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How Organizations Can Help Child Care Work: Reducing Incidences and Consequences of Child Care Disruptions Eden B. King and Michelle R. Hebl Rice University. ABSTRACT. HYPOTHESES. ANALYSIS STRATEGY.

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How Organizations Can Help Child Care Work: Reducing Incidences and Consequences of Child Care DisruptionsEden B. King and Michelle R. HeblRice University




The primary purpose of non-parental child care is to enable parents of young children to achieve the financial and psychological benefits of employment (Scarr, 1998). However, it is challenging for most working parents to find quality, affordable child care. One result of low quality child care may be disruptions at work, including logistical problems or breakdowns in child care and the psychological interruptions caused by worrying about children’s welfare while in care. Because child care disruptions are linked to negative psychological and work outcomes (Foster, 2003), the reduction of childcare disruptions is in the best interest of both parents and their employing organizations. However, the factors that may limit the frequency and severity of childcare disruptions and negative outcomes have only begun to be investigated. Given the potential negative effects of these disruptions on parents’ well-being and productivity, it is critical for researchers and practitioners to examine elements of the workplace that may enable parents to cope with child care disruptions.

This research will explore the effectiveness of various organizational efforts to support working parents. n particular, it is expected that the extent to which organizations offer formal child-focused programs will be related to the accessibility of quality child care and the associated child care disruptions. It is further expected that the informal workplace climate for families, as manifested by the supportiveness of supervisors and co-workers, will limit the negative effects of disruptions on attitudes and behaviors. This research may provide empirical guidance to parents, organizations, and policy-makers regarding the effective utilization of child care.

After the data has been collected, entered, and cleaned, the proposed relationships among study variables (see Figure 1) will be tested using hierarchical regression analyses. In regression analyses, direct and mediated effects will be tested using the steps outlined by Baron and Kenny (1986). The exploratory analyses will also be tested in this manner. Agreement among team members in their evaluations of team-level variables (e.g., team-family conflict, team performance) will be examined before aggregation to the group level of analysis (see Klein & Kozlowski, 2000). Each of these statistical methods will be utilized in order to capitalize on the data collection efforts.

  • H1: The availability of formal work-family benefits will be negatively related to the incidence of child care disruptions. (A)

  • H2: Quality of child care will partially account for the relationship between formal child care benefits and the incidence of child care disruptions. (B, C)

  • H3: Incidence of child care disruptions will be negatively related to individual outcomes.(D)

  • H4: Incidence of child care disruptions will account for the relationship between formal child care programs and individual outcomes. (A, D)

  • H5: Consequences of child care disruptions will depend on co-worker and supervisor responses such that disruptions will lead to more negative consequences when the response is rejecting than when it is supportive. (E)

  • Exploratory Analyses of Gender, SES, and Agreement of Team Members about Work-Family Conflict and Climate at group level of analysis


  • This research seeks to understand elements of the workplace that influence the incidences and consequences of childcare disruptions in the workplace.

  • In a thorough survey of 450 employees from 150 teams across organizations, we will examine the extent to which formal and informal elements of the work-family interface enhance or limit the occurrence of childcare disruptions and the associated outcomes.

  • We will also explore the emergence of work-family constructs at the group level of analysis as a first step toward understanding the interpersonal manifestations of work-family conflict.

  • Thus, this project will provide empirical evidence to organizations in support of the effective utilization of childcare.



In response to the fact that parents constitute 40% of all workers in the United States (U. S. Bureau of the Census, 1998) and the increasing difficulty of accessing quality child care (e.g, Frenandez, 1986), organizations have begun to institute formal work-family benefits such as flextime, financial support for child care, and on-site childcare centers. Empirical evidence has generally provided support for the institution of these policies (for a review, see Fredriksen-Goldsen & Scharlach, 2001). For example, family-friendly benefits have been linked with outcomes such as decreased stress (Thomas & Ganster, 1995), turnover (Friedman, 1989) and absenteeism (Nollen, 1982), in addition to increased organizational commitment and job satisfaction (Harrick, Vanek, & Michlitsch, 1986; Grover & Cooker, 1995; Nollen, 1989). However, the extent to which these programs impact day-to-day family and work functioning has yet to be fully understood. Specifically, we do not yet know how particular programs or policies affect the incidence of child care disruptions.

Moreover, there is some evidence that formal family-friendly benefits may not do enough for working parents. Instead, it is the conclusion of several preliminary studies that it may be necessary for formal policies to be accompanied with a supportive informal work-family climate in order to maximize the positivity of the work-family interface (e.g., Allen, 2001; Behson, 2002; Thompson, Beauvois, & Lyness, 1999). For example, an organization may formally allow employees to use flextime to care for their children, but employees may be discouraged from using it by other co-workers whose time is more structured. Despite its potential impact, there is no published empirical evidence examining the influence of climate on child care disruptions. The current paper proposes that when a parent experiences a disruption in their work due to a breakdown in child care, the response of their immediate work group will be the most important determinant of coping.

  • Participant Recruitment

    • 150 work groups identified from the Houston metropolitan area

    • At least three team member participants

    • A total of 450 participant responses expected March 15

  • Questionnaire Measures

    • Brief experimental evaluation of a fictitious subordinate (2 (Gender, male or female) x 2 (Caretaker Status, target or spouse) x 2 (Parental role involvement, high or low))

    • Job attitudes (stress, satisfaction, turnover intentions, mood)

    • Team tasks, interdependence, communication, cohesion, performance

    • Availability and use of work-life programs in organization (flextime, compressed work week, pt work, on-site childcare, telecommuting, subsidized childcare, childcare information, paid maternity/paternity leave, elder care)

    • Organizational climate for families

    • Positive and negative spillover from home to work and work to home

    • Home and work role involvement

    • Evaluation of team responses to childcare disruptions (task- and person-oriented responses)

    • Description and evaluation of childcare arrangements

    • Evaluation of problems with childcare

    • Demographics


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