Session: Parental Employment, Work-Family Policy, and Family Well-Being (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

171 Parental Employment, Work-Family Policy, and Family Well-Being

Friday, January 14, 2022: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Congress, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Cluster: Work and Work-Life Policies and Programs
Symposium Organizer:
Anna Walther, BS, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Julia Henly, PhD, University of Chicago and Jennifer Romich, PhD, University of Washington
Questions of family well-being in the U.S. cannot be considered independent of paid work: in 2019, 70% of mothers and 91% of fathers were employed (BLS 2020). Parents are navigating an increasingly bifurcated labor market, marked by unprecedented wage stagnation, employment instability and earnings volatility, and decreased job quality at the bottom of the income distribution (OECD 2015). Working parents of color, single earners, and other parents from other disempowered groups navigate particular challenges; these include reconciling erratic work schedules with family needs (Harknett, Schneider, & Luhr, 2020), meeting family financial commitments--like child support--on low wages (Miller, Thomas, Dwyer-Emory, Nepomnyaschy, & Waller, 2020), and uneven access to work-family supports, like state paid family leave (Ybarra, Stanczyk, & Ha, 2019). The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified these challenges, and work-family policy is taking center stage in the American policy arena. This begs questions for social welfare scholars to answer: are modern parents' work schedules supportive or detrimental to parent-child engagement and family well-being? Can policy solutions garnering national attention, like minimum wage increases and paid family leave, improve family well-being by increasing parents' time and money investments in their children?

The first two papers explore how parental employment conditions contribute to parent-child engagement and family wellbeing. The first uses a sample of low-income parents receiving child care subsidies to ask how different dimensions of precarious work schedules--schedule instability and unpredictability--are associated with child behavior. Frequent shift changes and the need to leave early/stay late unexpectedly were each associated with more child behavior problems via increases in work-family conflict, parenting stress, and material hardship. The second paper finds that parents' work schedule flexibility and ability to work from home were positively associated with parental time in developmentally-supportive parenting activities, especially among single mothers. Together, these studies suggest that the nature of parents' work schedules might empower or restrict their ability to support healthy child development.

The third and fourth papers interrogate the role of salient work-family policies--paid family leave and minimum wage--in empowering working parents to successfully engage with and invest in their children. The third paper uses recent data from a national survey of fathers to examine how access to paid and unpaid leave is associated with paternal-child attachment and fathers' involvement in caretaking. Fathers' ability to take time off after a child's birth, particularly paid leave, and the duration of leave were linked to attachment and caregiving involvement. Using administrative data from Washington state, the fourth paper examines the role of minimum wage increases in non-custodial parents' child support payments. It finds that low-income noncustodial parents working in jurisdictions with minimum wage increases made substantially higher child support payments.

This symposium advances knowledge on how parental work conditions--and the policies that shape them--contribute to family wellbeing. Findings lend support for Fair Workweek laws that give workers more control over and flexibility in their work schedules. They also highlight the potential benefits to families, particularly low-income families, of increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 and implementing federal paid family leave.

* noted as presenting author
Mechanisms Connecting Unstable Work to Child Outcomes Among Child Care Subsidy Recipients
Anna Walther, BS, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Alejandra Pilarz, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Parents' Flexible Work Arrangements and Developmental Parenting Time
Jaeseung Kim, PhD, University of South Carolina; Jennifer March Augustine, PhD, University of South Carolina; Mina Lee, MSW, University of Chicago
Fathers' Leave-Taking, Paternal Attachment, and Paternal Involvement
Linda Houser, PhD, Widener University; Mariah Schug, PhD, Widener University; Margo Campbell, PhD, Widener University
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