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Stress in Balancing Work and Family Felt at Home, Study Finds

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The stress parents feel when they have trouble balancing work and family is more likely to spill over into the home than the workplace, a new study shows.

The National Study of the Changing Workforce, conducted by the Families and Work Institute with financing by 15 corporations and foundations, queried nearly 3,400 workers on issues related to employment, family, and job satisfaction.

The study is believed to be the most extensive of its kind since the federally funded 1977 Quality of Employment Survey. The Families and Work Institute, a New York City-based nonprofit research group, plans to repeat the study every four years if funding permits.

Workers with children, the new report says, are often stressed by concerns about their children's welfare: 62 percent of parents cited finding high-quality care as their biggest child-care problem, and 66 percent lamented not having enough time to spend with their children.

Such workers often face emotional "gridlock,'' said Dana Friedman, a co-president of the Families and Work Institute.

"People feel strongly about doing a good job at work; they also yearn to spend more time with their families, but arrive home exhausted,'' she said.

While some research suggests men's share of work in the home has increased, the report says that "traditional divisions of responsibility'' still prevail, with women still assuming primary responsibility for housework and child care.

But because such a large share of both male and female employees have family responsibilities, it concludes, benefits, policies, and programs to help workers balance their work, personal, and family lives "shouldn't be viewed as special assistance for a small group of workers, but as general assistance for virtually all workers.''

Families Bear the Brunt

Among the study's findings:

  • While parents take relatively little time off for child-care reasons, "families tend to bear the brunt of work-family conflicts.'' The study found more than three times as much "job-to-home spillover'' as "home-to-job spillover'' of stress when conflicts between work and family arise.
  • More than a quarter of employed parents of children under age 13 said they had experienced a breakdown in their child-care arrangements in the past three months.
  • Workers who are offered flexible schedules or assistance with child care take more initiative, are more committed to doing their jobs well, and are more loyal to employers.

A report on the highlights of the study and a full sourcebook will be available next month. Copies of the highlights are $49 each and copies of the sourcebook are $99--or $119 for the total package--and can be obtained from the Families and Work Institute, 330 Seventh Ave., New York, N.Y. 10001; (212) 465-2044. There is a 10 percent discount for nonprofit groups.

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