The impact of change and stability in fathers’ work-family conflict on children’s mental health

Fathers at Work
Friday 27 July


Liana Leach
Research School of Population Health, Australian National University

This paper examines whether the adverse impacts of work-family conflict (WFC) for fathers flow on to impact their children’s mental health and wellbeing.
The current study utilises five waves of Australian longitudinal data from employed mothers and fathers to examine the impact of fathers’ transitions into and out of WFC on children’s mental health (measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)). Using random effects models, adjusting for prior child mental health, changes in work-family conflict were examined across four adjacent pairs of biennial data collection waves; 7,652 observations from children aged 4-5 up to 12-13 years.
Children’s mental health deteriorated when their father experienced an increase in work-family conflict, but improved when fathers’ work-family conflict reduced. Key pathways appear to be through changes in children’s relational environments – fathers’ mental health, and conflict in the couple relationship.
The findings indicate that identifying strategies to ameliorate WFC is important not only for working fathers, but also their children.