In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Parenting

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Parenting, Stress, and Flexible Working
  • Broadening Understandings of Parenting and Work
  • Sociologies of Parenting and Family Practices
  • Fathering

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Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section

Childhood Studies Parenting
Caroline J. Gatrell
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 March 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 March 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0051


Research on parenting, and especially mothering, has been a focus of sociologies and psychologies of parenting and family practices since the 1950s. Research approaches are varied and wide ranging and include concerns about the impact of parenting and paid work on the health of mothers and fathers, feminist studies on the role and position of mothers in society, the manner in which “experts” exert pressure on mothers to parent children according to particular social norms, and the rising importance of children within parents’ everyday lives (especially in relation to paternity). In their seminal text The Normal Chaos of Love, Ulrich Beck and Elizabeth Beck Gernsheim describe the desire of modern parents (both fathers and mothers) to be closely involved with children’s upbringing: (The baby or child is) “superior to other liaisons in our barter and throw-away culture. At least as long as it is young, a child permits one to invest all one’s love and involvement without risk of disappointment, of being hurt and abandoned” (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 1995, p. 76, cited under Sociologies of Parenting and Family Practices). The proliferation of research on parenting, especially in the context of relationships between parenting and paid work, has been attributed by the authors of Lewis, et al. 2007 (cited in Broadening Understandings of Parenting and Work) to women’s increased presence within labor markets beginning in the 1970s. This social change, whereby mothers of dependent children increasingly “go out” to work (whereas in the past they might have been expected to remain in the home), has prompted policymakers and scholars across a range of disciplines, including sociology, health, and organizational psychology, to consider the impact on parents and family life. Thus, research seeks to understand how far maternal presence at work affects family life, parenting and child health, and the workplace. In particular, scholars have sought to pinpoint how parents of dependent children are managing to combine employment with what Caroline Gatrell, in her Hard Labour: The Sociology of Parenthood (Gatrell 2005 cited under Sociologies of Parenting and Family Practices), has termed the “hard labour” of parenting. This bibliography examines literature on parenting and work, sociologies of parenting and family practices, and mothering and fathering. This article is organized according to these categories in order to represent the transdisciplinary nature of the topic, which has a wide reach.

General Overviews

During the 1970s and 1980s, research on parenting responded to women’s increased participation in the labor market and focused on couples in which both parents were combining parenting with paid work. Academics were concerned with how parents managed to achieve work–life balance and how far conflicts between paid work and parenting led parents to feel stressed. Organizational psychologists and social-policy theorists such as Suzan Lewis and Cary Cooper (Lewis and Cooper 2005, cited under Broadening Understandings of Parenting and Work), sought to influence policy in the hopes that corporate employers would introduce and support initiatives to encourage flexible working practices and other mechanisms to reduce the level of work–family conflict experienced by employed parents. It was felt that such initiatives would reduce parental stress and have a beneficial impact on parents’ health and, consequently, their family lives. The well-being of parents was seen as crucial, because this affected their abilities both to be “good” parents and effective employees. The strengths of the literature on organizational psychology thus lay within its investigation of relationships among family, paid work, and parental well-being, which, as Pleck 1977 and Keith and Schafter 1980 note, has reflected the pace of social change as experienced by mothers and fathers in the 1980s and 1990s. Greenhaus and Beutell 1985 is a highly influential study that highlights dual-earner-parent (and by implication middle-class) couples as a focus for research within organizational psychology. In this article, Greenhaus and Beutell developed a framework that has helped to articulate and define the role played by the conflicts and pressures experienced by couples, in which both mothers and fathers combine parenting with employment. The framework in Greenhaus and Beutell 1985 includes three factors, as follows: time-based conflict, in which parents lack the time to cope with the demands of children and employment; strain-based conflict, in which parents are too exhausted to perform well either as caregivers or as workers; and behavior-based conflict, in which parents are required to adopt conflicting behavioral styles in home and work settings—as good parents requiring sensitivity and as good employees requiring toughness and decisiveness. Because Greenhaus and Beutell set out their framework in a clear and accessible manner, their article has been credited with setting the context for future studies of parenting and work–life balance within organizational psychology into the early 21st century, as Gareis, et al. 2009 explains. Thus, for example, the studies in Parasuraman, et al. 1989; Greenhaus, et al. 1989; Frone, et al. 1997; and Mesmer-Magnus and Viswesvaran 2005 all have centered upon understanding how the combination of parenting and paid work induces role conflict among employed parents and how such conflicts may cause parents to experience stress and related health problems.

  • Frone, M. R., J. K. Yardley, and K. S. Markel. “Developing and Testing an Integrative Model of the Work–Family Interface.” Journal of Vocational Behavior 50.2 (1997): 145–167.

    DOI: 10.1006/jvbe.1996.1577

    The article extends previous studies, such as Greenhaus and Beutell 1985, through a model that examines intent as well as behaviors. The authors show how relationships between work and family are reciprocal. That is, if the requirements of one role (either work or family) regularly interfere with the obligations of a second role (either work or family), the level of “in-role performance” falls.

  • Gareis, Karen, Rosalind C. Barnett, Karen Ertel, and Lisa F. Berkman. “Work–Family Enrichment and Conflict: Additive Effects, Buffering or Balance?” Journal of Marriage and Family 71.3 (2009): 696–707.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00627.x

    Writing about work–family conflict, the authors demonstrate how, twenty-five years after publication of Greenhaus and Beutell 1985, the “original focus on [work–family] conflict still characterizes the work–family literature within the field of organizational psychology” (p. 696). Available online by subscription.

  • Greenhaus, Jeffrey, and Nicholas Beutell. “Sources of Conflict between Work and Family Roles.” Academy of Management Review 10 (1985): 76–88.

    This seminal and much-cited paper explored the tensions experienced by employed parents who were bringing up dependent children. Because the framework set out in the article was so clear and accessible, their work has been credited with setting the context for future studies of parenting and work–life balance within organizational psychology during the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st century.

  • Greenhaus, Jeffrey H., Saroj Parasuraman, Cherlyn S. Granrose, Samuel Rabinowitz, and Nicholas J. Beutell. “Sources of Work–Family Conflict among Two-Career Couples.” Journal of Vocational Behavior 34.2 (1989): 133–153.

    DOI: 10.1016/0001-8791(89)90010-9

    This study explores work-family pressures among two-career couples. Drawing upon Greenhaus and Beutell 1985, the authors examine 119 men and 119 women in dual-career relationships. Focusing on time- and strain-based conflict, the authors show how work pressures affect family life. They suggest that role ambiguity is more likely to cause stress among men than among women. Men feel stress if their wives/partners appear to prioritize career over family.

  • Keith, Pat M., and Robert B. Schafter. “Role Strain and Depression in Two-Job Families.” Family Relations 29.4 (1980): 483–488.

    DOI: 10.2307/584462

    In a manner similar to Pleck 1977, Keith and Schafter considered the degree to which dual-career parents experienced stress and depression when trying to manage effectively both parenting and paid work.

  • Mesmer-Magnus, Jessica R., and Chockalingam Viswesvaran. “Convergence between Measures of Work-to-Family and Family-to-Work Conflict: A Meta-Analytic Examination.” Journal of Vocational Behavior 67.2 (2005): 215–223.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2004.05.004

    This article examines the relationships between work-to-family and family-to-work conflict and draws upon Greenhaus and Beutell’s ideas in relation to the role of strains and stresses induced by the conflict of combining parenting and paid work. As with Frone, et al. 1997, the authors show the relationships between work and family to be closely interrelated and to be problematic to measure.

  • Parasuraman, Saroj, Jeffrey H. Greenhaus, Samuel Rabinowitz, Arthur G. Bedeian, and Kevin W. Mossholder. “Work and Family Variables as Mediators of the Relationship between Wives’ Employment and Husbands’ Well-Being.” Academy of Management Journal 32.1 (1989): 185–201.

    DOI: 10.2307/256426

    This study shows how husbands in dual-career marriages reported feeling more stressed than husbands married to women who were at home full time. Husbands with employed wives were generally less satisfied with their jobs, marriage, and quality of life overall than those who were married to housewives. However, paternal satisfaction with childcare arrangements mediated paternal dissatisfaction with life to some extent. Available online by subscription.

  • Pleck, Joseph H. “The Work–Family Role System.” Social Problems 24.4 (1977): 417–427.

    DOI: 10.1525/sp.1977.24.4.03a00040

    Pleck explains how psychologies of parenting and paid work significantly advanced research on well-being among parents, because such research examined the capacity of employed parents to manage work–life balance across work and family settings, as opposed to dealing with work and family as separate entities.

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