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Long hours and longings: Children’s views of fathers’ jobs

Father and child /

A third of Australian children aged 11–13 years say their fathers work too much, a new study led by The Australian National University (ANU) has found. The study observed around 3,000 fathers and their children as part of the ‘Growing Up in Australia’ study. Lead researcher Professor and former visiting fellow at the WZB, Lyndall Strazdins, said fathers' long hours on the job, including regular night and weekend work and difficulties getting time off work, contributed to their children’s perceptions. Lyndall Strazdin has worked together in this project with Jenny Baxter, Australian Institute of Family Studies, and Jianghong Li, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.

The study considers fathers’ work hours, flexibility, schedules, and work intensity and how this may shape children's views of their fathers’ jobs. It also examines the extent to which fathers’ concerns that their jobs are interfering with their family life are reflected in what children say. “Australia’s work culture and social norms are making it hard for dads to be the fathers they want to be,” said Lyndall Strazdins. “More than half of fathers reported missing family events because of work, while a fifth described their family time as more pressured and less fun due to their jobs, and these were problems their children shared.” The research shows that people who work more than 39 hours per week are putting their health at risk, and also emphasizes that expectations to work long hours are a problem for gender equality. Especially workplaces still assume men are more devoted to their jobs than women and so they expect men to work longer hours, but this creates dilemmas for fathers. About 40 per cent of fathers regularly worked at night and on weekends, and felt they cannot easily change their work hours.
Lyndall Strazdins and her team has found out, that although kids really value the work that their parents do, whether it’s at home, in the office or elsewhere, they also have views about how long is too long to work.“We delude ourselves that what happens in fathers’ workplaces is somehow separate from children’s lives. Time with their fathers is a problem for many children, it’s not just an issue for adults and the economy.”

The research paper, ‘Long Hours and Longings: Australian Children’s Views of Fathers’ Work and Family Time’, was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

To the press release of the Australian National University

Photo: Father and child/