When Daily Challenges Become Too Much During COVID-19: Implications of Family and Work Demands for Work–Life Balance Among Parents of Children With Special Needs

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American Psychological Association


Working parents of children with special needs (i.e., emotional, behavioral, and/or learning difficulties) face recurrent stressors that can make balancing work and family demands difficult. This strain has been magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic, as these parents often need to take on greater responsibility in supporting their children’s remote learning, while still meeting their own job-related responsibilities. Accordingly, working parents of special needs children may be particularly vulnerable to adverse outcomes stemming from pandemic-induced changes to work (e.g., teleworking) and education (e.g., remote instruction). We sought to understand how daily family and work challenges influence satisfaction with work–life balance (WLB) in this priority population, with an emphasis on contextualizing this process through chronic job stress perceptions. Conducting a 10-day daily diary study in a sample of 47 working parents of special needs children during fall 2020, we observed family challenges to deplete positive affect from day-to-day, which undermined satisfaction with work–life balance. Furthermore, detrimental influences of daily family and work challenges on positive affect were magnified under chronic job stress, yielding diminished WLB satisfaction for more chronically stressed employees. We discuss how these findings can be harnessed to support particularly vulnerable employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and other chronic stress circumstances, while also drawing attention to how the pandemic may be exacerbating work–life inequities that some employees face.



7 Management of diseases and conditions, 7.1 Individual care needs


Calderwood, C., Breaux, R., ten Brummelhuis, L. L., Mitropoulos, T., & Swanson, C. S. (2022). When daily challenges become too much during COVID-19: Implications of family and work demands for work–life balance among parents of children with special needs.Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 27(5), 516–527. https://doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000333