Weaving Work & Family: Implications for Mother and Child
Principal Investigator: Joseph G. Grzywacz
Despite widespread agreement that the work-family “balancing act” has important implications for women’s health and the well-being of their families, the work-family literature remains fragmented. First, research has not been undertaken to understand the array of strategies used by women to balance or weave their work and family lives. Equally important, research tends to focus on either the effects of combining work and family on maternal well-being or it focuses on the consequences of maternal employment on children by examining the effects of non-parental care (i.e., daycare) on child development. The overall goal of this exploratory/developmental project is to develop a better understanding of the consequences of maternal weaving strategies, or tactics used to integrate work and family responsibilities, on both mothers’ health and their infants’ health and development. This goal will be achieved by accomplishing three specific aims: 1) document the behavioral and psychological components of work-family weaving strategies used by working mothers of infants, and determine if specific components of these strategies (e.g., allocation of household tasks to partner, modifying standards for relationship) cluster by childcare arrangement; 2) delineate the effect of different components of weaving strategies on specific dimensions of women’s health (e.g., physical symptoms, depression), as well as their effect on infant health (e.g., otitis media) and development (e.g., communication); and 3) identify if the strategy components predictive of less maternal illness are also predictive of positive infant outcomes.
These aims will be accomplished using a prospective, within-subjects design with 225 mother-infant dyads living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. A sample frame of new mothers who were employed during pregnancy will be created by working with the local hospital through which all newborns are delivered. Women who return to work by the time their infants are 4 months of age will be recruited from the created sample frame and result in a representative community sample. Data from women and their infants will be collected by trained interviewers when infants are 4, 8, 12, and 16 months of age. Analyses, using linear mixed effects models, will be undertaken to answer three fundamental questions: 1) What strategies do working mothers use to weave work and family and how stable are these strategies? 2) What effect do mothers’ weaving strategies have on their well-being and their infants’ health and development? 3) Are strategies that are associated with better maternal health and well-being also associated with better infant health and development? The results of this project will be useful for developing health interventions to protect women’s health and they return to work as well as their infants’ well-being.
Funder: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development
1. Grzywacz, J. G., & Tucker, J. (2008). Work-family experiences and physical health: A summary and critical review. Sloan Work and Family Encyclopedia. Retrievable from http://wfnetwork.bc.edu/encyclopedia_entry.php?id=6410&area=academics.
2. Clinch, C. R., Grzywacz, J. G., Tucker, J., Walls, J. K., & Arcury, T. A. (2009). Characteristics of mother-provider interactions surrounding postpartum return to work. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 22, 498-506. [PMID: 19734395].
3. Grzywacz, J. G., Tucker, J., Clinch, C. R., & Arcury, T. A. (2010). Individual and job-related variation in infant feeding practices among working mothers. American Journal of Health Behavior, 34, 186-196. [PMID: 19814598].