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Mon May 1, 2017, 12:51 PM


Parenting Stress among Low-Income and Working-Class Fathers: The Role of Employment

Interesting article published by the National Institute of Health.

Abstract: Contemporary norms of fatherhood emphasize the dual demands of breadwinning and daily involvement in childcare. Recent qualitative research suggests that working-class fathers find it difficult to meet these demands due to job instability and workplace inflexibility. Yet, little quantitative research has examined how employment characteristics are related to fathers’ parenting stress, in comparison with mothers’. Analyses using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 3,165) show that unemployment and workplace inflexibility, but not overwork, multiple jobs, odd-jobs, and nonstandard hours, are related to more parenting stress for fathers. Although these two factors are also related to more parenting stress for mothers, nuanced gender differences emerged: these are better predictors than other parental or child characteristics for fathers only, and the effect size of workplace inflexibility is greater for fathers than mothers. In sum, securing a job with flexible schedule is central to reducing fathers’ parenting stress.

The changing roles of U.S. fathers reflect increasing expectations for men to be involved in the daily care of their children, while continuing to be the primary financial providers (Lamb, 2000; McGill, 2014; Townsend, 2002). Whereas past research has largely focused on middle-class fathers, some studies have shown that the new norms of dual demands of fatherhood are in fact particularly relevant to working-class fathers (Williams, 2010a). Working-class fathers are less likely than middle-class fathers to ideologically emphasize gender equality, but they are more likely to be involved in daily lives of their children, in part because their spouse/partner tends to have a job that does not have a flexible schedule and they cannot afford nonparental care (Shows & Gerstel, 2009).

Under current economic and workplace circumstances, achieving the dual demands is not easy for working-class fathers. As low- and semi-skilled manufacturing jobs are replaced by automation or transferred overseas, economic prospects for men without a college degree have declined in the past decades (Levy, 1998). In addition, jobs that are available for men without a college degree typically do not offer flexible schedules that would allow them to attend to their children’s needs (Heymann, 2000; Williams, 2010b). Qualitative studies have shown that working-class fathers feel considerable stress in the parenting role due to difficulties in keeping a job or negotiating accommodations in the workplace for their caregiving responsibility (Fox, 2009; Roy & Dyson, 2010; Williams, 2010a).

...fathers who are not currently employed report a higher level of parenting stress than employed fathers. Unlike the emphasis on uniqueness of the importance of the breadwinning ideal in shaping fathers’ parenting stress, not having a job is related to a higher level of parenting stress for mothers as well. This is consistent with prior findings that used a more affluent sample (Nomaguchi & Brown, 2011). Workplace inflexibility is also related to both fathers’ and mothers’ parenting stress. This finding is in line with other research findings that fathers’ sense of work-family conflict has increased to the same level of mothers’ in recent decades (Nomaguchi, 2009; Winslow, 2005). Other job characteristics, such as overwork, working multiple jobs or nonstandard hours, or taking informal jobs, were not related to fathers’ as well as mothers’ parenting stress. It may be that working-class fathers and mothers work long hours, have multiple jobs, or take informal jobs in order to earn enough to support the family or to avoid being fired, and thus they tend to feel that they are doing what they are supposed to do for their children (Williams, 2010a). In all, unemployment and workplace inflexibility are key employment characteristics that are related to parenting stress for both fathers and mothers.

Nevertheless, we found some indications that unemployment and workplace inflexibility play a more important role in shaping fathers’ than mothers’ parenting stress. First, unemployment and workplace inflexibility are the best predictors of parenting stress for fathers, whereas for mothers, other factors such as chronic depression and frequencies of engagement with children are as important or more important predictors of parenting stress. Second, fathers’ parenting stress is more susceptible to occasional (but not chronic) workplace inflexibility than mothers’ stress. Prior research suggests that parents tend to feel more stressed when they face demands in the role for which they do not assume the primary responsibility (Nomaguchi, 2012). It is possible that fathers who “sometimes” experience workplace inflexibility do not necessarily assume daily child care responsibility but occasionally need to pitch in when mothers are not available. As Williams (2010a) noted, these fathers may face challenges in asking their supervisors to provide them with accommodations for their child care responsibilities. Third, the effect size of workplace inflexibility is greater for fathers than for mothers. Finally, more fathers than mothers report a higher level of workplace inflexibility. All in all, these results are consistent with qualitative research that highlighted unemployment and workplace inflexibility as key sources of parenting stress for fathers in comparison to mothers (Fox, 2009; Williams 2010a).

These findings suggest policy implications for the needs to create workplace flexibility to promote the well-being of working-class fathers and mothers. In our findings, fathers and mothers who experience chronic workplace inflexibility report more parenting stress than their counterparts who are not employed, suggesting that just having a job does not help parents unless the job allows them to attend their child care responsibilities. Williams (2010b) suggests that many working-class jobs—e.g., jobs in factories or hospitals and emergency services such as the police or the fire department—require employees to be on-sites for specific hours. Thus, policies such as job sharing and two-hour increments of personal time may provide employees in these occupations with flexibility to attend family responsibilities. Furthermore, to ease fathers’ parenting stress, an additional change is warranted: employers must adjust their workplace culture to the reality that many low-wage and working-class men today have caregiving responsibilities (Williams, 2010a).


Any thoughts?

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YoungDemCA May 2017 OP
YoungDemCA May 2017 #1

Response to YoungDemCA (Original post)

Thu May 4, 2017, 02:42 PM

1. Kick. (nt)


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