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Both parents working: The impact on children

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Children grow and develop, becoming our future citizens. Many children today can relate to the fact that their parents have a paid job in addition to their parenting commitments. The proper care and bringing up of children is a controversial issue. Changes in family structures, employment patterns, and expectations of parents is what makes children’s care an issue. Through this report the positives and negatives and the external and internal influences on families, while both parents are working, will be investigated. This report will also be recommending on how best to manage children’s care arrangements to enhance the positive effects while limiting the negatives effects.

A certain action may be considered to be best for another person but not preferred for oneself. Children can spend as many hours in childcare by the age of five as they will spend in school over the next twelve years. (Cook, 1999) Therefore the experience needs to be a positive one. Children spending these alarming hours in childcare results from parents working long hours everyday, this being the only choice they have. For most parents the financial need to keep working meant they continued despite the feeling of dissatisfaction. (Lewis & Tudball, 2001). There are also many women who are forced to return to work when their babies are only weeks old. (Courier mail, 2004)

An important aspect of a child’s world is the parent-child relationship, and one central feature of this relationship is the infant-mother attachment. (Cook, 1999). It is very important for early intervention of warm and responsive care giving for children, as outlined in a study done on early brain development. It is important to promote and provide optimal care for young children. Early brain development depends on how a child is nurtured. Positive nurturing care and love to a child in their early stages of life brings positive brain development. (Cashmore, 2001) With two parents working there is some bad impacts on children that arise. Children yearn to do the basic things with their parents such as shopping, going out for lunch, going to the park and talking. (Lewis, 2001)

Parents coming home stressed and tired result in children feeling awkward and stay away from their parents, missing out on quality time. The child’s life becomes rushed and stressed in the process of finding substitute mother care. (Sherry, 1998) Stability is another important factor for a child’s development. Sometimes the chaos of arrangements with both parents working, limits the stability. (Shanahan, 2000) A conclusion to be made considering these negatives of both parents working, is that, children could be missing out on quality time and a healthy, strong relationship from a very early age.

The impact on children of having both parents working, is not all bad; there are some positive impacts that come about. The hours actually worked by parents does not necessarily relate directly to the feelings about each other in a family. Children acquire goals in life on the way they view or identify with their parents as well as from the quality and amount of care, love and guidance. (Hoffman, 2000) Although a child’s parent is the main influence in their life, a child’s nurturing can come from a variety of sources. Children can be as comfortable with grandparents, neighbours, professional childcare attendants and babysitters as they are with their own parents. (AIFS, 1999). Children comment on the enjoyment of being babysat by a grandmother, or having the house to themselves after school. Although there are many pathways of care, professional childcare centres are the most popular strategy used by parents.

From attending childcare children can achieve some aspects of their development. Such as, language skills, motor skills and readiness for school. Positive health outcomes include the detection of vision and hearing problems, higher vaccination rates and appropriate nutrition (Slack-Smith, 1999). A study has found that parental employment had ‘minimal effects on children’s later functioning’, and that increased early parental income could positively affect childhood development. (Slack-Smith, 1999). As outlined there are positive impacts that will help in the development of children, while both their parents are working in paid employment.

Even with the positives and negative of parents working it can be concluded that these impacts do not apply to all families. The impact on children having both parents working depends on many variables. Within a family there are internal and external factors that affect how work and family impact on each other. Each child has different needs that will vary with their temperament and developmental stage. Parents differ with their capacities to provide the many types of attention and interaction that the children need. Therefore the internal factors influence the ways parents can navigate work and family, while meeting the needs of their children. The external factors are what make the parents go to work. The job demands, job quality and support at work. Also it can be the level of pay they receive and what kinds of family-friendly initiatives are available within the workplace. The relationship of a family and the overall impact on the children does vary from family to family and how parents manage work and family responsibilities. Not one study can conclude on the overall affect on children as a whole, as the variables of family structures and functions are very different. (Lewis & Tuudball).

With both parents working it is very important to have recommendations on limiting the negative impacts and enhancing the positives. The facilities of childcare are changing to meet the needs of all families even to the case where soon a 24-hour day care will be offered. This showing that parents working demands are increasing rapidly. The 24-hour childcare centre is a centre where parents can leave their children for up to 48 hours at a time. (Courier Mail, 2004) There are strategies to improve the quality of family functioning. Maternity leave is an option where mothers can use it and see their child grow for their first steps. Although this can be a benefit many mothers comment on that the leave alone will not ease the stress that they and their families are dealing with well beyond the first 14 weeks of a child’s life. (Courier mail, 2004) Maternity leave also is not available for every working woman.

The key is flexibility, if women could have provision of greater flexibility in working hours and conditions. Another issue arises with paid maternity leave, ‘for dad’s it’s all work and not much play’. The debate of balancing work and family life is focused on the needs of working women, often leaving the equally frustrating family demands on the men to the side (The advertiser, 2004) Some ways which would benefit children would be parents working part time, having one parent with them at all times. It might mean the changing of jobs, cutting back hours, or using the flexible conditions of employment wisely, making the most of what they can receive. Working out the best strategies will help life at home more manageable. (Lewis & Tudball, 1999)

In conclusion it can be said that parents’ working and the impact on children is determined by that family’s structure and it’s functioning. The love and nurture that the children in that family receive. There are observational positives and negatives such as gaining more development skills but then missing out on the important bonding stage of the children’s life. With the flexibility of parents to work, to provide an income but still be there for the development of the children, family life can be positive and limit the negative impact on the children. Overall, both parents’ working doesn’t have to mean both working full time, all day every week, it is the management of flexibility. Children will be impacted primarily by the parenting skills and how parents successfully manage work and parenting responsibilities.

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