Australian parents’ work–family conflict: accumulated effects on children’s family environment and mental health Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • PURPOSE:Many parents struggle to balance their work and family responsibilities. Yet, little research in the field of social psychiatry has explored the emergence of work-family conflict (WFC) as an important social determinant of mental health, particularly for children. The current study used longitudinal Australian population-based data to investigate the impact of parents' accumulated experiences of work-family conflict on children's mental health. Levels of parent psychological distress, marital satisfaction and parenting irritability were examined as potential explanatory factors within the family environment. METHODS:The study used five waves of data from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), a representative community sample of Australian children and their parents. Analyses were restricted to coupled, employed mothers (1903) and fathers (1584) who reported their WFC levels in all five waves. Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) was used to examine the association between accumulated experiences of work-family conflict across all time-points (AWFC) and children's mental health at wave 5. Family environment factors were assessed as possible explanatory mediators. RESULTS:There was a significant association between AWFC and children's mental health at wave 5. Parent psychological distress, marital satisfaction and parenting irritability were all found to significantly explain this association (accounting for 66% of the total effect). CONCLUSIONS:Children whose parents have ongoing or accumulated difficulties managing their work and family responsibilities are more likely to have poorer mental health. This has important implications for family-friendly work arrangements and demonstrates the need to further understand the intergenerational impacts of parents' jobs on their children's psychological wellbeing.

publication date

  • 2020