A workplace work-life balance programme is linked to children’s happiness

Photo: Chris Price. Creative Commons.

An American study has found that 9- to 17-year-olds whose parents took part in a work/life balance programme at work were happier on average a year later than the children of parents in the same company who did not participate in the programme.

The workplace programme, STAR (Support-Transform-Achieve-Results), took place within the IT department of a Fortune 500 company in USA. It focused on managing work-life balance and did not including anything directly to do with parenting.

Dr Kate Lawson (Ball State University, Muncie, IN, USA) and colleagues assessed two groups of young people – 62 whose parents participated in the programme and 41 whose parents did not –just before the programme took place and then again 12 months afterwards. Both before and after, the young people underwent a set of eight 15-minute interviews on consecutive evenings.

The young people were assessed for five positive feelings (interested, excited, happy, proud, strong) and six negative feelings (upset, nervous, afraid, mad, sad, gloomy). They were also asked if any stressful events had taken place that day, for example, a family argument or an unwelcome demand by a parent to help more at home. Their increase in negative feelings on those days could be measured.

At the start, all the young people showed the same averages for positive and negative feelings and the same reactions to stressful events that day. But after 12 months, the young people whose parents had participated in the programme showed no average increase in negative feelings and negative reactions to stressful events, whilst the other young people did (as is normal with the advance of this stage of adolescence).

This research provides further evidence that what happens to parents at work influences how children feel at home.

Lawson KM, David KD, McHale SM, Almeida DM, Kelly EK & King RB, Effects of Workplace Intervention on Affective Well-being in Employees’ Children, Developmental Psychology, 52(5), May 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000098