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Inflexible and stressful work 'harming families'

16 January 11 13:09
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Inflexible and stressful jobs are leaving parents racked with guilt and increasingly distant from their children, according to a Demos report.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who has promised to do more for hard-pressed working families, will launch the think tank's study on Monday.

It wants the government to do more to encourage flexible working practices.

And it says more action is needed at a community level to give struggling and isolated parents greater support.

Long hours

Demos polled 1,017 parents for the Home Front report. It found:

Many parents surveyed said they felt guilty about working so much, a feeling that got worse as children got older, and felt they were less effective parents to their second or third child than their first.

Demos said its study showed those negative feelings were felt equally by parents in well-paid, but stressful middle-class jobs and those in lower-paid, lower-skill occupations.

Author Jen Lexmond said: "The right kind of work that is flexible and stimulating can improve parenting, but these kinds of jobs often come hand-in-hand with high levels of stress and emotional exhaustion which can be a toxic mix for parental confidence.

"What's clear is that our jobs make it difficult to share parenting responsibilities - the result too often being a double shift for mothers and a lack of engagement from fathers."

The report also said parenting was becoming "a more isolated and anxious task" because traditional extended families and strong local communities were increasingly rare.

As a result, parents were forced to rely more and more on friends for help.

The report's recommendations for ministers include:

Children's Commissioner for England Maggie Atkinson, whose office funded the research, said: "The lesson from this is that we have to look at ways of working that allow parents to share responsibility and provide children with the support parents want to give."

Mr Clegg said last week he wanted to stand up for "alarm clock Britain" - basic rate taxpayers who get up in the dark, get their children ready for school and then go out to work, often for long or anti-social shifts.

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