Job quality, change and stability in work-family conflict and fathers’ mental health

Fathers at Work
Friday 27 July, 0930


Amanda Cooklin
La Trobe University

This paper presents the mental health consequences of stability and change in work-family conflict (WFC) for Australian fathers. We examine the following questions: Is WFC a stable or transient feature of family life, and for which fathers? What happens to mental health of fathers if WFC increases, reduces or persists? How can jobs support fathers to manage WFC?
Secondary analyses of 5 waves of data (children ages 4–5 to 12–13 years) from employed fathers (n=3,460) participating in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children were conducted. WFC transitions, across four two-year intervals (Waves 1–2, 2–3, 3–4, and 4–5), were classified as never, conscript, exit or chronic.
The results showed that fathers who remained in chronic WFC reported the poorest mental health (adjusted multiple regression analyses), followed by those who were conscripted into WFC. When WFC was relieved (exit), fathers’ mental health improved significantly. Factors supporting fathers to reduce conflicts between work and family were identified.
Our conclusion is that fathers are at risk of WFC at similar rates to mothers; understanding workplace and policy factors that support fathers is critical to promoting wellbeing and gender equity between work and care for parents.