Academic journal article Family Relations

All in a Day's Work: Job Experiences, Self-Esteem, and Fathering in Working-Class Families

Academic journal article Family Relations

All in a Day's Work: Job Experiences, Self-Esteem, and Fathering in Working-Class Families

Article excerpt

In recent years, research on fatherhood has increased, and researchers have demonstrated that fathers can form close, affectionate bonds with their children (Abelin, 1971; Barnett & Baruch, 1987; Schaffer & Emerson, 1964), as well as influence their children's social, emotional, and intellectual development (Lamb, 1981, 1987). Research now focuses on the various antecedents and consequences of differing degrees and types of fathering behavior. Numerous factors have been found to be related to fathers' parenting style.

According to Volling and Belsky (1991), these factors can be grouped into three basic domains, including the characteristics of the child, characteristics of the father, and social-contextual influences. Child characteristics, such as temperament (Sirignano & Lachman, 1985), age (DeLuccie & Davis, 1990), and gender (Marsiglio, 1991), can influence a father's parental self-efficacy, acceptance of his child, participation in child care, and satisfaction with parenting. In addition, characteristics of fathers, such as personality (Heath, 1976), psychosocial competence (i.e., self-efficacy, coping styles; Mondell & Tyler, 1981), and attitudes about parenting and the father role (Levy-Shiff & Israelashvili, 1988) have been related to the level of parental competency, warm and rejecting parental behaviors, discipline styles, and participation in child care. Finally, social-contextual influences, such as fathers' marital relationships (Levy-Shiff & Israelashvili, 1988), intergenerational relationships (Barnett & Baruch, 1987), and maternal employment status (Barnett & Baruch, 1987; Crouter, Perry-Jenkins, Huston, McHale, 1987), have been linked to men's views of themselves as fathers, the quality of interaction with their children, the amount of time spent with their children, and their participation in child care.

Another contextual variable that may influence paternal behavior, but which has yet to be adequately addressed, is paternal work experiences. Researchers have attempted to link employment with parenting; however, much of that work concentrates on mothers alone (Greenberger & Goldberg, 1988). Another shortcoming of this research is the way work is typically operationalized. Employment is often treated in simple terms--such as employed versus unemployed, or part-versus full-time employment--an approach that ignores many other potentially important dimensions of work, such as autonomy, co-worker relations, or complexity of tasks. Each of these components may contribute separately to the overall effect of work on parental well-being and parenting behavior (Menaghan & Parcel, 1990). In addition to assessing multiple aspects of the employment experience, it is critical for researchers and practitioners to recognize that dimensions of the job may have direct and indirect effects on family life. Hoffman (1987) proposes that it is often not the direct effects of employment per se that influence family relationships and children's well-being, but rather the indirect effects of employment on individual well-being that, in turn, hold implications for family life.

The lack of research investigating the relationship between fathers' work and parenting has been coupled with a lack of attention to how these relationships may vary by social class (Mortimer & London, 1984). Little is known about the experiences of working-class men in dual-earner families and how they cope with work-family issues. Finally, previous research that has attempted to link work and parenting typically addresses only parents' perceptions, and at times teacher assessments, with children's views receiving far less attention. Thus, research that examines the effects of employment on parental behaviors often assumes that these behaviors are perceived and experienced in the same way by children and parents. In a recent edited volume on the topic of shared family perceptions, Paikoff (1991) presents a compelling case for examining the divergent perceptions of family life that parents and children often experience. …

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