Monday, 2 April 2012

Informing the Parenting Strategy

CRFR recently facilitated a meeting at the Scottish Government to help inform the development of the Parenting Strategy.

Through conversations with Scottish Government staff we saw an opportunity to highlight research from our Associate Director, Professor Claire Wallace of Aberdeen University and Associate Researcher Dr Jeni Harden, which we felt made an important contribution to our knowledge on parenting in Scotland. Professor Lynn Jamieson, a co-Director at CRFR also presented findings from Growing Up in Scotland, the national longitudinal study of children's experiences from across the country.

Prof Claire Wallace, University of Aberdeen
Work-Care Synergies Project
This project has provided a comparative analysis of parenting in Europe, looking at the quality of life for parents in different European countries and the strategies adopted by parents in managing work and care in different national contexts. The team has also developed a typology based on a policy analysis of work and care for families with young children in different European counties. The research ran from 2010-2011.

The project found that parenting policy varied across Europe. There was convergence in the progress of women's rights but women still do the majority of domestic chores. Men are contributing more, but the general trend across all countries was that men are more involved in childcare, not domestic chores. This results in a lot of pressure on women to manage professionally while also taking primary responsibility for the upkeep of the household and childcare. The project identified barriers facing men in getting time off work to look after children: both in terms of paternity policies and with colleagues not taking them seriously after taking the decision to focus more on parenting. There were five strategies that working families use to help with childcare that there shared by all countries included in the research: using flexible working arrangements where available, taking on shift work to share responsibility between both parents, relying on formal care and using informal care support from grandparents and others where possible.

For more information please contact Claire at

Dr Jeni Harden, University of Edinburgh
Work and Family Lives: The changing experiences of ‘young families’
This project explored how families achieve a work life balance over time, drawing on the changing experiences and perceptions of families with primary school-aged children. Both parents and children were involved in the research, providing their different perspectives, as well as exploring the processes of negotiation between parents and children in addressing issues raised. The project is a qualitative longitudinal study with fourteen families in Scotland, conducted between 2007 and 2010.

The project identified a number of themes relating to parental responsibility that impact on families ability to achieve a work-life balance:
  • Parents faced competing demands on their time relating to their responsibilities as parents and employees. This is experienced through the difficulties of synchronising work and family life and results in a sense of harriedness, of feeling constantly busy, tired and stressed. Parents expressed feelings of guilt and anxiety about not being able to give 100% to either work or family.
  • Challenges of keeping clear boundaries between work and home, particularly when parents are working from home or 'catching up' on work at home.
  • Children do support parents by complying with routines, helping with chores, looking after themselves and younger siblings.
  • Negotiating changes in responsibility for children as they get older, particularly when they move to secondary school
  • Helping children to understand work as part of everyday life is often justified by financial gains.
For more information please contact Jeni at

Growing Up in Scotland
Growing Up in Scotland is a major longitudinal research study following the lives of over 10,000 children across Scotland from infancy through to the teenage years. Parenting is one of a number of topics covered in the study, with the data able to tell us how parents in Scotland are parenting, what factors influence parenting and parenting practices, and how parenting affects childrens' outcomes. Some of the findings include:
  • The support provided by grandparents should not be underestimated, with many grandparents involved in childcare or babysitting on a regular basis.
  • Social support networks are very important in the lives of families with young children.
  • Most mothers have contact with professionals, although young mothers, particularly lone mothers in low income groups are most wary of asking for help from professionals.
  • Early parenting approaches and experiences have an impact on social, emotional and behavioural development at age 5.
  • Children living in low-income households are doing home-learning activities like reading and singing less frequently, which impacts on cognitive development. They are also less likely to visit places like farms and museums.
For more information go to:

The National Parenting Strategy aims to highlight the value and importance of parenting, recognising the wide range of influences on growing children - mums, dads, grandparents and the wider family, foster, kinship and adoptive parents. The Government has asked partner organisations to engage with parents and others with a parenting role across Scotland, seeking their views of what would help them to be the best parents they can be for their children. They will then gather views from practitioners through the consultation on the Children's Services Bill, with a view to publishing the strategy later in 2012.

For more information please contact

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