Gender differences in mental health following the transition into parenthood: longitudinal evidence from the UK

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 15, 2023


Previous studies have largely omitted a dynamic analysis of how the transition into parenthood shapes gender differences in mental health trajectories. This study adopts a life course approach to examine how transitioning into parenthood affects men’s and women’s mental health across multiple domains over time, using large-scale panel data from the ‘UK Household Longitudinal Study’ (2009–2020). Results from fixed effects models with discrete-time trends show that: (1) women’s mental health is more largely affected by parenthood than men’s; (2) women’s overall mental health shows stable improvements following childbirth, while men’s shows mostly insignificant changes; (3) role and social functioning are largely improved among women following childbirth, but only marginally among men; (4) emotional functioning and vitality demonstrate the counteracting effects of parenthood for both genders, with increases in feeling happy but a deterioration in feeling calm and having energy, particularly during care-intensive years; (5) women show larger variations by socioeconomic characteristics than men, with women from higher socioeconomic backgrounds and working full-time experiencing smaller mental health benefits from parenthood compared to less privileged women or having lower paid work constraints. Overall, transitioning to parenthood leads to distinct changes in mental health domains with heterogeneous effects across genders and socioeconomic groups.

Published in

Advances in Life Course Research


Volume: 56:100550






Open Access

Under a Creative Commons license



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