Children concerned over growing work-life imbalance

By Greg Ansley

A new study has found children are affected by parents who bring their work home.
Photo / Thinkstock
A new study has found children are affected by parents who bring their work home. Photo / Thinkstock

Many Australian children believe their parents work too hard, bringing stress home to eat into family time, a study has found.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies, which also found that parents shared their children's concerns, follows a series of reports warning of a growing imbalance between home and work.

The institute's study of 10- and 11-year-olds found more than a third worried that their fathers worked too hard, with 27 per cent holding the same concern for their mothers.

Institute director Professor Alan Hayes said parents were also feeling the heat.

He said 23 per cent of mothers believed that work made family time less enjoyable and more pressured.

Hayes said getting the balance right was important as children relied on their parents for support.

But work remained important.

Institute researcher Dr Jennifer Baxter said that as well as the financial rewards, paid employment could hold benefits for parents including social interaction and satisfaction in doing meaningful or interesting work.

These benefits flowed 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."

Baxter said that most of the pressure on families occurred when children were young.

Parents were increasingly likely to say that work had a positive effect on their children as they grew older.

By age 10 or 11, more than half of the children often helped around the house, with a further third "sometimes" lending a hand.

The study reinforces other research into work and family life.

The Bureau of Statistics found that 24 per cent of full-time employees worked 49 or more hours a week, much of it often unpaid. Among almost two-thirds of couples with children, both parents worked.

One or both of the parents in about half of these families worked variable hours or were on call, and in almost 60 per cent one or both parents usually worked at least some hours at night.

The bureau also found that working extra hours - paid or unpaid - and a combination of weekdays and weekends was common among Australian families.

The University of South Australia's Centre for Work and Life reported in 2010 that two-thirds of women, and half of the nation's men, consistently felt under pressure.

The worst hit were service workers in industries such as health, education, retail, food and accommodation, and managerial and professional workers.

Professional women were especially hard hit.

- NZ Herald

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