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Build Your Career Work-Life Balance

The Kinds of Careers That Are Extra Stressful for Parents

The Kinds of Careers That Are Extra Stressful for Parents
Credit: Malidav/Shutterstock

As if being a parent weren't stressful enough, it turns out that having certain kinds of jobs can make it even more taxing.

While all jobs can cause stress, the way some occupations are viewed by society can add to a parent's stress level, according to new research from the University of Iowa.

Researchers say that parents who hold jobs typically regarded by society as aggressive, weak or impersonal are likely to be more stressed out than parents whose occupations are seen as good, strong and caring, which are traits often associated with parenting.

The research found that the occupations that create more psychological baggage are salesperson, laborer, receptionist, police officer and politician. Those that cause less stress by aligning better with parenting include teacher, physician, registered nurse, principal and professor, the study found.

"What I wanted to examine was the extent to which discrepancy between the cultural meanings of a person's occupational and parental identities could impact the psychological well-being of working parents," Mark Walker, one of the study's authors and a doctoral student at the University of Iowa, said in a statement. "What we found is, in fact, it does."

Walker believes the research is important because it gives a name to something that many working parents experience, but have trouble identifying.

"I think identifying the issue as a social problem — rather than an individual one or, even worse, an imaginary problem — could be helpful to working parents in and of itself," Walker said. [Stressed-Out Workers Say These Two Things Bother Them Most ]

The idea behind the study was that there is an identity attached to each role people play in their lives, such as parent, church member or teacher. Walker said that each of those identities has an attached "cultural meaning," which is how society views that identity.

"We use cultural information to define those identities," Walker said. "How people treat us and react to us is based on that cultural information."

For the study, researchers merged data on the cultural sentiments attached to parental and occupational identities with a large-scale survey on work-family conflict. They came up with a three-dimensional graph on which various occupations were plotted.

The study's authors discovered that people often doubt parents whose occupations don't align with being a mother or father.

"If a person is constantly met with skepticism, he or she can begin to feel stressed because that skepticism will take a toll over time," Walker said. "Those parents are always swimming upstream, trying to convince people they are a legitimate parent or a legitimate attorney."

Mary Noonan, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Iowa and co-author of the study, said the findings warrant a closer look by sociologists because the findings call into question common sentiments about how jobs add to parents' stress.

"I used to think the whole conflict was about time and energy, and not so much this internal conflict about identity," Noonan said.

Walker said the research could help employers make workplace changes designed to reduce the psychological strain of juggling the roles of parent and worker.

"If employers are aware that working parents in a given occupation are more at risk of experiencing psychological strain, they could potentially provide more targeted mental-health resources for those in 'at risk' occupations," Walker said.

The study was presented during last month's American Sociological Association annual meeting in San Francisco.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.

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