help with the children.

Catherine E. Ross, a sociologist at the University of Illinois, presented her research yesterday during a session on parenthood and psychological well-being during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

She said she was not surprised by her findings.

"Many believe that children bring joy and happiness," she said. Yet several studies, hers included, suggest that children do not improve the psychological well-being of parents.

Other scientists at the session said her data are probably correct, but depression level alone is not a complete measure of whether life may be worthwhile or rewarding.

While Ms. Ross' study found childless, working women to be only a little happier than mothers with a job, easy and affordable child care, and husbands who share responsibility for child rearing and housework.

Most depressed of all, slightly edging out stay-at-home mothers, were mothers who work but have a hard time getting child care and get little help from their husbands.

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