Teleworking during the pandemic linked to higher parenting stress, especially for fathers

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Northwestern University and Ann and Robert H. of Chicago. A new study by scientists at Lurie Children’s Hospital reports that forty percent of parents who worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic reported higher levels of parental stress, compared to only 27 percent of parents who worked onsite.

The study’s results revealed a gender difference: Fathers who worked from home were twice as likely to say the parents were stressed than fathers who worked onsite all or most of the time. Parenting stress was slightly higher for mothers who worked at home, but this did not reach statistical significance.

The study found no differences in mental or general health between parents working remotely or onsite.

Our study results show that teleworking during the pandemic was associated with more parenting stress, especially for fathers. This may reflect societal expectations that men should prioritize work obligations over family needs, which creates additional stress for fathers who work from home.”

Dr. John James Parker, lead author, is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a pediatrician at Lurie Children’s.

The study will be published in November. 3 inches JAMA Network Open.

What can parents do?

The study authors advise parents to think about their family and work situations and try to find a system that limits stress and promotes well-being.

“It can be as simple as installing a noise-cancelling machine at work, rearranging schedules to limit distractions, and planning time for parents to step away from work to fully engage with their children,” says Parker, who is also a intern Northwest Medicine.

What Employers Can Do

“Employers can offer support to fathers by offering more flexibility and recognizing that both parents need more work/life balance,” Parker said. “Employers can also encourage parents who work from home, especially men, to take advantage of employee assistance programs if they are experiencing high levels of stress. This is important, since parenting stress is associated with negative parental health and child development outcomes.”

The study is titled, “Teleworking, Parenting Stress and the Health of Mothers and Fathers.” The survey included 1,060 parents from 77 Chicago neighborhoods.

Among other Northwestern writers Dr. Craig Garfield, Clarissa Simon, Mary Heffernan, Dr. Matthew Davis and Dr. Christine Kahn.

This research was supported by the Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities at Lurie Children’s Hospital for Voice of Child Health in Chicago; Siragusa Family Foundation; Hazel Speck Berry Trust and National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.


Journal Reference:

Parker, J.J., etc. (2023). Teleworking, parenting stress and the health of mothers and fathers. JAMA Network Open.

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