Association of Parents’ Work-Related Stress and Children’s Socioemotional Competency: Indirect Effects of Family Mealtimes

Sehyun Ju, Qiujie Gong, Karen Z. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Family mealtimes play an important role in promoting the physical and psychological well-being of children. However, parents’ work-related stress may impact their ability to participate in frequent family mealtimes. In dual-earner families, gendered norms may also influence parents’ shared responsibility to participate in mealtimes with their children. Prior studies have primarily focused on the mother’s role in feeding children, while the father’s participation has been relatively unexplored. We used a sample of dualearner families consisting of heterosexual married couples with children in the United States who participated in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort to investigate how stressors at work may affect the mother’s and father’s participation in family mealtimes and, in turn, related to the child’s socioemotional development. We tested the associations between the mother’s and father’s work-related stress on the child’s socioemotional competency from age two through preschool (age 4-5). We examined the direct and indirect effects of parents’ work-related stress on child socioemotional competency through their involvement in mealtimes. The results indicate a negative direct association between the mother’s job/financial dissatisfaction and the child’s socioemotional competency. The father’s job dissatisfaction had an adverse impact on children in terms of socioemotional competency, partially explained by the father participating less often in family mealtimes. Fathers’ job/financial dissatisfaction had a negative influence on children’s socioemotional competency, even with an increase in the mothers’ participation in family mealtimes in the absence of the fathers. The findings emphasize the importance of fathers’ involvement in mealtimes above and beyond mothers’ involvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)977-983
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2023


  • family mealtimes
  • father involvement
  • financial stress
  • socioemotional development
  • work stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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