Date of Award

Fall 12-2017

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis


Community Health Sciences

First Advisor

Danielle Fastring

Advisor Department

Community Health Sciences


Study objective: Increased maternity leave has been shown to have a positive impact on maternal and child health, and increases the length of time that mothers breastfeed their infants. After childbirth, working women must decide if/when they will return to the workforce. These decisions are based on many factors. The purpose of this project is to determine the impact of current United States’ (US) family leave policies on Mississippi mothers’ decisions to return to work after the birth of their first child.

Study Design and Methods: A comprehensive survey was developed to collect information about mothers’ decisions to return to work after the birth of their first child. The survey consisted of 100 questions, collected eligibility information, demographics, education and income level, length of maternity leave taken, breastfeeding practices, and household composition from participants. Additionally, the attitudes toward US family leave polices and their impacts were assessed. The survey was distributed online via Qualtrics (Qualtrics, Provo, UT). Participants were recruited via an informational card containing a link to the survey that was distributed at local major retailers, child-care facilities, and Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) Distribution Centers.

Results of the study: Mississippi mothers were negatively impacted financially by their first pregnancies. The majority of women’s maternity leave was limited by the amount of paid time off they had accrued on their jobs. Most would have taken longer maternity leave if they had been financially able to do so. Results may be used to promote maternity leave awareness and educate policy makers about the need for paid maternity leave in the United States.