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Parents' transitions into and out of work-family conflict and children's mental health: Longitudinal influence via family functioning


  • Dinh, Huong
  • Cooklin, Amanda R.
  • Leach, Liana S.
  • Westrupp, Elizabeth M.
  • Nicholson, Jan M.
  • Strazdins, Lyndall


The demands arising from the combination of work and family roles can generate conflicts (work-family conflicts), which have become recognized as major social determinants of mothers' and fathers' mental health. This raises the question of the potential effects on children. The current study of 2496 Australian families (7652 observations from children aged 4–5 up to 12–13 years) asks whether changes in children's mental health corresponds with changes in mothers' and fathers' work-family conflicts. Using longitudinal random-effect structural equation models, adjusting for prior child mental health, changes in work-family conflict were examined across four adjacent pairs of biennial data waves. Children's mental health deteriorated when their mother or father experienced an increase in work-family conflict, but improved when parents' work-family conflict reduced. Results held for mothers, fathers and couples, and the key pathways appear to be changes in children's relational environments. These results contribute new evidence that conflicts between the work-family interface are powerful social determinants of mental health which have an intergenerational reach.

Suggested Citation

  • Dinh, Huong & Cooklin, Amanda R. & Leach, Liana S. & Westrupp, Elizabeth M. & Nicholson, Jan M. & Strazdins, Lyndall, 2017. "Parents' transitions into and out of work-family conflict and children's mental health: Longitudinal influence via family functioning," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 194(C), pages 42-50.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:194:y:2017:i:c:p:42-50
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.10.017

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cooklin, Amanda R. & Giallo, Rebecca & Strazdins, Lyndall & Martin, Angela & Leach, Liana S. & Nicholson, Jan M., 2015. "What matters for working fathers? Job characteristics, work-family conflict and enrichment, and fathers' postpartum mental health in an Australian cohort," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 214-222.
    2. Yuk Lau, 2010. "The Impact of Fathers’ Work and Family Conflicts on Children’s Self-Esteem: The Hong Kong Case," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 95(3), pages 363-376, February.
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    5. Sara Charlesworth & Lyndall Strazdins, 2011. "Parents jobs in Australia: work hours polarisation and the consequences of job quality and gender equality," Australian Journal of Labour Economics (AJLE), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, vol. 14(1), pages 35-57.
    6. Plümper, Thomas & Troeger, Vera E., 2007. "Efficient Estimation of Time-Invariant and Rarely Changing Variables in Finite Sample Panel Analyses with Unit Fixed Effects," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(02), pages 124-139, March.
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    11. Cooklin, A.R. & Dinh, H. & Strazdins, L. & Westrupp, E. & Leach, L.S. & Nicholson, J.M., 2016. "Change and stability in work–family conflict and mothers' and fathers' mental health: Longitudinal evidence from an Australian cohort," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 24-34.
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