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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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.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study prior to the commencement of their participation.
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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
- Work-family guilt
- Work-family conflict