Work spilling over into family time

Work spilling over into family time

Media Release — 14 May 2012

Competing demands between family time and paid employment has left some Australian children reporting that their parents are working too much, according to new research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Australian Institute of Family Studies Director, Professor Alan Hayes said the study showed Australian children are affected by the spill over of parents’ work-related worry or stress into family time and some report that their parents are spending too much time at work.

"A study of 10-11 year olds with a mother or father in paid work found that 35 per cent reported that their father worked too much, while 27 per cent said that their mother worked too much," he said.

"Parents were also feeling the pressure, with 23 per cent of mothers saying that work made family time less enjoyable and more pressured.

"When mothers said work made family time less fun, the children tended to agree with them. Roughly a third of children also said that their mother worked too much.

"Similarly, when fathers said work made family time less fun, 43 per cent of children also said that their father worked too much.

"Finding a way of meeting the demands of paid work, as well as taking care of children is difficult for many parents and underlines the need for workplaces to continue to adopt more flexible approaches to allow their employees to manage their family responsibilities.”

Professor Hayes said getting the balance right was important as children rely on their parents for advice and support.

"Mothers were most often consulted when their children had problems. For boys, fathers were the next most common source of help when they had difficulties, while girls were more likely to go to their friends next, ahead of their fathers," he said.

The research is drawn from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children and published in a fact sheet Families make all the difference: Helping kids to grow and learn released today as part of 2012 National Families Week.

AIFS researcher Dr Jennifer Baxter said that despite inherent work-family tensions, parents gained benefits from being in paid employment.

"Apart from the financial rewards, paid employment can have a range of benefits for parents including experiencing social interaction and feeling satisfied doing meaningful or interesting work and these benefits flow through to their children," she said.

"Our research found that among employed parents of children aged 10-11 years, 67 per cent of both mothers and fathers said that work had a positive effect on their children."

Dr Baxter said that most of the pressure on families occurred when the children were young and that as they grew older, parents were increasingly likely to say that work had a positive effect on their children.

By the time children were aged 10-11, many were also helping around the home with housework.

For example, among children aged 10-11 years:

  • 53 per cent often helped around the house
  • 36 per cent sometimes helped around the house; and
  • 11 per cent seldom or never helped around the house.

Getting enough sleep was also important in families striking a balance between home, school and work.

The study found that children have a range of difficulties with sleeping that can be challenging for parents to manage.

For example:

  • At age 0-1, 53 per cent of children were reported to have a sleep problem.
  • At age 2-3 and 4-5, just over 50 per cent had a sleep problem.
  • Sleep problems declined for older children although some experienced difficulty getting to sleep, sleeping alone and seeming tired.

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