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The impact of motherhood on the course of women's psychological wellbeing

Kuipers, Yvonne J.; Beeck, Elise van; Cijsouw, Astrid; van Gils, Yannic


Elise van Beeck

Astrid Cijsouw

Yannic van Gils


Having children or being childless is associated with differences in women's psychological wellbeing during the reproductive age period.

An individually matched case-control cohort study, measuring psychological wellbeing with the 5-item Mental Health Inventory (MHI-5) was conducted. Repeated measures analysis of variance and chi-square tests were used to measure the across time changes of MHI-5 scores. ANCOVA and Cochran's Q examined the differences between MHI-5 scores of women with children (cases) and of childless women (controls) at three timepoints. Timepoints were determined by the cases’ pre-pregnancy (T1), post-birth (T2), longer-term (T3) moments.

Motherhood status has a significant medium effect on psychological wellbeing [F(1.112) 20.99, p<.001, d.47). Psychological wellbeing of cases declines significantly from T2 to T3 (p<.001) and from T1 to T3 (p<.001), while psychological wellbeing of controls remains the same. Cases have significantly more often MHI-5 scores below the cut-off value at T2 compared to T3 (p.05) and at T1 compared to T3 (p<.001). Controls have significantly more often MHI-5 scores below the cut-off value at T1 compared to T2 (p<.001) and at T1 compared to T3 (p<.001).

We depended on an existing data set with few predetermined variables. There was insufficient information about the full context of women’s lives such as (in)voluntary childlessness, life-events affecting happiness, or age of children, affecting a comprehensive representation of possible confounders or mediating factors.

Psychological wellbeing of mothers declines over time, while childless women’s wellbeing remains stable. Overall, both groups show evidence of good mental health.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 31, 2021
Online Publication Date Sep 3, 2021
Publication Date 2021-12
Deposit Date Jan 10, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jan 11, 2022
Journal Journal of Affective Disorders Reports
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Pages 100216
Keywords Childless, Depression, Psychological wellbeing, Mental health, Motherhood, Women
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