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Mom’s Job Stress May

Spread to Kids

by: Rita Jenkins

Low job satisfaction in working mothers increases the stress levels of

their children, but allowing them to spend more time in childcare can help

overcome these effects, according to new research published in

Developmental Psychobiology.

Children whose mothers found their jobs emotionally exhausting or

otherwise less rewarding had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol

than children whose mothers reported more enjoyment from their jobs,

researchers found in a study involving more than 50 nursery school


Levels of cortisol in the evening were more than double in the children

whose mothers experienced less job satisfaction. Placing those children in

childcare would help to significantly reduce their stress, the research


The researchers also found that children from families that were either

highly expressive or very reserved exhibited higher than average cortisol


Greater support is needed for working mothers to help improve their job

satisfaction and increase the availability of affordable childcare

options, says the report.

More Time in Childcare

Dr. Julie Turner-Cobb, a health psychologist and senior lecturer at the

University of Bath, Dr. Christina Chryssanthopoulou from the University of

Kent and Dr. David Jessop, a neuroimmunologist at the University of

Bristol collaborated on the study.

To measure cortisol levels, they took saliva samples in the morning and

evening from 56 children aged three to four years old. They also surveyed

mothers about their workplace conditions and home life over a six month


“Spending more time in childcare makes a big difference to the stress

levels in children whose mothers have low job satisfaction,” says Dr.


“It can help protect children from the effects of their mother’s low

job quality and emotional exhaustion. Ensuring that mothers of young

children have good support in the workplace is essential for supporting

both mothers and their children,” she adds.

“Improving the job satisfaction of working mothers means that they are

less stressed themselves,” says Dr. Jessop, “and extending the

availability of affordable and adequate childcare may not only improve the

quality of life for the mothers but, in doing so, may improve the long

term health of their children.”

Healthy Adaptation to Stress

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates blood pressure and

cardiovascular function and immune function. It also controls the body’s

use of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Cortisol secretion increases in response to stress, whether physical —

such as illness, trauma, surgery or temperature extremes — or

psychological. It is a normal and essential response without which we

would not be able to function in everyday life.

When these levels remain high or become disrupted in some way over a

prolonged period of time, however, they may have consequences for health.

It is important to promote healthy adaptation to stress in children, and

good quality childcare is one way of doing this, say the authors.

2005 Daily News Central

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