Work and family

Program Lead: Dr Amanda Cooklin

This program of work aims to understand the role that parents' jobs and employment conditions have on parenting, parent-child relationships and family health and wellbeing. Most parents – mothers and fathers – engage in paid work in Australia, so workplaces are a vital platform for policy and workplace interventions to support parents and families.

We are particularly interested in understanding the gendered nature of work and wellbeing across all stages of parenting. We work with key academic and government partners to identify risk and protective factors in parents' jobs, and to identify ways that workplaces can implement and support equitable access to 'family-friendly' work for men and women both.

Families at work - a survey of employed Australian parents

Our most recent paper showed that flexible work was protective for parents: linked with lower burnout and stress. But at the same time parents were still using a range of ‘informal’ daily strategies to address their work and family demands – and these were linked to higher stress for mothers and fathers.

In this study we asked the following research questions; What formal and informal flexible work arrangements are parents using to manage work-family demands? Are there differences for mothers and fathers, or by children’s age(s)? Which supports and strategies are associated with low work-family conflict, high work-family enrichment, reduced perceived discrimination and overall mental health (i.e. low distress, fatigue, anxiety and burnout)?

The participants in this study were recruited via social media platforms.

Researcher team: Amanda Cooklin, Stacey Hokke, Shannon Bennetts, Jan Nicholson, Sharinne Crawford, Simon Mason, Jasmine Love; in collaboration with Liana Leach and Lyndall Strazdins, Australian National University; Naomi Hackworth, Parenting Research Centre; Cattram Nguyen, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

This project received funding from La Trobe's Transforming Human Societies Research Focus Area.

Does flexible work ‘work’ in Australia? A survey of employed mothers’ and fathers’ work, family and health - article published in the journal Community, Work & Family in 2020.

Fathers at work

Identifying workplace barriers and supports for fathers to combine work and care

Gender inequities in work and care persist. While mothers continue to often be relegated to lower- paid / lower-skilled positions and part-time employment, and potentially out of paid work, fathers usually shoulder the income burden as ‘breadwinner’, even while contemporary norms and expectations for new fathers encourage active care-giving. Australian fathers access ‘family-friendly’ work arrangements at very low rates, despite recent policy advances. This conundrum reproduces gender inequities in work and care, yet there is sparse evidence about the barriers preventing fathers from engaging in more family-friendly work and care for children.

This project explores Australian fathers’ work-family experiences to find out how workplaces have (or have not) supported fathers to combine work and care. We also aim to understand fathers’ own narratives of work-family (im)balance and how this relates to their wellbeing.

We are interviewing fathers of child(ren) aged 0 to18 years who are currently employed in an organisation.

Our research will provide critical insight into how organisations can enable fathers to combine work and family, to provide parents of all genders with more equal opportunities to engage in work and care-giving roles.

Research team: Stacey Hokke, Sharinne Crawford, Shannon Bennetts, Jasmine Love, Jan Nicholson, Amanda Cooklin; in collaboration with Liana Leach, The Australian National University

Funding for this study was provided by La Trobe's Transforming Human Societies Research Focus Area Grant Ready Scheme.

Work family balance, parenting and family wellbeing

Identifying the adverse effects of poor-quality jobs and work-family conflict on parents and children

Recent analyses focussed on the effects of parents’ work-family conflict on child mental health and development. Our current analyses are investigating whether ‘mumpreneurs’ (self-employed mothers) have more (or less) control and choice over their work and family time, and if this has benefits to their wellbeing. We are also investigating whether job stresses and work-family conflict are associated with more alcohol consumption in mothers and fathers with young children, with colleagues from the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe.

The study uses data from over 5,000 employed parents and their children (Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, collected since 2004).

Researcher team: Amanda Cooklin, Jan Nicholson, Simon Mason; in collaboration with Liana Leach, Lyndall Strazdins and Huong Dinh, Australian National University

Funding has been provided by the Australian Communities Foundation through the Transition to Contemporary Parenthood Program.

Gender stereotypes and support for managers

Exploring if gender and parent status matter in ‘upwards support’ for managers at work.

This project aims to investigate whether stereotypes about ‘working mothers’ influence the support managers receive from their staff in the workplace. Based on gender role theory, we hypothesize that asking for support may serve as a penalty for mothers but not for men and fathers in supervisory roles.

This project is a collaboration between researchers in Germany, Singapore, Norway and Australia.

Researcher team: Amanda Cooklin; in collaboration with Nina Junker, Goethe University, Frankfurt; Wendy Nilsen, Oslo Metropolitan University; Eunae Cho, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore