The findings, by Murdoch Children's and the Parenting Research Centre, show that issues in the workplace such as lack of access to paid parental leave, inflexible hours and job insecurity are linked to psychological distress in mothers of young children.
The study collected data from 1300 mothers who took part in the Federal Government's Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.
It found only one in five mothers returned to jobs that provided optimal conditions for balancing their work and family commitments. Women who had the least favourable employment conditions were one and a half times more likely to report psychological distress than women with the most optimal employment conditions.
Co-author A/Professor Jan Nicholson said the findings showed poor employment conditions further undermined mothers' wellbeing at a time when they and their children were particularly vulnerable.