Mothers' work‐to‐family conflict, depressive symptoms, and parental role functioning: A five‐wave, cross‐lagged panel model from infancy through middle childhood. By: Cao, Hongjian; Zhou, Nan; Buehler, Cheryl; Li, Xiaomin; Liang, Yue and Chen, Yu. 2024. Family Relations. Vol. 73 Issue 2, p1178-1200.

Objective: The goal of this work was to examine the potential implications of mothers’ work‐to‐family conflict (WFC) for their sensitivity and provision of learning opportunities in parenting from infancy through middle childhood, with maternal depressive symptoms tested as a possible mediator. Background: To inform practice more effectively, researchers need to delineate the temporal dynamics for maternal experiences of work–family interface and also elucidate their dynamic implications for parenting over the family life course. Method: Five‐wave, cross‐lagged panel models with mediators were tested using data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (NICHD SECCYD). Results: Although little evidence was obtained with respect to the direct links, several indirect effect cascades were identified, such that WFC at an earlier wave was associated with compromised parental functioning at a later wave via increases in depressive symptoms at a middle wave, regardless of child development periods and parenting domains and being net of extensive covariates. In addition, a transactional pattern emerged for the positive link between maternal WFC and mental distress over time. A large set of supplementary analyses were also conducted to test the robustness of the identified effects and to address potential moderating roles of some key covariates (e.g., child temperament difficulty). Conclusion: Such findings highlight the importance of illuminating the temporal dynamics for the link between maternal experiences of work–family interface and parenting from a life course perspective. Implications: Irrespective of child development periods and parenting domains, interventions targeted at facilitating mothers’ navigation of work–family challenges as well as improving their psychological well‐being appear to be ultimately beneficial for their parental role functioning.