Muskie School of Public Service

The Impact of Work on the Mental Health of Parents of Children with Disabilities


There is a growing literature examining the impact of work and family responsibilities on the psychological well-being of parents of children with disabilities and other special needs. A number of studies using small, nonprobability samples of mothers find that work provides a respite from the stressful effects of caregiving. Using data from the National Survey of American Families, this study found higher mental health among working mothers of older children with disabilities compared to their nonworking counterparts and mothers of typically developing children, a result consistent with caregiver-specific positive spillover. No significant differences in mental health were found among working and nonworking mothers of younger children with disabilities or among fathers. Results also indicate that caregiver mothers who are experiencing high levels of parent-role stress benefit more from work, and that the beneficial effects from work persist until rather high levels of work (50 or more hours per week).

Suggested Citation: Morris, L. A. (2014). The impact of work on the mental health of parents of children with disabilities. Family Relations, 63(1), 101-121. doi: 10.1111/fare.12050

Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Publish Date: 
January 31, 2014