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Working Mothers With Children Under Age 6 More Likely To Sustain Workplace Injuries

3:51 PM PST - 11/28/2007
by: Terry Weyman, D.C., C.C.S.P.

Women who must balance their workplace duties with the responsibility of caring for children under the age of 6 are nearly three times as likely as other women to suffer work-related injuries, according to a study from the UCLA School of Public Health.

Caring for young children seemed to have a pronounced impact on working mothers in their 30s, who were nearly five times as likely as other women to suffer workplace injuries, according to the study published in the March edition of the journal Epidemiology.

“These findings have particular relevance because working mothers make up the fastest growing segment of the work force,” said Dr. Amy Rock Wohl, the study’s primary author.

While just 12 percent of mothers with preschool-age children were employed outside the home in 1950, 52 percent of the group was a part of the work force in 1990.

The study examined 1,400 women in manufacturing jobs at a large aerospace company in Southern California during 1989. The women comprised one-third of the company’s manufacturing work force.

Researchers identified 156 cases of traumatic workplace injuries, mostly strains, cuts and bruises. Repetitive motion injuries were excluded. For each woman who was injured, researchers found two uninjured controls of the same age who worked in the same department.

The study compared working women with children under age 6 to women who had no children and to women who had older children.

Working mothers in their 20s who had preschool children were 1.2 times as likely to be injured than other women, while the risk for mothers in their 30s was 4.7 times that of other women. Mothers in their 40s were 1.6 times as likely to be injured. Mothers in their 50s were 7.5 times as likely to be injured, but researchers cautioned that the finding may not be valid because it’s based on a very small sample.

Married women with young children had about the same accident rate as their single counterparts with young children. Researchers also found little evidence that years of work experience, the number of children at home or ethnicity had an effect on workplace injuries.

Researchers did not study what may be responsible for the injuries among working mothers, but they suspect that it’s linked to the fatigue of raising young children.

“The dual role of caring for young children and meeting the demands of the workplace certainly increases the physical strain on women,” said Wohl, the mother of two young children.”But more work needs to be done for there to be any definite conclusions.”

Wohl conducted the study as part of her doctoral work at the UCLA School of Public Health. She currently is the director of the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s occupational health program.


Other authors of the study are Drs. Jess Kraus and Hal Morgenstern of the UCLA School of Public Health.
Press contact: Warren Robak (warrenr@support.ucla.edu) (310) 206-1960.

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