YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

'90s FAMILY : Parents Are Getting Better at Juggling Work, Family


Less than a decade ago, the phrasefamily" was little known out side the academic world. So when Boston University's Center on Work and Family undertook a study in 1985 of the particular forms of stress faced by working parents, the findings were considered noteworthy.

Seven years later, the research team, led by Center on Work and Family Director Bradley K. Googins, returned to the large Northeastern electronics company where the original survey was conducted.

Working parents have learned to better manage the competing demands of work and family, the follow-up investigation revealed, but life for working families has also become more stressed and harried.

In results released last week, the new study of job / family stress showed:

* While only 25% of parents in 1985 said they shared child care equally with their spouses, 49% said they did so in 1992.

* In 1992, 80% of parents said they felt comfortable always or most of the time with their child-care arrangements--compared to just 42% in 1985.

* Men in 1992 spent five more hours per week on home chores than in 1985. But for women in the latest survey, home chores accounted for about 13 more hours per week than in the earlier study.

* Children in 1992 were also doing more work in the home, up to 6.6 hours per week from 4.2 hours per week in 1985.

Morale and job satisfaction plummeted in the newest study, reflecting deteriorating work and economic environments. But "feelings of security" generated by employer-provided work / family options were up, Googins said.

"People may hate their jobs," he said, "but they grit their teeth and put up with it" in exchange for work / family benefits.

But having had a taste of work / family balance, many workers longed for more. In 1992, 56% of respondents wanted more family time--as opposed to 47% in 1985.

Still, the juggling act seemed less daunting the second time researchers looked at it. When given a list 12 activities--including adjusting work schedules for family time and avoiding rush hour--respondents reported that eight of the 12 were easier to do than in 1985.

But even with almost a decade of work / family mileage behind them, nearly half of the workers surveyed this time said that always or most of the time, they had to rush and didn't have enough time for themselves. Twenty-seven percent of parents also said they worry always or most of the time about their children while at work. Another quarter of workers surveyed reported that their work was hindered by child-care responsibilities.

About 800 employees responded to questionnaires in both studies. Googins said the findings from this large corporation, which asked researchers to omit its name, probably reflected the experience of many big businesses. The company had no official work / family policy when Googins' team conducted its 1985 interviews. By 1988, a corporation-wide work / life initiative had been launched, providing benefits that ranged from child-care referral to lunchtime seminars on work and family.

Los Angeles Times Articles