Work-to-family conflict and parenting practices: Examining the role of working from home among lone and partnered working mothers
Keywords:responsive parenting, hostile parenting, chool involvement at home, family structure, supplemental work from home, telework, parent-child relationship
Objective: This study investigates associations between work-to-family conflict and parenting practices among lone and partnered working mothers and the role of working from home as a potential resource gain or drain for acting empathetically and supportively towards their children.
Background: Emerging evidence suggests that work-to-family conflict reduces responsive parenting practices, yet prior studies have rarely examined disparities by family structure. Although working from home has recently gained in importance in the workforce, there is still little research on its implications for the relationship between work-to-family conflict and the quality of parenting practices. If working from home is not used to do supplemental work during overtime hours, it may free up mothers’ time and emotional resources. In turn, this may either buffer the harmful impact of work-to-family conflict on parenting practices or indirectly enhance the quality of parenting practices by reducing work-to-family conflict. This could be particularly beneficial for lone mothers, who experience more role and time strain.
Method: Analyses were based on 1,723 working mothers and their reports on 2,820 schoolchildren drawn from a German probability sample that was collected in 2019 (i.e., before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic). Using OLS regression models, we first examined whether work-to-family conflict was associated with four dimensions of verbal parenting practices (i.e., responsive and hostile communication, responsive decision-making, and school involvement at home). Second, we conducted moderation analyses to test differences by working from home (within contract hours and for supplemental work) and family structure with two-way and three-way interactions. Third, we performed mediation analyses to examine the indirect effect of working from home on each parenting dimension mediated by work-to-family conflict.
Results: Higher levels of work-to-family conflict were associated with less responsive and more hostile parenting practices. The moderation analyses did not indicate a buffering effect of working from home. Instead, the mediation analyses showed that compared to mothers who worked from home within their contract hours, those who did not work from home or who did supplemental work from home tended to report less empathic parenting practices transmitted through higher levels of work-to-family conflict. Results showed no significant associations for mothers’ school involvement at home. Furthermore, no major differences emerged between lone and partnered mothers.
Conclusion: Our pre-pandemic results challenge the buffering hypothesis and suggest that working from home can be either a resource gain or drain for the mother-child relationship regardless of family structure, but depending on mothers’ opportunity to work from home within the scope of contract hours.
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