Work-Family Conflict and Fathers Adjustment

Impact of Work-Family Conflict and Duration of Parental Leave on Fathers’ Adjustment During Early Parenthood

In Canada, the participation of fathers in the work-force is near-universal, with over 95% of men with dependent children employed.(33) Unlike mothers, most fathers remain engaged in employment following the birth of a child or take much shorter periods of parental leave.(44) Yet, fathers are responding to contemporary fatherhood expectations by increasing their involvement in child care, while still negotiating work demands.(45-47)  How these work-related demands contribute to work-family conflict and impact  fathers’ psychological adjustment during early parenting remains under-investigated.  Moreover, following the reform to the parental leave policy in Quebec in 2006, fathers’ participation in parental leave has tripled to a current 85.8% compared to 22% prior to the reform, which far exceeds current trends of 11.9% in the rest of Canada. (38,78) The use and duration of parental leave on fathers’ work-family conflict and psychological adjustment remains to be studied in a Canadian context.

This study will extend the applicant’s and research team’s programs of research by examining the relative impact of work-family conflict and parental leave, after adjusting for known personal and family-related factors, on fathers’ psychological adjustment in a socioeconomic and culturally diverse sample. We will identify work-related (e.g. work hours, job strain, job security), personal (education, income, coping self-efficacy) and partner/family domain (co-parental alliance strength, partner distress) factors that predict chronically high or increasing WFC over the postnatal period, as well as factors that account for the duration of fathers’ parental leave. We have developed our study objectives and hypotheses to test the direct and additive contribution of work-family conflict and fathers’ parental leave duration on the psychological adjustment of fathers with infants.

The originality of this project is based on four innovative elements: 1) the focus on fathers during the transition to parenthood, a time when research and services are primarily focused on mothers and children; 2) the application of a conceptual model to examine the unique contribution of work-family conflict WFC on fathers psychological adjustment and the work, personal and partner/family factors driving work-family conflict, which in turn will inform organizational and community policies and programs to better meet the needs of fathers; 3) the advancement of knowledge related to the factors that influence duration of parental leave and the impact of fathers’ duration of parental leave on work-life balance and fathers’ adjustment during the first postpartum year; and 4) a prospective design with multiple assessments beginning during their partners’ pregnancy to 12 months postpartum.

Given the determinantal consequences related to heightened psychological distress in fathers, a better understanding of the impact of work-family conflict and duration of fathers’ parental leave  in relation to paternal psychological adjustment is urgently needed. These findings will inform the development of evidence-based ‘father friendly’ practices and polices to promote the well-being of fathers in a Canadian context.

Deborah DaCosta: