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Soc Sci Med. 2006 Nov;63(10):2591-603. Epub 2006 Aug 4.

"A lot of sacrifices:" work-family spillover and the food choice coping strategies of low-wage employed parents.

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  • 1Cornell University Ithaca, NY, USA. cmd10@cornell.edu

Erratum in

  • Soc Sci Med. 2007 Aug;65(3):640.

Abstract

Integrating their work and family lives is an everyday challenge for employed parents. Competing demands for parents' time and energy may contribute to fewer meals prepared or eaten at home and poorer nutritional quality of meals. Thus, work-family spillover (feelings, attitudes, and behaviors carried over from one role to another) is a phenomenon with implications for nutrition and health. The aim of this theory-guided constructivist research was to understand how low-wage employed parents' experiences of work-family spillover affected their food choice coping strategies. Participants were 69 black, white and Latino mothers and fathers in a Northeastern US city. We explored participants' understandings of family and work roles, spillover, and food choice strategies using open-ended qualitative interviews. Data analysis was based on the constant comparative method. These parents described affective, evaluative, and behavioral instances of work-family spillover and role overload as normative parts of everyday life and dominant influences on their food choices. They used food choice coping strategies to: (1) manage feelings of stress and fatigue, (2) reduce the time and effort for meals, (3) redefine meanings and reduce expectations for food and eating, and (4) set priorities and trade off food and eating against other family needs. Only a few parents used adaptive strategies that changed work or family conditions to reduce the experience of conflict. Most coping strategies were aimed at managing feelings and redefining meanings, and were inadequate for reducing the everyday hardships from spillover and role overload. Some coping strategies exacerbated feelings of stress. These findings have implications for family nutrition, food expenditures, nutritional self-efficacy, social connections, food assistance policy, and work place strategies.

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