Maternal employment and satisfaction with care

Document Type


Publication details

Boyd, W & Thorpe, K 2010, 'Maternal employment and satisfaction with care', Sustaining families in challenging times: the 11th Australian Institute of Family Studies conference, Melbourne, Vic., 7-9 July, Australian Institute of Family Studies.


A continual increase in maternal employment in Australia over the past three decades has focused attention on family-friendly employment policies, including paid parental leave, flexible work hours and provision of child care support. However, concern regarding quality of child care has been reported as an emotional barrier to women's engagement in paid work. Understanding women's beliefs about child care and return to paid work requires empirical and longitudinal evidence of decision-making processes. This prospective longitudinal study investigated preferences and decisions of 124 first-time mothers, from pregnancy through to 12 months postpartum. The data shows women's satisfaction with paid work diminished significantly as they made decisions to return to paid work and choose care for their child. Using informal care, where the carer is known and the environment familiar, was a significant predictor of higher levels of satisfaction with the child's care at both 6 and 12 months postpartum, while the use of formal centre-based care was associated with higher scores for postnatal depression and significantly lower levels of satisfaction with care. Results are discussed in light of child development evidence and international trends in family policy.