Parental leave and work adaptation at the transition to parenthood: Individual, marital, and social correlates

Ruth Feldman, Amy L. Sussman, Edward Zigler

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85 Scopus citations


This study examined individual, marital, and social-contextual factors associated with the length of maternity and paternity leave and the parents' work adaptation at the transition to parenthood. Ninety-eight dual-earner parents of 3- to 5-month-old infants were surveyed following the mother's return to work. A shorter maternity leave (<12 weeks) was associated with higher maternal depression, lower parental preoccupation with the infant, less knowledge of infant development, more negative impact of birth on self-esteem and marriage, and higher career centrality. Fathers took an average of 6.5 days as paternity leave and longer leaves were related to positive employer reaction, higher paternal preoccupation with infant, more marital support, and higher family salience. Mothers' work adaptation was related to shorter work hours, higher marital support, lower depression, and career centrality, whereas marital support and career centrality predicted fathers' work adaptation. Shorter parental leave combined with perceived low-quality childcare predicted lower parental adjustment to the work role. Risk indicators at the transition to dual-earner parenthood and implications for social policy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-479
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants from the Israel Science Foundation (945/01) and the US-Israel Bi-National Fund to Ruth Feldman.


  • Childcare
  • Dual-earner families
  • Marital support
  • Maternal depression
  • Maternity leave
  • Paternity leave
  • Transition to parenthood
  • Work-family balance


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