Academic journal article Family Relations

Employee Family Care Responsibilities

Academic journal article Family Relations

Employee Family Care Responsibilities

Article excerpt

This study examined the full range of family care responsibilities, including care for children and for ill and disabled adults, among employees of a government-funded research center Utilizing a family care model drawn from stress and coping and role theory perspectives, caregiving strain and occupational impacts were modeled in terms of type of care provided, work and family demands, resources available at home and at work, and background characteristics. Significant contributors to both caregiving strain and occupational impacts included type of care provided, as well as employee age and ethnicity, care recipient disability, problems with care arrangements, work demands, and lack of assistance with family responsibilities. Employees with child care responsibilities were found to experience higher levels of caregiving strain and occupational impacts than were employees caring for adults only. The implications of these findings for practitioners and for the development of programs geared toward employees' differential family responsibilities are discussed.

Key Words: caregiving, dependent care, family, work.

Resulting from a variety of social and demographic factors, such as the increased numbers of women in the formal labor market (U.S. Department of Labor, 1994) and the growing number of adult persons in need of long-term care assistance (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1993), more persons than ever before are combining family care and employment responsibilities. Today nearly 60% of mothers and 80% of fathers with children under the age of 6 are employed (U.S. Department of Labor, 1994). In addition, more than 80% of the long-term care assistance needed by older adults is provided by family members (U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, 1985-86), of whom approximately one-half are employed full-time (NAC/AARP, 1997).

It is estimated that approximately 1.8 million women are caring for both children and an elderly relative, and that more than 50% of these women are employed (Older Women's League, 1989). Approximately 3% of working women have children under the age of 15 as well as care for a disabled parent (Stone & Kemper, 1989). Moreover, increased life expectancies (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1993) combined with a tendency among many families to delay childbearing (Wetzel, 1990) may lead to an increase in the number of employees with multigenerational caregiving responsibilities.

Existing research has documented personal strain and work disruptions experienced by persons combining family care and employment responsibilities (Meisenheimer, 1990; Neal, Chapman, Ingersoll-Dayton, & Emlen, 1993). Workplace and family accommodations which employees make in order to meet their multiple role responsibilities include missing time from work, missing work promotions, decreasing social activities, and giving up free time (Emlen & Koren, 1984; Fredriksen, 1993; Neal et al., 1993; Scharlach & Boyd, 1989).

To date, the vast majority of research on employees with family care responsibilities has focused on only one type of family care, either the care of children or the care of elderly adults, with relatively few attempts to examine the full range of family care responsibilities. For example, only a few studies have incorporated disabled working age adults in the research on family caregiving and the workplace (Scharlach & Fredriksen, 1994). Yet, 4% of the noninstitutionalized U.S. population under the age of 55 have difficulty meeting their personal care needs due to health-related mobility or self-care limitations (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990).

It has often been suggested that middle age adults who are juggling multiple responsibilities are likely to experience higher levels of caregiving stress (Brody, 1981; Hogan, 1990; Older Women's League, 1989; Schlesinger, 1989). Yet, in one study the assumption of multigenerational caregiving responsibilities was found to have no effect on the caregivers' well-being (Loomis & Booth, 1995). …

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