Why Giving Parents Autonomy at Work Will Help Their Children

A parent's job has more of an impact on their child's well-being than one might think, Maureen Perry-Jenkins found in a study for her latest book, "Work Matters: How Parents’ Jobs Shape Children's Well-Being."

Perry-Jenkins collected data from 370 different working-class families over a span of ten years. By combining home interviews with observations, reports, assessments, and interactions with parents, teachers, and children, Perry-Jenkins was able to come up with a comprehensive picture of how the careers of their caregivers impact children and their childhoods. And shockingly, a child's outcomes developmentally are influenced pointedly by their parents' careers.

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Parents who have more autonomy at work, including supportive supervisors, flexible hours, and kinder coworkers, were all-around gentler and more compassionate with their infants or young children. One example highlighted in the Harvard Business Review cited an employee whose boss kept track of everywhere he went and everything he did despite performing well at work.

"I just don't have the energy for a needy baby," the subject said in Perry-Jenkins' study, as he came home tired and stressed consistently.

Additional research in the scientific community definitively finds that children who are attended to warmly in their first year of life have better emotional and social skills, achieve more in school, and have better relationships with parents. Perry-Jenkins’ study substantiates that notion; years after the onset of the study, children with parents who had a positive work experience were better at math and reading, had minimal behavioral issues, and excelled socially.

As for how this study can be interpreted by employers in a corporate setting, Perry-Jenkins tells the Harvard Business Review that it's in a company's best interest to give their employees encouragement and autonomy. Micromanaging and stressing employees impacts a company's bottom line; the more strained the adults are, the more developmentally delayed and neglected their children are, leading to more time off, sick days, home stress, and unmotivated staff.