Work-Family Conflict and Mental Health

Although parents’ employment usually takes place outside the home, jobs can have powerful and immediate influences on family life, according to a study funded by Australian Rotary Health.

In 2014, Professor Lyndall Strazdins from Australian National University was awarded an ARH Mental Health Research Grant to investigate work family conflict, work family enrichment, and their significance for children’s mental health.

“Daily routines, tempo and interactions are shaped by work and reflect the mix of resources and strains present in each family and in the jobs that parents’ hold,” Professor Strazdins said.

“In this research project, we found that the work-family interface generates important and largely unrecognized determinants of parent’s, children’s, and young people’s mental health.”

The study found that mothers and fathers face different risks for the onset and persistence of work-family conflict.

Long hours predicted fathers’ entry into work family conflict and job quality predicted mothers’ entry.

While fathers’ ongoing work-family conflict hinged on the quality of their jobs, job-insecurity and long hours sustained mothers’ work-family conflict.

“These findings reflect the ongoing, persistent, gendered nature of work and care shaped by workplaces. The research informs ways that workplaces can respond to work-family conflict, offering the basis for prevention and intervention initiatives tailored for mothers and fathers,” Professor Strazdins said.

However, it’s not only the parents’ mental health that is affected.

“Not only does the work-family interface impact the mental health of mothers and fathers, but when parents’ work-family conflict increases, children’s mental health deteriorates, and when parents’ work-family conflict resolves, children’s mental health improves.”

“Therefore, preventing parents’ work-family conflict can be an important target for workplace policies in order to protect and promote children’s health.”

This was the first longitudinal study to examine the chain of influence from parental work experiences to effects on family life and children.

“The study innovatively mobilized cross-disciplinary expertise to bridge the divide between urgent policy questions and mental health research,” Professor Strazdins said.

3 journal publications relating to this study have since been published.


Media contact: Jessica Cooper – (02) 8837 1900 or




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