Forty percent of parents who worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic reported higher parenting stress compared with only 27 percent of parents who worked onsite, reports a new survey from scientists at Northwestern University and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
The study results revealed a gender difference: Fathers who worked from home were twice as likely to report that parenting was stressful all or most of the time compared to fathers who worked onsite. Parenting stress for mothers who worked at home was slightly higher, but it did not reach statistical significance.
The study found no differences in mental or general health between parents who worked remotely or onsite.
Our survey results show that teleworking during the pandemic was associated with more parenting stress, especially for fathers. This might be a reflection of societal expectations that men should prioritize work obligations over family needs, which creates additional stress for fathers working from home."
Dr. John James Parker, lead author, assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and pediatrician at Lurie Children's
The study will be published Nov. 3 in JAMA Network Open.
What parents can do
The study authors recommend parents reflect on their family and work situation and try to find an arrangement that limits stress and promotes wellbeing.
"This can be as simple as putting a noise-cancelling machine in the workspace, rearranging schedules to limit distractions and planning time for parents to step away from work to be fully engaged with their children," said Parker, who also is an internist at Northwestern Medicine.
What employers can do
"Employers could provide support to fathers by offering more flexibility and recognizing that both parents need more work/life balance," Parker said. "Employers also could 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 parents' stress is linked to negative parental health and child developmental outcomes."
The study is titled, "Teleworking, Parenting Stress, and the Health of Mothers and Fathers." The survey included 1,060 parents from all 77 neighborhoods in Chicago.
Other Northwestern authors include Dr. Craig Garfield, Clarissa Simon, Marie Heffernan, Dr. Matthew Davis and Dr. Kristin Kan.
This study was supported by the Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities at Lurie Children's Hospital for Voices of Child Health in Chicago; the Siragusa Family Foundation; Hazel Speck Berry Trust and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
Parker, J. J., et al. (2023). Teleworking, Parenting Stress, and the Health of Mothers and Fathers. JAMA Network Open. doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.41844.