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Bringing Work Home: Gender and Parenting Correlates of Work-Family Guilt among Parents of Toddlers

Abstract

Anecdotal evidence abounds suggesting that as compared to fathers, mothers report greater guilt regarding the negative impact of work on family (WIF-guilt), yet shockingly few quantitative studies have evaluated gender differences or correlates of WIF-guilt. In five studies, we provide an in-depth exploration of parents’ feelings of guilt regarding perceived negative impacts on their children that arise from addressing work over familial responsibilities. We accomplish the following: (1) examine the validity of a novel self-report questionnaire of WIF-guilt (Work-Interfering-With-Family Guilt Scale [WIFGS]), (2) assess gender differences in WIF-guilt in parents of young children (ages 1–3), as well as whether these differences are moderated by WIF-conflict and work demand (number of hours worked), and (3) examine whether higher WIF-guilt predicts more permissive parenting. WIFGS scores were predictably associated with related psychological constructs. Mothers reported significantly higher levels of WIF-guilt than fathers. These effects were enhanced among mothers with high WIF-conflict and a high number of working hours. Consistent with anecdotal accounts and theory, WIF-guilt was associated with higher parenting permissiveness. Results provide directions for additional research on parents’ emotional experiences.

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Author Contributions

J.B. designed the study, conducted the analyses, and wrote the paper; S.K.N. designed the study, contributed to analyses and writing; L.R. designed the study, executed the study, contributed to analyses and writing; S.B. helped with study design, collaborated with writing; C.M.R. provided guidance regarding study design and writing.

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Correspondence to Jessica L. Borelli.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Borelli, J.L., Nelson-Coffey, S.K., River, L.M. et al. Bringing Work Home: Gender and Parenting Correlates of Work-Family Guilt among Parents of Toddlers. J Child Fam Stud 26, 1734–1745 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-017-0693-9

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Keywords

  • Work-family guilt
  • Work-family conflict
  • Parenting
  • Toddlers
  • Emotion