Study addresses impact of poor work-life balance in workers’ children

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Photo: ambermb, Pixabay

A study led by the Australian National University found that poor work-life balance and high-stress environment can put workers’ children at risk of developing mental health issues.

The researchers said the study, underlined the need for employers and policymakers to promote a healthy work-life balance.

The study observed around 2,500 working couples and their children over 10 years as part of the ‘Growing Up in Australia’ research project.

The study’s lead researcher Dr. Huong Dinh from ANY said children were at the highest risk when both of the parents experienced conflict between their job and family time. This usually happens if they worked in jobs with heavy workloads, long hours and job insecurity.

Dr. Dinh said six out of 10 working couples had at some point struggled to manage work and family commitments, and one in seven experienced prolonged periods when one parent was not managing these commitments well.

“When parents struggle to juggle family and work responsibilities, they become tired, stressed, cranky and unhappy, which has an impact on family relationships and their children’s wellbeing,” she said.

“We show that when employment and family are in conflict with each other, this undermines the health of both parents and their children – and this occurs when either fathers or mothers are in very demanding or inflexible jobs.”

Professor Strazdins from the ANU Research School of Population Health said research revealed that on average across the Australian population, fathers spend more time at paid work than mothers, who take on more care and domestic responsibilities.

“Mothers are more likely to tailor their work around children’s needs, doing flexible or part-time work, and taking time off work to look after a sick child,” said Prof. Strazdins.

Co-researcher Dr. Amanda Cooklin from La Trobe University said employers need to provide family-friendly workplaces for parents so that children can flourish.

“Jobs with manageable hours, autonomy, flexibility and security will not only support the health and wellbeing of workers but will also protect the mental health of children,” she said.

“Flexible work arrangements are usually targeted at mothers, but fathers also benefit from these kinds of arrangements – as do their children.”

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