General News — 15 May 2012

Children are concerned their parents are working too much, with a new study of 10- and 11-year-olds showing 35 per cent think their father works too much, while 27 per cent said the same about their mothers.

Research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has concluded that parents were also feeling the pressure, with 23 per cent of mothers saying work made family time less enjoyable and more pressured.

Australian Institute of Family Studies director Professor Alan Hayes said the study showed children were affected by their parents’ work-related worries spilling into family time.

“When mothers said work made family time less fun, the children tended to agree with them,” he said.

Roughly a third of children also said their mother worked too much.

“Similarly, when fathers said work made family time less fun, 43 per cent of children also said their father worked too much.

“Finding a way of meeting the demands of paid work, as well as taking care of children, is difficult for many parents and underlines the need for workplaces to continue to adopt more flexible approaches to allow their employees to manage their family responsibilities.”

Around 4000 children participated in the study, which looks at how children are experiencing life in increasingly busy households.

Professor Hayes said getting the balance right was crucial, as children relied on their parents for advice and support.

“Mothers were most often consulted when their children had problems. For boys, fathers were the next most common source of help when they had difficulties, while girls were more likely to go to their friends next, ahead of their fathers,” he said.

The research comes from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children as part of 2012 National Families Week.

Tania Slotboom has four children between one and 10 years old, but both she and her husband work, which makes family time precious — and pressured. She works part-time during school hours and her husband works in finance, which can mean long hours away from their children.

“Sometimes it’s really busy and we might go days without seeing him,” Ms Slotboom said.

“I think the kids are used to it, I don’t think they like it, but they’re used to it. I think they understand it’s the norm for most families.”

AIFS researcher Jennifer Baxter said despite the tensions in families over paid work and long hours, families also reported benefits from working.

“Apart from the financial rewards, paid employment can have a range of benefits for parents, including experiencing social interaction and feeling satisfied doing meaningful or interesting work, and these benefits flow through to their children,” she said.

“Our research found that among employed parents of children aged 10 to 11 years, 67 per cent of both mothers and fathers said that work had a positive effect on their children.”

Dr Baxter said most of the pressure on families occurred when the children were young and as they grew older, parents were increasingly likely to say work had a positive effect on their children.

The study also showed by the time children were aged 10 to 11, 53 per cent were helping around the house, with only 11 per cent seldom or never helping .

As first appeared in The Australian, 15 May 2012

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