Sept. 7, 1999
Contact: Marianne Kunnen-Jones


Cincinnati -- Findings from the University of Cincinnati's second-annual Survey of Ohio's Working Families show that Ohio's working parents labor at stressful jobs that affect their health, according to UC sociologist David J. Maume, Jr. In addition, while many studies have examined how work impacts family life, these results show that family obligations affect work, including a sizable minority of workers who miss work to care for elderly relatives.

The Survey of Ohio's Working Families annually questions a random sample of Ohio's working parents about their work and family responsibilities. The survey is conducted by UC's Kunz Center for the Study of Work and Family.

More than 500 Ohio parents responded to a questionnaire mailed in February 1999. The margin of error is plus or minus five percent. Among the survey's findings:

  • Work schedules: Ohio's working parents labor long hours at their jobs putting in an average of 42 hours per week. Among those who work extremely long hours, 56 percent of men (compared with 16 percent of women) report working more than 48 hours per week. Furthermore, a significant number of working parents (18 percent of men and 13 percent of women) said they worked more than one job, which increased their average work week by 11 hours.

  • Job-related stress: Ohio's working parents show high levels of job-induced stress. Over three-fourths of these Ohioans either often or occasionally feel "burned out" by their jobs. Two-thirds report feeling emotionally drained by their work, while 82 percent often or occasionally "feel used up at the end of the workday." (See table.)

    Job-related stress was almost universal among Ohio's working parents. Men and women, supervisors and workers, and college-education vs. non-college-educated all reported similar levels of job-induced stress. Only part-time workers reported less job-related stress.

    Compared with full-time workers, part-time workers are less likely to experience job burnout (64 percent vs. 79 percent) or feel emotionally drained after work (48 percent vs. 67 percent).

  • Job demands: In addition to long hours, the typical Ohio working parent has a demanding job. Table 1 shows that over half of all respondents either "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with the statement, "My job requires that I work very fast." Similarly, four out of five respondents said that their job required them to work hard. Analyses of sub-groups showed little difference in the job demands placed on working parents. That is, men and women alike held jobs requiring them to work hard and fast. Job demands were also high for managers and non-managers, and the college educated vs. those without college degrees. The only exception might be that "only" 70 percent of part-time workers (compared with 81 percent of full-time workers) reported working hard.

  • Family, stress and health: Working in a demanding job while trying to meet the needs of loved ones will take its toll. In Ohio, nearly half (43 percent) of all working parents responded that "often" or "occasionally" their health suffered because of competing obligations to their families and their employers. Most Ohioans report similar experiences with the health impacts of work/family conflict. The only exception is part-time workers. Because they work shorter schedules, only 31 percent reported that their health is affected by their work and family obligations. (See table 3.)

    Even so, more than four out of five Ohio working parents report that they had experienced "a lot" or "a moderate amount" of stress in the past year. While not all of the reported stress can be attributed to people's jobs, this figure does suggest that families find it difficult to cope with their circumstances.

  • Home-to-job spillover: When people think of work and family conflict, it is usually in terms of how the job affects family life. Results from last year's Kunz survey (1998) showed that about four in 10 Ohio working parents had missed an important event in their child's life because of job responsibilities. But in 1999, they survey finds a similar percentage of Ohioans reporting that family responsibilities affect work. (See table 4)

    Almost half of Ohio working parents (45 percent) report that "very/fairly often" or "occasionally" their family lives prevent them from taking on extra work at their jobs. Women are more likely than men (by 52 percent vs. 40 percent) to say that family responsibilities interfer with taking on extra work. Additionally, some choose part-time jobs in order to meet family needs. Thus, it is no surprise, Maume said, that part-time workers are more likely than full-time workers (by 58 percent to 44 percent) to avoid extra work on the job because of family demands.

    The survey findings suggest that family demands do not prevent people from meeting deadlines at work, but they may affect the quality of work performed on the job. Only 17 percent of the sample reports that family demands inhibit getting work done on time, while 33 percent say that they are unable to concentrate on their work because of family demands.

  • Elder care: Another way in which family life can affect work is if adults suffer work interruptions to care for elderly relatives. The average respondent in this sample was 41 years old, and 80 percent of them had living older relatives.

    Nine percent of respondents with living elderly relatives reported that they missed work in order to provide care for an older relative (see table 5). Further, women were slightly more likely than men to disrupt their work to provide elder care. The nine percent incidence rate is not as large as the incidence of missing work because of child-care problems reported in the 1998 Kunz Survey. Even so, this finding projects that approximately 450,000 of Ohio's 5.1 million workers will miss some time at work eery month in order to provide care to an elderly relative.

  • Summary: "The survey's findings capture a slice of the difficult times in which we now live," says Maume, the author of the Ohio study. "Working long hours at a fast pace, means that workers often go home with little left to give their families," said Maume.

    "We know from prior research that family demands are unrelenting, and this survey shows that those demands reduce the amount and quality of work done for an employer," he said.

    "This creates a vicious circle in which work demands produce stress in the family, and family problems limit the quality of work done for an employer. In the end, both families and employers are short-changed when work demands become too great."

  • Further information about the Kunz Center and the survey can be obrained at the web site for the Kunz Center for the Study of Work and Family at http://ucaswww.mcm.uc.edu/sociology/kunzctr/.


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