Public Policy, Work and Families: The Report of the APA Presidential Initiative on Work and Families

Most parents with children under 18 years old work outside the home, including a majority of mothers with infants younger than 1 year old. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2002 indicated that 72% of mothers with children under 18 years old were employed outside the home. Some of these adults are included in the 45 to 50% of working adults who expect significant care responsibilities for aging relatives within the next 5 years, and others care for disabled family members.

Most people say that they would continue to work even if they did not need the money, and there are positive benefits to paid employment, including a sense of well-being and satisfaction, reduced depression, and the benefits associated with additional income, especially when the additional income moves a family out of poverty. However, the primary reason why the vast majority of adults work is to pay for rent, food, insurance, and other necessities. Despite the changing demographics of families, the world of work is still largely organized for a family model that is increasingly rare--one with a stay-at-home caregiver. This mismatch between employment norms and contemporary families has created problems for employers and working families.

What sorts of business policies can provide returns on investments and help working families meet their obligations? What advice can the social science research literature offer to working families who are deciding about work options and schedules and care arrangements for family members? How can we use our empirical data to inform public policies, schools, and community organizations?

Social science research on the intersection of work, family, and children offers data-based recommendations that can realign the world of work with the realities of working families.