Session: Parental Employment Conditions and Family Wellbeing (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

40 Parental Employment Conditions and Family Wellbeing

Wednesday, January 20, 2021: 2:45 PM-3:45 PM
Cluster: Work and Work-Life Policies and Programs
Symposium Organizer:
Alejandra Pilarz, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Julia Henly, PhD, University of Chicago
Balancing work and family responsibilities is a key challenge of modern parenting with important implications for family wellbeing. In 2019, 70% of mothers and 91% of fathers were employed, but their employment conditions varied widely. While jobs with higher wages, benefits, and security are supportive of family wellbeing, precarious jobs that require nonstandard work hours and have unstable work hours and schedules may hinder parents' ability to manage work and family and be detrimental to parental and child wellbeing. Understanding how work conditions matter for family wellbeing is critical for advocating for labor market regulations and social policies that better support working families, particularly low-income families who are more likely to work low-wage and precarious jobs. The three papers in this symposium advance knowledge on how parental employment conditions--nonstandard work schedules, involuntary part-time employment, and workplace climate--matter for family wellbeing, with attention to the mechanisms through which these effects might operate.

The first paper uses unique children's time diary data from a nationally-representative study to examine how mothers' nonstandard work schedules are associated with child cognitive and socioemotional outcomes and whether the amount and quality of time that children spend engaged with their parents explains these associations. Preliminary results show that nonstandard work schedules are associated with more internalizing behavior problems in children as well as with children's engaged time with parents, with key differences by family structure and child age.

The second paper examines how underemployment--involuntarily working part-time due to inability to obtain full-time employment--matters for workers' health, focusing on differences by gender and parental status. Using data from a nationally-representative survey, the study finds that involuntary part-time employment is consistently associated with poorer self-rated health, relative to working full-time or voluntarily working part-time. However, voluntary part-time employment is associated with better heath outcomes compared to full-time employment, particularly among mothers with young children. The associations between involuntary part-time employment and health were partially explained by increased risk for material hardship.

The third paper focuses on the role of workplace climate in mitigating or exacerbating work-family conflict, drawing from in-depth qualitative interviews with parents employed in lower-wage hospital jobs. Findings reveal three impactful aspects of workplace climate: effectiveness of supervision and management, strength and tenor of coworker relationships, and power of voice in the workplace. An unsupportive workplace climate had significant negative effects on parents and their families, including exhaustion, increased stress and work-family conflict, and lack of energy to participate in family activities. By contrast, workers who felt they had effective supervisors and teams reported less stress and work spillover.

These three papers identify employment conditions that can support or undermine family wellbeing. Findings highlight the need for fair scheduling laws that allow workers the right to request scheduling accommodations, as well as recently proposed "part-time workers' bill of rights" laws that guarantee hours and benefits to part-time workers. Findings also underscore the importance of workplace policies and call for further research on workplace interventions that promote a positive climate for working parents.

* noted as presenting author
Mothers' Work Schedules, Children's Time with Parents, and Child Development
Alejandra Pilarz, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Underemployment and Its Health Consequence for Working Families in the US
Jaeseung Kim, PhD, University of South Carolina; Lonnie Golden, PhD
A Qualitative Study of Work-Family Conflict Among Low-Wage Parents: The Role of Workplace Climate
Kess Ballentine, MA, MSW, University of Pittsburgh; Jihee Woo, MSW, University of Pittsburgh; Sara Goodkind, PhD, MSW, University of Pittsburgh
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