Feb. 24, 2021
What is the impact on children of parents facing workplace injuries? How can leaders help?
Workplace injuries do not only affect the injured worker, but also co-workers, families, and their communities. Work-related injuries sustained by parents can have a negative effect on their children’s mental health, often because of changes in family functioning during recovery. In a recently published paper, researchers Nick Turner (Haskayne School of Business), Steve Granger (Haskayne School of Business), Sean Tucker (University of Regina), Connie Deng (Haskayne School of Business), and Kevin Kelloway (Saint Mary’s University) found that children whose parents had experienced lost-time work-related injuries reported worse mental health. However, children’s work centrality—the extent to which children see work as an important part of their own lives and future—had protective effects on children’s mental health; work centrality buffered the effects of parents’ injuries on children’s mental health. The researchers suggest that high work centrality may be a ‘resource’ on which children can draw to help make sense of and cope with their parent’s injuries. Children who saw work as having considerable importance to their own lives—almost half of the study participants who were as young as age 10 were already employed in ‘odd jobs’ (e.g., lawn mowing, babysitting, etc) —appraised their parents’ work injuries with fewer negative emotions than children who identify with work less.
How can leaders (and parents) help?
By leading well and providing children with high quality work during even children’s earliest work experiences, parents (who are often also children’s supervisors) can help build work values in children, such that they see work as important and enriching part of their own lives. These values are also imbued around the proverbial kitchen table even before children work themselves. In this study, the researchers showed how values like the importance of work can fortify children facing adverse circumstances like a parent’s work injury. Leaders (and parents) are crucial in developing children’s psychological resources, and in this case seeing work as an important part of life can help protect children’s mental health.
Turner, N., Granger, S., Tucker, S., Deng, C., & Kelloway, E. K. (in press). Parents’ work injuries and children’s mental health: The moderating role of children’s work centrality. Journal of Safety Research.