Motherhood, multiple roles, and maternal well-being: Women of the 1950s

Melody L. Miller, Phyllis E Moen, Donna Dempster-Mcclain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


This study examined the effects of social integration (number of roles occupied) on the psychological well-being of American women who were wives and mothers of young children in the 1950s. The sample, drawn from a 1956 data archive, consisted of 358 married mothers with children under age 13 who lived in upstate New York. The authors focused on two measures of psychological well-being, self-esteem and general life satisfaction, and three measures of women's subjective appraisal of the mother role. Using hierarchical multiple regression and controlling for potentially important individual and structural variables, the authors found that the number of nonfamily roles beyond those of wife and mother that this sample of women occupied was positively related to both self-esteem and general life satisfaction and was negatively related to feelings of detachment from the mothering role. These effects remained regardless of whether or not women were in the labor force and regardless of their social class. The paid worker role per se was not related to self-esteem or general life satisfaction but was related to feelings of maternal discontent and maternal inadequacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-582
Number of pages18
JournalGender & Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1991
Externally publishedYes

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