Academic journal article Michigan Family Review

Wrinkles in Parental Time with Children: Work, Family Structure, and Gender

Academic journal article Michigan Family Review

Wrinkles in Parental Time with Children: Work, Family Structure, and Gender

Article excerpt

The two key resources parents provide for their children are money and time (Thomson, Hanson, & McLanahan, 1994). Yet parental efforts to earn and provide money for their children inevitably require time committed to paid labor. These time commitments to paid labor have the potential to directly take time away from one's family, including spouses and children, and often have the tendency to intrude upon the quality of time spent in the family arena. In a similar manner, one's time committed to paid labor may result in a significant reallocation of time in bdomestic activities for oneself and other family members. In addition, feelings of overwork or stress from paid work have the potential to intrude on the time one does spend with family members. Taken together, it is clear that one's participation in the paid labor force has tremendous implications for the amount, allocation, and quality of time spent in the family arena.

One of the most drastic societal changes over the past few decades has been the increase in women's employment, particularly among mothers. This increase in women's paid labor has elicited much public and academic concern regarding how the employment of mothers affects children (Casper & Bianchi, 2002). Although a worthwhile concern, it is important to acknowledge the full range of potential impact parental employment, especially of mothers, has on parents' time with children. This includes greater attention to how the amount of mothers' and fathers' time with children is influenced, how work schedules influence time allocation, and how parents' feelings about their time commitments may have consequences for the time they do spend in the family arena. In addition, appropriate assessments of parental employment as it relates to time must also make important acknowledgments about family structure, the changing nature of work and work scheduling, and gender. Indeed, maternal employment is likely to have different implications for single mothers than for married mothers; just as emerging workplace technologies and policies may influence a successful balance of work and family time commitments. Moreover, parents' feelings of achieving a successful balance of work and family time are undoubtedly influenced by the gendered nature of work and family roles. Assessments of all of these factors make important contributions to our understanding of how parents' participation in the paid labor force has ripple effects on time allocation and quality within the family, and point to many future directions for future research.

Our goal is to review the literature on families and time. First, we review the literature which assesses how parents, according to labor force status, allocate their time. Next, we review how work schedules, rather than work hours, influence time with children. Next, we review how the demands of work and family make mothers and fathers feel about time, especially that which they spend with their children. We conclude with the identification of several directions for future research regarding the wrinkles in parental time with children formed by the factors of work, family structure, and gender.

Allocation of Parental Time with Children

Parental time with children is both an important and necessary component of families. The positive influence of parental time with children on child outcomes is well established in the existing literature (Amato & Rivera, 1999; Cooksey & Fondell, 1996; Hofferth, 2006). Research has clearly demonstrated the amount of time spent with both mothers and fathers each independently predicts fewer behavioral problems later in childhood (Amato & Rivera, 1999; Hofferth, 2006). Parental time with children is also positively associated with better academic performance (Cooksey & Fondell, 1996). Moreover, Hofferth and Sandberg (2001) suggest that time with parents provide opportunities for children's social, cognitive, and emotional development. …

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