Child Chronic Illness and Parent Work-Family Conflict: Investigating the Experiences of Working Parents

  • Antonia M. KishEmail author
  • Divna M. Haslam
  • Peter A. Newcombe
Original Paper



Parents play a pivotal role in helping children manage their chronic illness, consequently taking on multiple roles. In such circumstances, parent inter-role conflict can impact parent and child aspects and outcomes (e.g., well-being). This study aimed to examine the work-family interface for parents of children with diabetes, asthma or eczema, by exploring their experiences in comparison to those of parents with children without chronic illness and those with diverse chronic conditions.


Semi-structured interviews with fifteen working mothers (M age = 38.20 years; SD = 0.91) of children with diabetes, asthma or eczema were conducted.


From these interviews, four key themes were identified: (a) parent impact, (b) child wellbeing and development, (c) support, flexibility and understanding, and (d) broader impact. Mothers experienced conflict between work and family roles similar to that evidenced in past research. But unique to these parents is their ongoing carer role (e.g., not meeting the care needs of their child). Family impacted their work in various ways (e.g., sacrifice career opportunities), with impacts because of their carer role (e.g., taking more time off work) also illustrated. For these parents, the importance of support (e.g., from workplaces, family) is highlighted, as this alleviated the challenges and subsequent impacts experienced.


More research is proposed to investigate the added demands faced by these parents, by quantifying these demands, given their importance in determining work-family conflict. As this study provides very preliminary findings, further research is required to address several of the limitations discussed.


Chronic illness Family Parents Work Work-family conflict 



This work was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship.

Author Contributions

Author A.K. contributed to the conception and design of the study, recruitment of parents, conducting and transcribing of the interviews and conducting of the thematic analysis, and drafting of the manuscript. Author D.H. contributed to the study’s conception and design—particularly advising on the processes needed to conduct interviews, transcription of data and the thematic analysis, and its interpretation; as well as critically reviewing the manuscript. Author P.N. contributed to parts of the conception and design of the study and provided feedback on ways to revise this manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The Parenting and Family Support Centre is partly funded by royalties stemming from published resources of the Triple P —Positive Parenting Program, which is developed and owned by The University of Queensland (UQ). Royalties are also distributed to the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences at UQ and contributory authors of published Triple P resources. Triple P International (TPI) Pty Ltd is a private company licensed by Uniquest Pty Ltd on behalf of UQ, to publish and disseminate Triple P worldwide. The authors of this report have no share or ownership of TPI. D.H. receives royalty and consultancy fees from TPI. TPI had no involvement in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of data, or writing of this report. D.H. holds an honorary appointment at UQ, P.N. is employed by UQ and A.K. is a former student at UQ.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional (School of Psychology Ethical Review Committee, The University of Queensland) and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Law/Faculty of HealthQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Parenting and Family Support Centre, School of PsychologyThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.Institute of Teaching and Learning InnovationThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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