Weaving Work and Family: Implications for Mother and Child

Despite widespread agreement that the work-family "balancing act" has significant 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 child outcomes. 

The 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);
  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 Forsyth County, North Carolina. 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:
    • What strategies do working mothers use to weave work and family and how stable are these strategies over time?
    • What effect do mothers' weaving strategies have on their well-being and their infants' health and development?
    • Are strategies that are associated with better maternal health and well-being also associated with better infant health and development?

Project Team:  Joseph G. Grzywacz, PhD, (Principal Investigator); Thomas A. Arcury, PhD, and C. Randall Clinch, DO, MS.

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