Women’s Religiosity, Employment, and Mental Illness

H. Dean Garrett and Bruce A. Chadwick

H. Dean Garrett and Bruce A. Chadwick, “Women’s Religiosity, Employment, and Mental Illness,” in Religion, Mental Health, and the Latter–day Saints, ed. Daniel K. Judd (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1999) 71–92.

H. Dean Garrett was professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University and Bruce A. Chadwick was professor of sociology at Brigham Young University when this was published. This article was originally published in AMCAP Journal 22:97–118; reprinted with permission.


This article explores the influence of employment and religiosity on mental health among a sample of female members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints. Religiosity was broken down into three dimensions: religious beliefs, public religious behavior, and private religious behavior. Employment was also broken into three smaller dimensions: current employment, percent of adult life worked, and future employment intentions. An LDS sample was chosen because LDS doctrine emphasizes the woman’s role as a mother in the home. It was hypothesized that women in religions where working outside the home is not encouraged feel guilty for not staying within the norms of their religion. The participants ‘mental health was measured in three areas: depression, self–esteem, and feelings of general well–being. In this sample, it was found that only private religious behavior was significantly related to feelings of depression. It appears that LDS women who work are able to reconcile their church’s emphasis on remaining at home and their employment outside the home.

The large number of women who have entered the labor force has stimulated considerable research about the relationship between full–time employment outside the home and women’s emotional, or mental, health. An even larger body of research has accumulated concerning the relationship between religiosity and mental health, especially for women. Surprisingly, the interactive effect of employment and religiosity on mental health has rarely been examined. To help fill this void, this study explored the relationship of employment and religiosity with mental health as indicated by depression, self–esteem, and feelings of general well–being among a sample of women who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints (LDS). This is an informative population in which to study the relationship between these three factors because LDS doctrine stresses traditional family life and encourages mothers to remain at home as housewives.

Employment and Mental Health

In a pioneer study, Berry (1929) interviewed 728 working mothers in Philadelphia. Although family and employment responsibilities were hard, she heard few complaints concerning their mental health. She concluded that they seemed to be “standing the strain fairly well.”

A substantial number of women entered the labor force during World War I and continued to work following its conclusion. Most of the studies of maternal employment that followed during the next thirty years focused on the effects on children rather than on the mothers. In the early 1960s, Nye (1963) interviewed 2,300 mothers residing in small towns in Washington State. He reported that employed women were slightly more satisfied with their work than housewives were with their housekeeping and childcare. Ferree (1976) interviewed 135 working–class, married women with at least one child in the first or second grade. Employed women saw themselves as more competent, independent, self–directed, and having higher self–esteem than did housewives. Ferree stressed that these women were employed out of economic necessity, not in the pursuit of self–fulfillment or a career.

In a similar study, Burke and Weir (1976) collected questionnaire data from 189 professional men and their spouses. Of the couples, fifty–two were dual earners. While the employed women had better mental health than the housewives, the husbands of those employed women were in poorer physical health and less happy than the men married to housewives.

Booth (1977) replicated Burke and Weir with data from 856 men and women. Employed women were no more mentally healthy than housewives, and husbands of housewives no more healthy than husbands with employed wives. Detailed analysis discovered that women who had recently entered the labor force as well as women who had recently stopped working had higher rates of stress. Booth concluded that role transition was the source of stress, not the roles themselves.

Wright (1978) replicated Ferree’s study with data from six national surveys. The analysis was restricted to white, married women. Fourteen measures of well–being, happiness, and satisfaction were compared. Although on six of the scales the employed women scored higher and on the other eight the housewives scored higher, none of the differences were statistically significant.

Kessler and McRae (1982) surveyed a national sample of 1,086 married, white couples and found employed wives to have lower scores on measures of anxiety and depression. They also found that employed women had higher self–esteem than housewives. Cleary and Mechanic (1983) analyzed interviews from a sample of 1,026 women living in the Midwest. Employed married women reported slightly less stress than housewives. However, the small advantage disappeared if the employed women had a dependent child.

In an interesting study, Keith and Schafer (1983) interviewed 135 dual–earner husbands and wives, and they found that work orientation, feelings of being a provider, and financial stress were associated with lower depression. On the other hand, the number of hours the married women worked was directly related to depression. The more hours she worked per week, the higher her depression. The two effects cancelled each other out so that the overall relationship between employment and mental health was minimal. Gray (1983) found that 77 percent of the 300 professional women she surveyed experienced strain between work and family demands. But they also reported that this stress did not significantly decrease their sense of well–being.

Ross, Mirowsky, and Huber (1983) interviewed a national sample of 680 couples and found that employment status was not related to the wives’ level of depression. However, when the wives’ employment status was their preference, both spouses were less depressed. In Shehan’s (1984) study of 100 married mothers of preschool children, where half of the women were employed, employed women did not differ in their level of depression from housewives.

In their interviews of 197 women, Kandel, Davies, and Raveis (1985) discovered that employed women had lower levels of depressive symptoms. Similarly Barnett and N. L. Marshall (1989) found, from interviews with 403 women employed at least part time, that having a rewarding job appeared to buffer negative mental health effects of family stress such as difficult children.

An excellent summary of the literature linking employment and mental health of women is presented by C. M. Marshall, Chadwick, and B. C. Marshall (1992), who reported that a majority of the studies reviewed have not found a relationship between employment and mental health among married women. The few differences reported revealed that employed women have slightly better mental health than do housewives. An important intervening variable to emerge from two of these studies is the wife’s desire to work with the husband’s support for her doing so. Thus, if employment status is consistent with preference and support, mental health is enhanced.

Religiosity and Mental Health

Early social scientists such as Freud were convinced that mentally ill persons acted out their pathology in strange religious actions or else turned to religion for comfort. The bizarre behavior of mystics, religious fanatics, and strange cults was used as evidence that religion was closely related to mental illness. Following this tradition, some researchers, clinicians, and therapists have concluded that religion is an expression of mental illness and irrationality (Ellis, 1980). In addition, Ellis stated: “Religiosity . . . is in many respects equivalent to irrational thinking and emotional disturbance. . . . The elegant therapeutic solution to emotional problems is to be quite unreligious. . . . The less religious they are, the more emotionally healthy they will tend to be” (p. 637).

Stark (1971) reviewed the early research supporting this hypothesis and found that most studies had serious methodological flaws. He tested the relationship between mental health and religion by comparing 100 patients in the San Mateo County Outpatient Mental Health Clinic with 100 randomly selected individuals living in the clinic’s service area. Three different measures of mental illness were assessed, and all revealed that the patients were less religious than the general population. He concluded “that conventional religiousness is not a product of psychopathology. Indeed, psychopathology seems to impede the manifestation of conventional religious beliefs and activities” (p. 175).

Shaver, Lenauer, and Sadd (1980) analyzed data obtained from the readers of Redbook Magazine. The data were collected in the fall of 1976 by inserting the questionnaire in the September issue. Over 65,000 women responded, and Shaver and his associates drew a random sample of 2,500. They found that the relationship between religion and mental illness symptoms was curvilinear. Those women who were either strongly religious or strongly irreligious were more mentally healthy and happy than those in between. The authors concluded that certainty of belief, either religious or irreligious, was related to stronger mental health. These interesting results were explained using cognitive dissonance theory, which holds that consistency and confidence of belief, regardless of its specific nature, is “associated with health and happiness and with the absence of tension and conflict” (p. 1566).

Bergin (1983) conducted meta–analysis of twenty–four studies with conflicting findings to ascertain any overall relationships. Thirty effects were tabulated in the twenty–four studies and only seven (23 percent) manifested a negative relationship between religion and mental health. Fourteen (47 percent) produced a positive relationship, while nine (30 percent) evidenced no relationship. Bergin concluded that the meta–analysis found “no support for the preconception that religiousness is necessarily correlated with psychopathology” (p. 170). He suggested that part of the inconsistency in the relationship between religion and mental health is the complexity of religiosity. He suggested that future research separate the major dimensions of religiosity.

Part of a large replication of the classic Middletown community study was an examination of attitudes and behaviors of high school students (Bahr & Martin, 1983). Two measures of religiosity, denominational affiliation and church attendance, and the Rosenberg Self–Esteem Scale were collected from 1,673 high school students. Bahr and Martin found that religiosity and self–esteem were not related.

A study of particular interest focused on depression among LDS women (Spendlove,West, & Stanish, 1984). A random sample of approximately 180 white, married women with at least one child under the age of fifteen years were interviewed by telephone. Depression was measured using the Beck Depression Inventory. The LDS and non–LDS women had almost identical rates of depression, 23.8 versus 22.2 percent, respectively. In addition, several measures of religiosity were not related to depression in LDS women.

MMPI profiles of members of five different religious affiliations, including LDS, were compared by Judd (1986). Secondary analysis was conducted with data obtained in previous studies. The scores for men and women belonging to Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and LDS denominations, along with those claiming no religion, revealed that the MMPI profiles from the five groups were quite similar and “indicated no extreme difference as to the presence or absence of mental pathology” (p. 87).

Recent research has shown that the intensity of religious beliefs and activity is associated with mental health. Crawford, Handal, and Wiener (1989) used a small sample to obtain information from 90 men and 136 women across the United States. The respondents belonged to various denominations and had a wide range of religious activity. Of interest in this study is the finding that highly religious women were found to be significantly less distressed and manifested better psychological adjustment than less religious women.

The relationship between religion and mental health was reviewed in a recent discussion by Bergin (1991). One of the studies he reviewed involved LDS students at Brigham Young University. It was a longitudinal study of the interaction between religion and personality development of sixty former students. Bergin found that for “many” of the individuals, religious activity and beliefs were therapeutic, while for “some” religion was part of a self–defeating pattern. He resolved this inconsistency, as he did earlier, by pointing out that religiosity is a multidimensional phenomenon with divergent consequences.

In summary, previous research has produced weak and mixed results that suggest that religiosity has little, if any, relationship to mental illness in women. It has been hypothesized that different dimensions of religiosity may be significantly related to mental health.

Employment, Religiosity, and Mental Health

Few researchers have examined the interaction of employment and religiosity in understanding women’s mental health. However, two opposing positions have emerged from theorizing and speculation based on related research. One hypothesis is that religion has a positive relationship with employment and mental health. Men and women who choose work they think is “important” are inclined to attach religious significance to their employment. It is hypothesized that religious beliefs, which include support for employment, contribute to individual mental health. In an insightful study by Davidson and Caddell (1994) that partially supported this hypothesis, comparisons were drawn between Protestants’ and Catholics’ attitudes toward their work. Davidson and Caddell found that “the more people think of themselves as religious, the more they are active in their churches, and the more they stress social justice beliefs (good works), and the more they also view work as a calling” (pp. 145–46).

The second hypothesis is that conservative religions tend to support traditional family roles with women as full–time homemakers. Thus, employed women who belong to such religions feel guilty for violating their religious values and denominational norms. Such guilt contributes to depression and other forms of mental illness, and lower self–esteem. These women have to cope with religious guilt as well as the “second shift” stress.

Our study tested the latter hypothesis with a sample of LDS women living in the major metropolitan areas of Utah. Mothers in the LDS Church are encouraged to remain at home with their children as, according to LDS doctrine, being a mother is the highest calling God has given women. The President of the LDS Church is considered a modern prophet who speaks the mind and will of God. A previous president, Ezra Taft Benson, stressed in 1987 that “the counsel of the Church has always been for mothers to spend their full time in the home in rearing and caring for their children” (p. 5). Thus, married LDS women are at risk for mental health problems from both their violation of religiously sanctioned family roles and the cumulative pressures of employment and family responsibility.

The mental health of LDS women, as a group, has been found to be similar to that of other women. As discussed earlier, in a telephone survey of LDS women living in Salt Lake City, Spendlove et al. (1984) found no difference in the prevalence of depression in LDS and non–LDS women. Although the rates were similar, Spendlove and associates raised the possibility that employment outside the home may be an important risk factor. They stated that “it is possible that LDS women who work may be at a higher risk for depression than women who do not work” (p. 494). On the other hand, Bergin, Payne, Jenkins, and Cornwall (1994), after an exhaustive review, concluded that LDS women do not manifest any unusual rates or kinds of mental disorders when compared to national rates.

In our study, we focused on three indications of mental illness—feelings of general well–being, self–esteem, and depression. Several researchers, especially Bergin, have noted that religiosity is comprised of more than one dimension. Therefore, we included three major dimensions of religiosity—religious beliefs, public religious behavior, and private religious behavior—which have emerged in previous research with an LDS population (Chadwick & Top, 1993).

Although no previous study pointed it out, employment is also multidimensional. Therefore, we included their current employment, the percent of their adult life the women had worked, and their future employment intentions. The latter measured whether or not employed women intend to continue working, and whether housewives intend to enter the labor force.

We tested the hypothesis that religiosity and employment would be significant predictors of mental health among married LDS women. In addition, an interaction effect between religiosity and employment was anticipated. It was hypothesized that the guilt created by employment would be greater for the highly religious women and would be manifest in the measures of depression, self–esteem, and well–being.


Data Collection

A mail questionnaire survey was conducted by the Center for Studies of the Family at Brigham Young University in the spring of 1991 with a sample of 3,000 women between the ages of twenty and sixty who were living along the Wasatch Front in Utah. The R. L. Polk Company drew a random sample of women in the designated age category living in the metropolitan strip from Ogden to Provo, which includes Salt Lake City. The standard multiple–mailing technique produced a 50 percent response rate.

Given the age range of twenty to sixty, and the urban residence of the respondents, it is inappropriate to compare them to census data or other surveys of the general population to verify their representativeness. We did, however, compare the women in our study to women between the ages of twenty and sixty living statewide in the 1990 census and found the women in our sample had significantly more education. Only 2 percent of the respondents had failed to complete high school, while 11 percent of the women in the 1990 census had done so. Some of the difference is because our sample was primarily urban, which is associated with higher educational attainment. Even with the urban residence influence, the educational attainment of women in the sample is higher than among women in general along the Wasatch Front. We analyzed the data collected from 1,022 married LDS women in the sample.

Measurement of Variables

Demographic characteristics—age, education, religious preference, marital status, and number of children—were measured with single questions asking the relevant information.

Mental health was measured by the depression scale developed by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies (Weissman, Sholomskas, Pottenger, Prusoff, & Locke, 1977). The scale was shortened from twenty to ten items by those conducting the National Survey of Families and Households (1988). We used the ten–item version. The scale asks how often during the past week the women had experienced ten different symptoms of depression such as feeling depressed, sad, or lonely. We altered the format slightly by asking how often the women felt the symptom during the past month rather than during the week. The symptoms, along with the frequency of their occurrence, are listed in Table 5.1.

Table 5.1: Frequency of Ten Selected Depression Symptoms among LDS Women


Depression Indicators (%)







Get Going


















































































The depression scale was submitted to principal components factor analysis. A standardized individual score was computed for each woman using the regression method (SPSS, 1983). The factor weights for each of the ten depression symptoms are presented in Table 5.2.

Table 5.2: Factor Weights for Items on the Depression Scale



On the average, how many days during the past month did you:


Feel depressed


Feel that you could not shake off the blues


Feel sad


Feel that everything you did was an effort


Feel you could not get going


Have trouble keeping your mind on what you were doing


Feel lonely


Feel bothered by things that don’t usually bother you


Feel fearful


Sleep restlessly


Eigenvalue = 5.59

Alpha Coefficient = .91

“Feelings of depression” produced the strongest weight, followed by not being able to “shake the blues.” The lowest factor weight was obtained for “sleep restlessly.” The eigenvalue of 5.59 and Alpha coefficient of .905 indicate the ten symptoms loaded into a strong unidimensional scale.

Self–esteem was gauged using nine items from the popular Rosenberg scale (Rosenberg, 1979). The items and factor weights are presented in Table 5.3. Not surprisingly, the nine Rosenberg self–esteem items produced a strong scale as well. The eigenvalue is 4.96 and the Alpha coefficient is .895.

A measure of general well–being was obtained by asking, “Taking all things into consideration, how would you say things are these days? Would you say you are very happy, happy, not too happy, un– happy, or very unhappy.” Overall, the women were satisfied with the way life was treating them: 27 percent reported they were “very happy,” 59 percent “happy,” 12 percent “not too happy,” and only 2 percent were either “unhappy” or “very unhappy.”

Table 5.3: Factor Weights for Items on the Self–Esteem Scale



At times I think I am no good



I feel I do not have much to be proud of



All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure



I feel that I have a number of good qualities



I certainly feel useless at times



I feel I am a person of worth at least on an equal plane with others



I wish I could have more respect for myself



I am able to do things as well as most people



On the whole, I am satisfied with myself



Religious beliefs were assessed with questions on traditional Christian beliefs such as “There is a God” and “Jesus is the divine Son of God.” An additional seven items asked about acceptance of unique LDS beliefs including, “Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God” and “The Book of Mormon is the word of God.” The five response categories ranged from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”

Private religious behavior was measured by the frequency of private prayer and scripture study. The responses ranged from “daily” to “never.” Because financial contributions are confidential in the LDS Church, they were also included in private religiosity. The question was, “How much money did you give your church last year?” The responses included, “none,” “0 to 2 percent,” “3 to 5 percent,” “6 to 9 percent,” and “10 percent or more of income.”

Public religious behavior was evaluated by asking the frequency of attendance at four different LDS Sunday services. We also asked how often the women’s families hold family home evening, a program where LDS families participate in religious instruction and recreation each Monday evening. The response categories were “weekly,” “two or three times a month,” “monthly,” “seldom,” and “never.” In addition, the frequencies of family prayer and family scripture reading were obtained. The responses ranged from “daily” to “never.” We also asked the women “Do you hold a church calling(s) at the present time?”

The ten belief items, seven public items, and three private behavior items were submitted to principal components factor analysis. The factor weights for the individual questions ranged from a high of .98 to a low of .41 (see Table 5.4). The eigenvalue is 6.37 for belief, 2.56 for private behavior, and 3.46 for public behavior. The Alpha coefficients are .983 for religious belief and .802 for both private and public behavior.

Employment status was gauged by asking “Are you currently employed?” The response categories included “no,” “yes: part time,” and “yes: full time.” Current employment was coded as a dummy variable with not being employed equal to “zero” and part– and fulltime employment equal to “one.” The number of years the women had participated in the labor force was identified with the following question: “Would you please estimate how many years of your life you have worked for pay, either full or part time? Please add parts of years together.” Finally, employment intentions were measured by asking housewives, “Do you expect to enter the labor force during the next five years?” Working women were asked, “Do you expect to continue working during the next ten years?” The five response categories ranged from “definitely yes” to “definitely no.”

The percent of their adult life the women had spent in the labor force was calculated by subtracting the age they started working full time from their current age. The years of potential employment were divided into the number of years they estimated they had been in the labor force. We computed the percent of total time worked, the percent employed full time and the percent of their adult lives they had worked part time.

Table 5.4: Factor Weights for Items on the Three Religiosity Scales



Religious Belief


The Book of Mormon is the word of God


Joseph Smith was a true prophet


The current President of the Church is a true prophet of God


The Doctrine and Covenants contain revelations from God


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints is the restored church


The Church today is guided by prophetic revelation through the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve


I have the opportunity to become exalted in the Celestial Kingdom


Eigenvalue = 6.37

Alpha = .98

Public Religious Behavior


I attend sacrament meeting


My family has family prayer


I read the Bible or other scriptures with my family


My family holds family home evening


I attend Sunday School


I hold a church calling at the present time


I attend Relief Society


Eigenvalue = 3.46

Alpha = .80

Private Religious Behavior


I pray privately


I read the Bible or other scriptures


Amount of money I gave to my church last year


Eigenvalue = 2.56

Alpha = .80



Frequency of Depression

A substantial percentage of the women in the sample had experienced the ten depression symptoms during the previous month, as can be seen in Table 5.1. The most frequent complaint was “feeling bothered by things that usually don’t bother you”; 80 percent reported they had felt this way at least one day during the month. “Trouble getting going,” “feeling that everything was an effort,” and “feelings of depression” occurred fairly frequently. “Feeling fearful” or “lonely” were the least frequently reported symptoms. The cumulative effect of women experiencing several of these symptoms during the past month is an indication of considerable depression.

Table 5.5: Bivariate Correlations between Measures of Employment, Depression, Self–Esteem, and General Well–Being

Employment Characteristics



General Well–Being

Current employment




Percent of adult life employed part time




Percent of adult life employed full time




Percent of adult life employed both full time and part time




Employment intentions






Significant at .05 level.

Significant at .01 level.


Employment and Mental Health

Employment outside the home has a rather modest relationship to mental health as measured by depression, self–esteem, and general well–being. In Table 5.5, those with a history of full–time employment and those who intended to keep working or to start working are significantly related to depression. Women who have worked full time for a large percentage of their adult life reported greater depression. In addition, current employment is inversely related to general wellbeing. Employed women experience more depression and have less positive feelings about their well–being. On the other hand, percentage of adult life working part time and being currently employed are positively related to feelings of self–esteem. Thus, current employment is negatively related to well–being and positively related to self–esteem. The correlation between self–esteem, and general wellbeing is only .143. Thus, positive relationship of current employment with self–esteem and a negative one with well–being is possible. It seems that having a job, especially a part–time one, helps a woman feel more competent than a housewife, but the pressures of work, home life, and the prospect that the pressures will continue in the future are associated with a little lower sense of well–being and a higher level of depression.

Religiosity and Mental Health

Only private religious behavior was significantly related to feelings of depression (see Table 5.6). Women who frequently read scriptures and prayed privately reported lower levels of depression. Public religious behavior has a significant relationship with self–esteem. In this case, attendance at meetings was related to higher feelings of self–esteem. Interestingly, all three measures of religiosity are significant correlates of general well–being. The relationship with public behavior is strongest, followed by private behavior, and then religious beliefs. Religious women reported more positive feelings of general well–being. Although religiosity is a stronger predictor of depression, self–esteem, and well–being than employment, the relationship to mental health is rather weak.

Table 5.6: Bivariate Correlations between Religiosity, Depression, Self–Esteem, and General Well–Being




General Well–Being





Public behavior




Private behavior






Significant at .05 level.

Significant at .01 level.


Employment, Religiosity, and Mental Health

Multiple–regression analysis allowed the measures of employment and religiosity to simultaneously predict the three measures of mental health. Previous research suggested that age and education are important predictors of mental health and self–esteem, and they probably influence the relationship between employment, religiosity, and mental health. Therefore, we entered age and education in the regression equation first as control variables. Since these women were all married, we included the number of children in the equation as a control factor as well. The multiple regression results of employment and religiosity predicting depression are presented in Table 5.7. Education entered the equation in that the higher the educational attainment of the women, the lower their depression. The number of children also emerged as a predictor. The more children a women had, the greater her depression. It is suspected that the pressures of rearing children contribute to the symptoms of depression. Two measures of employment—percent of adult life employed full time and future employment intentions—emerged as significant correlates. They are positively related to depression. In other words, the greater percentage of their lives these women have worked full time and the stronger their intention to work in the future, the greater their report of the symptoms of depression. Finally, private religious behavior was inversely related to depression. Women who prayed, read the scriptures, and contributed money to their church had lower reports of depression. The R is only .223 and the R2 is .050. This particular combination of factors accounts for only 5 percent of the variation in depression. Although this study’s intent was not to test a comprehensive model of depression, it was anticipated that employment and religiosity would play a larger role than emerged from this analysis. Education, family size, three measures of employment, and one measure of religiosity entered the regression equation predicting depression, but their overall contribution is rather minimal.

Table 5.7: Multiple Regression of Employment, Religiosity, Education, and Number of Children Predicting Depression





P <

Percent adult life employed full time





Intention to be employed










Number of children





Private religious behavior





R = .233

R2 = .050


We regressed employment, religiosity, and the control variables against each of the ten depression symptoms to search for any patterns. The only variable to regularly appear was education, and it was a significant predictor for nine of the ten symptoms. The cumulative effects of employment appeared more often than current employment status. Both the percent of adult life employed full time and future employment intentions were significant for half of the ten indicators. Religiosity had little predictive ability. Both public and private behavior were significant predictors of three symptoms, and belief was only a significant predictor of one. The overall finding is that neither employment nor religiosity has much of a relationship to these symptoms of depression.

Employment, Religiosity, and Self–Esteem

Only three factors entered the regression equation predicting the self–esteem of married LDS women (see Table 5.7). Age was entered first and reveals that the younger women feel better about themselves than do the older women. Education has a positive relationship with self–esteem, and not surprisingly, the greater the education, the stronger the self–esteem. Finally, current employment also evidenced a positive relationship with self–esteem. Those women who are working, both part and full time, have stronger self–esteem than housewives. Thus, one indicator of employment and none of the measures of religiosity made a significant contribution of predicting selfesteem. The R is .171 and the R2 is .029. The low explained variance of self–esteem makes it clear that work experience and religiosity have little to do with the self–esteem of LDS women.

Employment, Religiosity, and General Well–being

First, the number of children made a significant contribution to predicting well–being. The more children a women reported she had, the lower her feelings of well–being. Public religious behavior, primarily attendance at religious services, entered the regression equation predicting significantly stronger feelings of well–being. The women’s future employment intentions had an inverse relationship. Both those women who don’t work and perceive that they will con tinue to remain out of the labor force, and women who are employed but expect to quit in the relatively near future had a greater sense of well–being. These three factors produced an R of .265 and R2 of .070. Both employment and religion made a rather small contribution to understanding the general well–being of married LDS women.


Women in the LDS Church have frequently been identified as being at risk for depression and other mental or emotional illnesses. The conservative religious doctrine, including an emphasis on mother remaining in the home, is seen by some to cause guilt among those who work, and frustration among those “coerced” to remain in the home. Both guilt and frustration are felt by some to facilitate feelings of depression and low self–esteem. Married, working LDS women with children are viewed as being particularly at risk, especially if they are highly religious. Previous research has revealed that religiosity has several dimensions, each of which may have different relationships to mental health. Employment is also more complex than current employment status, and a long history of work or the prospect of future employment are important dimensions. Therefore, we included three measures of religiosity and four measures of employment in predicting mental health, self–esteem, and general wellbeing. In spite of these efforts, the accumulative or interaction effects of religiosity and employment have little relationship to the mental health among this sample of married LDS women. LDS women, regardless of their level of religiosity, have been able to reconcile their employment experience with church doctrine emphasizing family over employment.

The results are comforting to LDS women as neither their religiosity nor their employment is significantly related to their mental health. Highly religious married LDS women who work are no more at risk of mental illness than are less religious women or housewives. These findings are consistent with most of the previous research, particularly the more recent work reviewed by Bergin et al. (1994). More adequate explanations of the mental health, self–esteem, and wellbeing among married LDS women will have to include other factors.


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