tough love

If you’re a lawyer or a cop, you’re seen as a bad parent

August 17, 2014
August 17, 2014

Lawyers, politicians, salespersons, police officers, and receptionists are among those considered likely to be bad parents because their working lives are perceived as aggressive, weak, or impersonal. That’s according to new research on the effects of occupations on parenting at the University of Iowa.

“I wanted to examine 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,” said Mark Walker, a doctoral student in sociology, who presented his findings to the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association on Aug. 16.

By merging data on the “cultural sentiments” attached to parental and occupational identities with a large survey on work-family conflict, Walker found that the public is skeptical about the abilities of parents whose occupations do not align with the kind of jobs that society views as conducive to mothering or fathering (those include teachers, physicians, registered nurses, principals, or professors). Professionals like police officers and politicians perceive society’s skepticism about their parenting, which can augment their stress level, said Walker. “Those parents are always swimming upstream trying to convince people they are, for example, a legitimate parent or a legitimate attorney.”

Walker hopes that the study could lead to workplace changes designed to lower the stress for these professionals—or help build confidence in their role as parents. “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,” he added.

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