Perceived Work Factors and Parental Engagement: The Mediating Role of Marital Conflict
The parenting literature predominately focuses on individual or family level factors that influence parenting behaviors. The field can benefit from focusing on factors outside the family that influence family roles and behavior. Utilizing a symbolic interactionist and gender perspective, this study examined how perceptions of work spill over into the family roles. More specifically, this study focused on how perceived work factors influence marital conflict and subsequently parental engagement. I specifically examined these perceptions in a sample of parents that frequently travel overnight for work. Traveling for work has become very common in the workplace, yet it is understudied in the research. I aimed to answer the following research questions: a) Are there differences among mothers and fathers who travel for work in their reports of work overload, effort recovery, job satisfaction, marital conflict and parental engagement? b) Do perceived work factors predict parental engagement over and above parent gender and marital conflict? c) Do perceived work factors predict marital conflict, which in turn predicts parental engagement? I used data from a larger multi-method project that examined the influence of travel on work, health, and families. Data were collected using questionnaires. I used traveler reports of their work and family roles, as I was interested in their perceptions of their roles. Results suggested that work factors predicted a significant amount of variance over and above marital conflict and parent gender. The mediation model suggested that job satisfaction, but not work overload or effort recovery, had a significant direct effect on parental engagement. Marital conflict did not mediate the relation between perceived work factors and parental engagement. The results suggest that the parenting field should look beyond the marital dyad when examining factors that influence parenting behaviors, as marital conflict did not assist in explaining parental engagement. Clinicians and practitioners should also focus on factors outside the family (i.e., the work environment) and the influence these factors have on parenting. Workplaces and employers should focus on increasing their employees' job satisfaction in order to enhance parenting behaviors. Limitations and future directions for research are also discussed.