Besides economic resources, parents’ autonomy in the workplace can help boost the health of their children, suggests research.
While it was long known that sick children can affect a company’s bottom line, less is known about the impact a parent’s work life has on their children’s health.
The researchers, from the University of Houston in the US, looked at the so-called “self-regulatory resources”, or the amount of self-control parents bring to parenting, including the ability to act in a more reflective manner.
“If a parent has too many stressors, it reduces your self-control,” said Christiane Spitzmueller, Professor.
Parental self-control was linked to better health outcomes for children. In other words, how we parent when we experience high levels of stress is probably fundamentally different from how we parent when we are coping well.
“At lower levels of job autonomy,” the researchers wrote, “employees likely have to rely more on self-regulatory resources to compensate for the impact of limited control over one’s job on one’s personal life.”
On the other hand, “at higher levels of job autonomy, freedom and more decision-making opportunities are likely to motivate the person to engage; however, self-regulatory resources would be less needed.”
According to Spitzmueller, the key lies in the sense of control about their own work profiles.
“If you can decide how you are going to do your job, rather than having that imposed on you, it is better for children,” Spitzmueller noted.
In the study, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, the team collected data from both parents and children in Nigeria, targeting one group of low-income families and a second group of more affluent families.
While the low-income group included people living in dire poverty, she noted that their responses did not differ markedly from those of the wealthier group.
The study found that economic resources are not as much of a buffer, instead, feelings of autonomy in the workplace reduced the health problems for the children.