Work and family

This program builds the evidence about employment as a critical social determinant of health for parents, and in partnership with industry and organisations, applies this evidence to scope, design and implement workplace-based interventions to support parents’ wellbeing, their parenting and children’s development. Our published research has shown that parents’ job quality, work conditions and work-family conflict are powerful determinants of health, which, if addressed, can improve the health and wellbeing of parents and their children.

The program comprises three main activities: analyses of national, longitudinal cohort data to build the evidence base; a national survey of >5000 employed parents to identify the links between use of formal or informal flexible work arrangements and well-being; and our work with Australian employer organisations to inform intervention design, mode of delivery and content.

Program Lead: Dr Amanda Cooklin

Families at work: An online survey of employed Australian parents

This prospective study of employed Australian parents addressed the 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? Which supports and strategies are associated with low work-family conflict, high work-family enrichment, reduced perceived discrimination and overall mental health?

The method used to collect data (via Facebook advertising) was systematically evaluated as a methodological sub-study.

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

Funding: Transforming Human Societies Research Focus Area

Upwards support for managers at work: The role of gender and parent-status

This project investigates 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.

It is a collaboration between researchers in Germany, Singapore, Norway and Australia, with data collected in each setting to yield cross-national comparisons.

Researchers: Amanda Cooklin; in collaboration with Nina Junker, Goethe University, Frankfurt; Wendy Nilsen, Oslo Met University, Eun Ae Cho, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Funding: None

Status: Initiated late 2018

Work family balance, parenting and family wellbeing

This program of work uses national, longitudinal (2004–present) cohort data from over 5,000 employed parents and their children (Longitudinal Study of Australian Children) to identify the adverse effects of poor-quality jobs and work-family conflict on parents and children. Recent analyses have found, that for mothers and fathers both, entering into work-family conflict is associated with a corresponding decrease in their mental health, parenting behaviours and couple relationship; with flow on effects to children’s mental health across early-mid childhood.

In 2017, we were nominated for a Kanter Award for Excellence in Work and Family Research (International). We have continued to publish and present widely on this topic including convening symposia at the International Federation for Psychiatric Epidemiology (2017) and Australian Institute for Family Studies Conference (2018).

Researchers: Amanda Cooklin, Jan Nicholson; in collaboration with Cattram Nguyen and Rebecca Giallo, Murdoch Children’s Research Centre; Liana Leach, Lyndall Strazdins and Huong Dinh, Australian National University; Angela Martin, University of Tasmania

Funding: Transition to Contemporary Parenthood Program

Working out Work at La Trobe / Your wellbeing at work

The Judith Lumley Centre was commissioned by the Executive Director of Human Resources at La Trobe to undertake this work. These projects aimed to generate evidence about the uptake of ‘family-friendly’ work arrangements at La Trobe (parental leave, flexible work etc); and to identify the links between work conditions and staff wellbeing at La Trobe. Findings from these surveys have informed the development of a range of policies, strategies and toolkits at La Trobe to support working parents and all staff.

Researchers: Amanda Cooklin; in collaboration with Linda Robertson, Zemeel Saba, Human Resources at La Trobe University

Funding: Human Resources, La Trobe University

Status: Completed in 2018; two interim and two final reports submitted