Methods: Data were collected by trained interviewers using a semi-structured interview guide. Interviews were transcribed and entered into NVivo qualitative analysis software. A coding scheme was developed by a 4-person research team and refined until it could be implemented consistently across coders. The data were then coded descriptively. Analyses to answer the current research questions were done by extracting the theoretically-relevant codes from the data (e.g., schedule, child-related codes, family leisure) and completing further analysis to identify emerging themes. In addition to general descriptive coding, causation coding was used to identify the specific pathways through which parents perceived and responded to work-family interaction. Together, these two styles of coding highlighted key themes across parents as well as mechanisms by which parents experienced and coped with work-family interaction.
Results: Despite their comparatively better jobs, analyses indicate that workers in the sample experience significant and negative work-family conflict with potentially serious implications for parenting and child outcomes. Findings include: 1) despite protective scheduling policies, family time is frequently affected by rotating schedules and the need to make ends meet through overtime; 2) parents rely on family to provide child care and child enrichment activities; 3) data show limited informal supports in the workplace. Illustrative case examples will be presented to provide evidence of these themes and articulate the pathways through which parents navigate work-family interaction.
Conclusions and Implications: Work-family interaction research has important implications for social work. Large-scale studies may miss nuances in the interactions between low-wage workers and their environments. In-depth analysis of individuals’ experiences of and strategies to cope with work-family conflict reveals information relevant to social work research, practice, and advocacy. This work helps to fill a gap in the work-family research, demonstrating how people with relatively “good” jobs (e.g., fringe benefits, engaging work, effective scheduling policies) and higher wages within the lower-end of the income range articulate challenges with work-family balance, delineating potentially serious effects on parenting and child outcomes. Implications for labor rights and income inequality will be shared while also discussing how social workers in other areas of practice can complement this work by helping individuals and communities fill gaps in services and alleviate stressors faced by parents revealed through these analyses.