Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parental Work Demands and the Frequency of Child-Related Routine and Interactive Activities

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parental Work Demands and the Frequency of Child-Related Routine and Interactive Activities

Article excerpt

This study examined whether the frequency of child-related activities was associated with parents' own work demands and those of their partners. In addition to parental paid working hours, we considered the parents' organizational culture and experienced job insecurity. Moreover, we differentiated between child-related routine and interactive activities. Using self-collected data on 639 Dutch couples with children, we found that paid working hours were consistently associated with a lower frequency of child-related activities. Fathers generally responded more strongly to their own and their partner's work demands than mothers. For fathers, both their own and their partner's work demands were more strongly associated with routine than with interactive activities. Mothers did not differentiate between these activities, however.

Key Words: child care, families and work, interaction, parent-child relations, structural equation modeling, time use.

Over the past decades, the number of dualearner families has increased dramatically in Western societies (Bianchi, Robinson, & Milkie, 2006), and the feeling of being under time pressure has become widespread (Hochschild, 1997; Roxburgh, 2006). There is a general concern in society that this has detrimental consequences for the time that parents spend with their children (Bianchi, 2000). Although child development research has shown that parental involvement does indeed increase children's well-being (e.g., Bogenschneider, 1997; Yabiku, Axinn, & Thornton, 1999), work-family research focusing on the influence of parental work demands on the time spent with children generally found that the effects are small and inconsistent (e.g., Aldous, Mulligan, & Bjarnason, 1998; Bianchi; Bianchi étal.; Brayfield, 1995; Crouter, Bumpus, Head, & McHaIe, 2001; McBride & Mills, 1993; Nock & Kingston, 1988; Peterson & Gerson, 1992; Robinson & Godbey, 1999; Zick & Bryant, 1 996). Moreover, international research has shown that the time parents spend with their children has increased in recent decades, even though mothers are entering the workforce in growing numbers and working life has become more demanding (Gauthier, Smeeding, & Furstenberg, 2004).

It is often suggested that paid employment has only a minor impact on the time parents spend with children because parents, and especially mothers, are very protective of this time (Bianchi, 2000; Nock & Kingston, 1988). In this article, we reexamine this assumption and analyze how parental involvement in childrelated activities is associated with parents' own work demands as well as with those of their partners. We argue that it may be premature to claim that parental work demands do not affect this aspect of family life, for two reasons.

First, previous research may have underestimated the effects of parental employment on certain types of child-related activities. Most studies have considered the total time parents spend with their children and may have therefore underestimated the impact of work demands on one particular type of activity while overestimating the impact on another. Robinson and Godbey (1999) and Bianchi et al. (2006) distinguish between two fundamentally different child-related activities: routine activities, involving daily care (such as feeding or dressing a child), and interactive activities, involving the active supervision and education of children (such as reading to a child or playing together). Routine activities are less intensive, more obligatory in nature, in the sense that they cannot easily be postponed or curtailed, and have a lower intrinsic value than interactive activities. Although previous research has differentiated between these activities in the analysis of time-use trends (Bianchi et al.; Gauthier et al., 2004; Robinson & Godbey), there are no studies investigating whether paid work affects the two activities differently. It is likely, however, that parental work demands intrude less on routine activities than on interactive ones, because the latter are more flexible and can be postponed more easily. …

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