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Parent Employment and Chaos in the Family

Rena Repetti


Shu-wen Wang

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 79


Urie Bronfenbrenner's bioecological model recognizes the importance of experiences outside of the home for child development, including environments that the child encounters only indirectly, such as the parent's workplace. There is no question that, under most circumstances, parent employment benefits the family environment. Jobs generally bring income, health care, a routine, sources of social support, and well-being, all of which reduce or protect against chaotic elements in a child's life. However, parents' experiences in the workplace are not always advantageous; this paper focuses on employment experiences that can add to, or exacerbate, chaos in the home. We begin with research that examines how psychosocial characteristics of the workplace, particularly stressors, can affect family relationships. Job-related time commitments that can detract from a healthy family environment are considered next, followed by childcare arrangements and certain job benefits, particularly paid leave, which are critical elements in the broader context that shape how workplace experiences extend into the home. Finally, we turn to the sometimes devastating impact that parental job loss and long-term unemployment can have on families. Our paper concludes with a conceptual model that integrates key findings and promising directions for future research.

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