children, depression, gender, multinomial treatment models, parenting


Prior research has focused on the relationship between parenthood and psychological well-being, with mixed results. Some studies have also addressed potential gender differences in this relationship, again yielding varied findings. One reason may be methodological choices pursued in these studies, including the lack of focus on combined parental roles (for example, biological parent and stepparent). The authors used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 (N = 6,276) and multinomial treatment models to address how combined roles influence depressive symptoms in mothers and fathers. Further, they explored potential gender differences. Their results indicated that having multiple parental roles is negatively associated with psychological well-being for both men and women, whereas childlessness is more negative for women, and specific parental role combinations affect mothers and fathers differently. Within the context of changing family structure in the United States, these results have important implications for social workers and other mental health professionals—particularly with regard to screening for depression among parents, who are less likely to seek mental health counseling than childless adults.

Original Publication Citation

Shafer, K. & Pace, G.T.* (2015). “Gender Differences in Depression across Parental Roles.” Social Work, 60(2): 115-125.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Social Work




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor