Exploring the Influence of Work-Family Stress, Father Involvement, and Family Dynamics on Child Wellbeing
Smith, Kathryn P.
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CitationSmith, Kathryn P. 2019. Exploring the Influence of Work-Family Stress, Father Involvement, and Family Dynamics on Child Wellbeing. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
AbstractThis dissertation examined how maternal stress (i.e., work-family stress (WFS), parenting stress) and father engagement influences child behaviors (i.e., aggression, television (TV) viewing). Participants were from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal birth cohort of nearly 5,000 children born in large U.S. cities to predominantly socioeconomically disadvantaged, racial/ethnic minority families.
Paper 1 employed path analysis to jointly test associations between WFS and child aggression over time. After adjusting for a host of mother- and household-related covariates, WFS measured when children were 1 year old was significantly positively associated with aggression measured when children were 3 years old (β = 0.115, p=0.001). Programs and/or policies that decrease WFS and facilitate improved work-family balance early in motherhood, particularly during children’s first year, may reduce later childhood aggression.
Paper 2 examined the association between three measures of fathers’ engagement (co-parenting, instrumental support provided to child’s mother, participation in activities with his child) and child TV viewing. Using mixed effects linear regression models, and adjusting for child, father, and family/household covariates, we observed a significant inverse association between co-parenting and child TV viewing when children were 3 years old (β= -0.057, p=0.040), and no significant association when children were 5 years old (β= 0.008, p=0.696). Fathers participate in family life and support their families in a variety of ways and benefits of engagement may vary by type of engagement and by child age.
Paper 3 examined the association between mothers’ parenting stress and child aggression, and explored the potential moderating effect of father engagement. Using linear regression models and accounting for mother, child, and family/household covariates, we observed that parenting stress experienced when children were 1 year old was significantly positively associated with child aggression at age 3 (β= 0.049, p<0.001). There was a significant stress by father engagement moderation effect (β= 0.055, p=0.034) in the unadjusted model only, suggesting that this effect may have been a result of omitted variable bias. Future research should disentangle the role of father engagement as a potential moderator, confounder, or mediator in the association between mothers’ parenting stress and child aggression.
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