• This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health Grant No. MH44340 to Janet Hyde and Marilyn Essex, with Marjorie Klein and Roseanne Clark. Developmental phases of this work were funded by the University of Wisconsin Graduate School and the Wisconsin Psychiatric Research Institute. Special thanks are extended to project staff, Will Shattuck, Laura Haugen, Nancy Smider, Francine Horton, and Ashby Plant and to the Wisconsin Survey Research Laboratory and its staff. Rosalind Barnett and Joseph Pleck were helpful consultants to the project in its early stages.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Janet Hyde, Department of Psychology, 1202 W. Johnson Street, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706.


The Wisconsin Maternity Leave and Health Study addresses an important policy issue, parental leave, by investigating the work status, maternity leave, and mental health of 570 women. In the longitudinal design, the women, all of whom were living with a husband or partner, were interviewed during the fifth month of pregnancy, 1 month postpartum, and 4 months postpartum. At 4 months postpartum, full-time workers, part-time workers, and homemakers did not differ in depression or anger, but full-time workers showed elevated anxiety compared with the other two groups. In multiple regression analyses, length of leave interacted significantly with marital concerns when predicting depression; women who took a short leave (6 weeks or less) and were high on marital concerns had the highest depression scores. Short maternity leave can be conceptualized as a risk factor that, when combined with other risk factors such as marital concerns, places women at greater risk for depression.