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COMPANIES have long been aware that sick children have an impact on the professional lives of parents, who are obliged to take time off or work from home, which may then affect their efficiency. But is the converse also true? In a recent study, a team of researchers set out to assess the impact of parents' work-related stress on the health of their children.
The study, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, suggests that parents who have a sense of control over their professional lives are less exposed to work stress and the children in their homes are less likely to be sick.
The research team collected health data for two groups of parents and children, one low-income group and one more affluent one, living in Lagos, Nigeria.
One interesting aspect of their findings was that this difference in the level of income between the two groups did not directly correlate to higher levels of parental work stress or poorer children's health. Analysis of the results showed that economic resources had no incidence on either of these.
What did have an impact, however, was the degree of autonomy parents enjoyed in their professional lives. Those without much control were more vulnerable to work-related stress and also less likely to exercise enough self-control as parents, which in turn can negatively affect children's health.
The study showed that this phenomenon was amplified by demanding jobs with very low levels of autonomy. As the study's co-author and Professor of Industrial Organisational Psychology at the University of Houston, Christiane Spitzmueller, explains, “If you can decide how you are going to do your job, rather than having that imposed on you, it is better for children”.