Working mothers are healthier and happier than mothers who stay at home during their children’s infancy and pre-school years, according to a new study.

The research results were published by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Family Psychology on Monday.

Mothers who worked part time reported better overall health and fewer symptoms of depression when compared to mother who stayed at home, the study said.

Mothers who worked part time were as equally involved in their children’s school as mothers who stayed at home. However both groups were more involved than moms who worked full time.

Additionally mothers who worked part time appeared to be more attentive with their pre-school children and provided more learning opportunities for their toddlers than stay-at-home mothers and mothers working full time, the study found. 

The study used data beginning in 1991 from the  National Institute for Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. 

It also included interviews with 1,364 mothers shortly after birth of their child and also interviews and observations made 10 years afterward.

"In all cases with significant differences in maternal well-being, such as conflict between work and family or parenting, the comparison favored part-time work over full-time or not working," said lead author Cheryl Buehler, professor of human development and family studies, at the University of North Carolina in a statement. "However, in many cases the well-being of moms working part time was no different from moms working full time."

Researchers also said that in light of the current economic situation, many employers are looking for ways to save and will generally hire more part-time than full time employees because part-time workers do not receive the same level of benefits, like health insurance, training and career advancement. 

One study author recommended proportional employer benefits.

"Since part-time work seems to contribute to the strength and well-being of families, it would be beneficial to employers if they provide fringe benefits, at least proportionally, to part-time employees as well as offer them career ladders through training and promotion," said study co-author Marion O'Brien, PhD, professor of human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina.

The study defined part- time employment as between one to 32 hours per week.  The participants in the study were from 10 locations across the U.S., and included 24 percent ethnic minorities, 1 percent without a high school degree, and 14 percent single parents.  25 percent of the total participants were employed part time, although many participants moved in and out of part- time work.