2012. Vol.3, No.2, 165-174
Published Online February 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 165
Factors Associated with Perceived Time Pressure among
Employed Mothers and Fathers
Terrie Fitzpatrick1, Bonnie Janzen1, Sylvia Abonyi1,2, Ivan Kelly3
1Department of Community Health & Epidemiology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
2Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
3Department of Educational Psychology & Special Education, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
Received December 18th, 2011; revised January 12th, 2012; accepted January 31st, 2012
Research suggests that the perception of being pressed for time is increasing in many Western societies
and that such perceptions are linked with social and mental well-being. The aim of this study was to clar-
ify the family and work-related characteristics associated with perceived time pressure in a sample of Ca-
nadian working mothers and fathers. A telephone survey of 1160 employed parents (674 women and 486
men) conducted in a mid-size Canadian city in 2005 provided the data for this study. Results of the multi-
ple linear regression analyses showed that both role occupancy and role quality was related to perceived
time pressure and that the nature of these relationships depended on gender. For mothers, the following
factors were associated with increased time pressure: occupancy of an unpaid caregiving role, parenting a
child with at least one health/behavioral problem, and the perception of parenting as draining or anxiety
provoking. Regarding the paid work environment, women who were categorized as high strain (i.e., high
demands/low control) or active (high demands/high control) also reported higher levels of time pressure.
For fathers, greater perceived time pressure was associated with: occupancy of the partner role, the per-
ception of parenting as draining, being a multiple job holder and having a high strain (i.e., high de-
mands/low control) or active (high demands/high control) psychosocial work environment. Limitations of
the study are discussed as are the policy implications of the findings.
Keywords: Time Pressure; Gender; Employment; Parenting
There has been an increasing interest in Canada over the last
several decades, both in the academic literature and in the pop-
ular press, of issues related to Canadians’ quality of life, par-
ticularly the balance Canadian workers are able (or unable) to
achieve between paid work and family/community life (Brook-
er & Hyman, 2010; Hebert & Grey, 2006). An important com-
ponent of work-life balance is the amount of time people per-
ceive as having available to meet their role-related obliga-
tions—as parents, paid workers, partners and caregivers, among
others. Referred to in the literature with a variety of labels—
“time pressure”, “time crunch”, “time squeeze”—the perception
of not having enough time to do all of the things one needs to
get done appears to be on the rise across industrialized nations.
In Canada, for example, 16.4% of the population reported high
levels of time pressure in 1992, compared with 19.7% in 2005
(Brooker & Hyman, 2010).
What might account for the increase in perceived time pres-
sure? Objective explanations of time pressure point to labour
market trends, with both men and women reporting an increas-
ing amount of time spent in both paid and unpaid work over the
last 30 years (Jacobs & Gerson, 2005) as well as an increase in
time spent in nonstandard work (i.e., evening, night, split shift
or weekends) (Mattingly & Sayer, 2006). Cultural explanations,
on the other hand, have focused on the amplification of con-
sumerism in Western society which drives time intensive ac-
tivities with “high octane” lifestyles.
Whatever the explanation for the increase in subjective time
pressure, evidence suggests that the perception of time pressure
varies according to gender, with the research consistently re-
porting women as being more time stressed than men (Jacobs &
Gerson, 2005; Mattingly & Sayer, 2006; Marshall, 2006). Al-
though the reason for this gender difference is likely complex,
many have pointed to the increased presence of women in the
labour force in combination with their continued greater re-
sponsibility than men in regard to child rearing, performing
household chores, and caring for ageing relatives (Marshall,
2006). In addition to gender, the experience of time pressure is
patterned, to a certain extent, according to occupancy in major
social roles. For example, parents, particularly mothers, face
greater time strain than women who do not have children
(Beaujot & Andersen, 2007; Bellavia & Frone, 2005; Zukewich,
2003), as do full-time employed adults, compared to those not
in the labour force or working part-time (Beaujot & Andersen,
2007). Among parents, the relationship between time pressure
and marital/partner status has produced less consistent findings.
In Canada in 2006, single parent families accounted for 16% of
all families, up from 11% in 1981 (Statistics Canada, 2008).
Single parents face the same challenge of supporting the family
and spending time with their children as partnered parents but
often with fewer economic resources and a lack of support in
childcare (Milkie, Mattingly, Nomaguchi, Bianchi, & Robinson,
2004). Further, adding to the potential for time pressure, the
vast majority of single parents are also in the paid labour force
(Galarneu, 2005). To date, however, research examining the
relationship between partner status and time pressure among
mothers has produced conflicted findings (Baxter & Alexander,
2008; Milkie et al., 2004; Roxburgh, 2002). While there is mi-
nimal research on time pressure among single mothers the in-
formation about single fathers is even less available. An impor-
tant objective of this research was to examine the perception of
time pressure among employed, single parent mothers and fa-
thers, a growing family type in Canada (Statistics Canada,
In addition to the growing number of families headed by a
lone parent in Canada, particularly single fathers, there has
been an increase in the proportion of working-age adults who
are providing care to someone other than their children. In 2007,
among Canadians 45 years of age and older, 19% of men and
22% of women, or 2.7 million Canadians, reported providing
assistance to a senior with a chronic health condition (Crans-
wick & Dosman, 2008). Caregivers may experience higher
levels of time pressure than other Canadians given their multi-
ple responsibilities; that is, in 2007, almost three-quarters of 45
- 64 years old caregivers were partnered and 57% were em-
ployed. In addition, approximately 40% of caregivers were
younger than 54 years of age—a stage in life which typically
means many still have children residing in the home. An addi-
tional objective of this study, therefore, was to examine wheth-
er caregiving responsibilities, in addition to employment and
child rearing responsibilities, increase Canadians’ vulnerability
to perceptions of time pressure. This is an important objective,
given two considerations: 1) by 2036, seniors are expected to
comprise 22% of the Canadian population; and 2) community
and health care resources will likely not be able to meet the
demands of this aging population and it is predicted that infor-
mal support provided by family and friends will become even
more crucial (Cranswick & Dosman, 2008; Duxbury et al.,
In addition to role occupancy, research suggests perceived
time pressure may be patterned according to the quality of the
roles occupied (Roxburgh, 2002). That is, two individuals could
occupy the same number and types of roles, but be exposed to
very different demands within those roles. For example, lower
paying jobs tend to be characterized by fewer chances to learn
and develop skills, higher psychological work load, and less job
variety—characteristics which in turn have been associated
with a greater risk of poor mental health (Stansfeld & Candy,
2006; Karasek et al., 1998). Resources in the work environment
have also been recognized as playing an important role in off-
setting the potential harmful effects of a highly demanding job.
A sense of control over work activities has been identified as
particularly critical for promoting health and well-being (Grif-
fin, Fuhrer, Stansfeld, & Marmot, 2002). However, the majority
of research to date has focused on role occupancy in relation to
time pressure, with inferences made concerning role quality on
the basis of relatively crude measures of objective role charac-
teristics (e.g. hours of employment, number of children). Thus,
an important objective of this study was to examine both objec-
tive and subjective characteristics of work and family roles in
relation to perceived time pressure.
A final objective of this research was to examine how gender
may modify associations between work and family role occu-
pancy, role quality, and subjective time pressure. Considerable
evidence suggests that gender shapes many of the opportunities
and constraints associated with work and family role configura-
tions, which may in turn, impact on perceptions of time pres-
sure (Roxburgh, 2002; MacDonald, Phipps, & Lethbridge,
2005). For example, despite women’s increasing labour force
presence, and men’s increasing participation in housework and
childrearing activities in the last several decades, employed
mothers still retain primary responsibility for the bulk of do-
mestic work in two-parent households (Marshall, 2006). The
implication is that men and women occupying the same role
configuration (e.g. employed parent) may experience that role
in qualitatively different ways with consequences for the sub-
jective experience of time pressure. In addition, some evidence
suggests that the factors associated with perceived time pres-
sure may differ by gender, with men more influenced by work
characteristics and women by family factors (Nomaguchi et al.,
The overall objective of this study was to examine the pat-
terning of perceived time pressure according to role occupancy
and role characteristics in a sample of employed parents. More
specifically, three research questions guided the study:
1) How is role occupancy associated with perceived time
pressure? That is, does the additional role of partner and/or
caregiver increase the perception of time pressure?
2) How are the characteristics of work and family roles asso-
ciated with perceived time pressure?
3) Does the relationship between role occupancy, role char-
acteristics and perceived time pressure vary according to gen-
Understanding the factors associated with perceived time
pressure is important for public health, particularly given re-
search suggesting that perceptions of time pressure are increas-
ing in Western society and that such perceptions are linked with
social and mental well-being. That is, compared to individuals
who report lower levels of subjective time pressure, those with
higher perceived “time crunch” are more likely to report dis-
tress and depression (Roxburgh, 2004), stress (Hilbrecht, 2009;
Zuzanek, 2004), insomnia (Zuzanek, 2004), poor self-rated
health (Hebert & Grey, 2006) and are less likely to report hap-
piness and satisfaction with life (Nomaguchi, Milkie, & Bian-
chi, 2005).
The Gender, Work, and Family Health Survey, conducted in
Saskatoon Canada in 2005 (Dziak et al., 2010; Tao et al., 2010)
provided the data for this study. Telephone interviewers ran-
domly selected registered phone numbers within the city limits
and one person per household was chosen to complete a 40
minute survey. Eligible participants were those between the
ages of 25 and 50 years, English speaking, employed at least
part-time, and the parent of at least one child under the age of
20. Telephone interviews were conducted using a computer-
assisted telephone interviewing system. The sample had near
equal participant proportions in terms of age (25 - 34 and 35 -
50), gender, education (high school or less, some post secon-
dary, university/college).
Of the 5300 eligible individuals contacted, 1160 (674 women
and 486 men) were interviewed successfully. To examine the
potential for selection bias, we compared the distribution of our
respondents’ answers with those from the Canadian Commu-
nity Health Survey, Cycle 3.1 (CCHS) on similar questions
(Statistics Canada, 2005). The response rate of the CCHS was
78.9%. Although the CCHS is a nation-wide survey, our com-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
parison was restricted to CCHS respondents who were residing
in the same city as our study participants, employed, in a simi-
lar age bracket, and were the parent of at least one child living
in the household. As expected, compared to respondents from
the CCHS 3.1, our sample was significantly younger and had
lower educational attainment. Although our respondents re-
ported significantly higher levels of psychological distress, no
statistically significant differences between the two samples
emerged in terms of gender, weekly work hours, self-rated
health, or in the proportion reporting at least one chronic health
condition. The study was approved by the University of Sas-
katchewan’s Behavioural Research Ethics Board.
The dependent variable was measured using Roxburgh’s
(2002) time pressure scale. This 9-item measure requires par-
ticipants to indicate, on a 4 point Likert scale ranging from
strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (4), the extent to which
each item reflected their lives in the last year. Sample items
include: “You never seem to have enough time to get every-
thing done”, “You feel pressed for time”, “You feel rushed to
do the things that you have to do” and “There just don’t seem to
be enough hours in the day”. Participant scores can range from
9 to 36 with higher scores indicating greater perceived time
pressure. A Cronbach alpha of .76 in the present study indicated
that the time pressure scale had acceptable internal consistency.
Socio-demographic characteristics included participants’ age,
sex, educational attainment (university/college graduate; some
post-secondary; high school or less), and perceived income
adequacy. Perceived income adequacy was assessed with the
statement “We have enough money to cover basic needs for
food, housing and clothing” with which participants were asked
to indicate their agreement on a scale from one (strongly dis-
agree) to four (strongly agree). Due to a skewed distribution,
participant responses to the income adequacy question were
collapsed into two categories: strongly agree/agree and strongly
All participants in this study were employed parents. The
roles which did vary and were examined in this study were
those of partner and caregiver. Partner status, was a dichotom-
ous variable based on current marital status. Partnered individ-
uals were those who indicated that they were married or living
with a partner, and the unpartnered were those who were sepa-
rated, divorced, widowed, or never married. Participants were
categorized as being caregivers (or not) based on their response
to the question: “Other than your child, is there a friend or fam-
ily member living with you or not, to whom you provide spe-
cial care or attention because of a handicap, illness or old age?”
Several questions assessed key characteristics of paid work.
Objective work characteristics included whether the individual
worked long hours (50 or more hours/wk), work schedule (reg-
ular daytime shift or “other”) and whether the participant held
more than one job simultaneously (yes/no). Subjective work
characteristics were assessed by the Job Content Questionnaire
(JCQ; Karasek et al., 1998). JCQ items combine to assess vari-
ous components of job quality, with nine items measuring deci-
sion latitude (authority to make decisions concerning work,
ability to use one’s skills in doing work) and ten items measur-
ing psychological job demands (effort, pace and amount of
work, conflicting demands). The questionnaire items were
coded from 1 (strongly agree) to 4 (strongly disagree) accord-
ing to the degree to which respondents agreed with each state-
ment and scores for each scale were calculated by summing the
item scores. A higher score for each scale indicates greater job
demands and decision latitude. Cronbach’s alpha for decision
latitude and job demands was .74 and .64, respectively. To
better represent Karasek’s proposed model of job strain, par-
ticipants’ scores on the job demands and decision latitude
scales were then categorized using median splits (Vermeulen &
Mustard, 2000) resulting in four dimensions of psychosocial
work quality: high strain (high job demands/low decision lati-
tude), low strain (low job demands, high decision latitude),
active (high job demands, high decision latitude) and passive
(low job demands, low decision latitude). Evidence in support
of the validity and reliability of the JCQ scales has been re-
ported in numerous international studies (Karasek et al., 1998).
Family role characteristics included the number of children
(one, two, or three or more) and the presence of at least one
child age 5 years or younger in the household (yes/no). Partici-
pants were also asked to indicate whether any of their children
had experienced one or more of the following issues in the
previous year: chronic disease or disability, frequent minor
illnesses, emotional problems, alcohol or substance abuse
problems, problems at school or work, legal problems, or diffi-
culty getting along with people (Voydanoff, 2005). Partici-
pants’ affirmative responses to this question were summed and
subsequently re-categorized into a dichotomous variable with
the following outcomes: no problems or one or more problems.
Regarding subjective family role characteristics, based on ques-
tions from the Northern Ontario Perinatal and Child Health
Survey (2002), participants were asked to indicate their extent
of agreement (strongly disagree, disagree, agree, strongly agree)
with two statements: “parenting leaves you feeling drained and
exhausted” and “being a parent makes you tense and anxious”.
Due to a skewed distribution, participant responses to the “tense
and anxious” question was dichotomized (strongly agree/agree;
strongly disagree/disagree). Perceived assistance with house-
work (Berkman, 2001) was measured with the question “Is
there someone available to help you with daily chores?” to
which participants were asked to indicate on a five point scale
from none of the time to all of the time. Satisfaction with fam-
ily-related services was assessed with the question “How satis-
fied are you with the help you receive from the supports and
services available to you and your child?” Possible responses
included: very unsatisfied, somewhat unsatisfied, neutral, some-
what satisfied and very satisfied. Higher scores indicate greater
satisfaction. Social support was assessed with Berkman’s (2001)
5-item scale in which respondents were asked to identify the
amount of time (1 = none of the time to 5 = all of the time) that
they perceived various types of social support were available to
them. Item examples include: “Is there someone available to
give you advice about a problem?” and “Is there someone
available to you who shows you love and affection?”. Higher
scores indicate greater perceived social support. Cronbach al-
pha for the social support scale was .77.
Initial analyses involved the calculation of Pearson product
correlation coefficients between the continuous scale study
variables. Bivariate analyses were conducted to examine, ac-
cording to gender, differences in socio-demographic character-
istics, work and family roles and characteristics and perceived
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 167
time pressure. Differences between mothers and fathers were
tested using chi-square tests for categorical variables and t-tests
for continuous measures. Bivariate and multivariable analyses
were used to address the research questions. Initial analyses
involved chi-square tests to examine the distribution of each of
the study variables by gender. A series of one-way ANOVAs
were then conducted to examine how perceived time pressure
was patterned according to each of the study variables and by
Hierarchical multiple linear regression was used to examine
which factors were most strongly related to perceived time
pressure. To assess whether the relationship between the study
variables and perceived time pressure varied by gender, analy-
ses were conducted separately for men and women. Independ-
ent variables were entered into the regression equation in four
blocks, the grouping and sequence of entry theoretically guided
by our research questions: 1) sociodemographic characteristics
(age, educational attainment, perceived income adequacy); 2)
role occupancy (partner and caregiving status); 3) family char-
acteristics (number of children, presence of young children in
the household, the presence of a child with a health/behavioral
problem, perception of parenting as draining/anxiety provoking,
assistance with household chores, satisfaction with family-
related services, social support); and 4) work characteristics
(long work hours, work schedule, multiple job holder, job
Correlations among the continuous variables, displayed in
Table 1, are generally low, indicating in relation to each other
these measures were adequately orthogonal. Table 2 displays
the distribution of the key study variables according to gender.
A significantly greater proportion of women than men were
college/university graduates. No statistically significant gender
differences emerged with respect to age, income adequacy,
partner status or taking on additional caregiving responsibilities.
Although men were significantly more likely than women to
report having help with daily chores, women reported signifi-
cantly higher levels of perceived social support. No gender
differences emerged with respect to number of children, the
presence of a young child in the household, having a child with
at least one health/behavioral problem, satisfaction with fam-
ily-related supports and services, or extent of agreement to
statements that “parenting makes me feel drained or exhausted”
or “parenting makes me feel tense and anxious”. With regard to
paid work, a higher percentage of men than women reported
working 50 hours or more a week and being a multiple job
holder whereas women reported greater decision latitude at
work than men. Men and women did not differ in terms of work
schedule, job demands or job strain. Finally, women perceived
themselves as being significantly more time pressured than men
[F(1,1055) = 4.45; p = .03] (data not shown).
Results of the linear regression analysis predicting time
pressure, reported separately for women and men, are displayed
in Tables 3 and 4, respectively. For mothers, the introduction
of the sociodemographic characteristics as a block in Step 1,
did not make a significant contribution to explaining the de-
pendent variable, nor did any of the characteristics individually.
The addition of the role occupancy variables in Step 2 did make
a statistically significant contribution to explaining the outcome.
More specifically, women who were involved in additional
Table 1.
Pearson correlations for study variables.
Measure 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 Age
2 Psychological
demands .03
3 Decision latitude.08 .19
4 Help with daily
chores .08 –.06 .05
5 Parenting is
draining –.03 .12 –.05 –.04
6 Satisfaction
with supports and
.17 –.14 .15 .03 –.09
7 Social support .12 –.11 .14 .34 –.16.26
8 Time pressure –.02 .22 –.04 –.05 .31 –.03.12
Note. Correlations .12 are significant at the .05 level (two-tailed).
caregiving were more time pressured than women who were
not, as were women with an inadequate income (compared to
adequate). The introduction of family characteristics in Step 3
also significantly contributed to explaining time pressure. Al-
though income adequacy became no longer associated with
time pressure, a statistically significant relationship between
additional caregiving responsibilities and greater perceived time
pressure remained. In addition, women who reported a child
with at least one health/behavioral problem had significantly
higher levels of time pressure than those mothers who did not,
as did mothers who indicated greater agreement with the state-
ments “parenting makes me feel drained or exhausted” or “pa-
renting makes me feel tense and anxious”. When work charac-
teristics were entered in the final model, all of the variables
associated with time pressure in the previous step remained
statistically significant. In addition, women who were catego-
rized as high strain (i.e., high demands/low control) or active
(high demands/high control) reported higher levels of time
pressure compared to women categorized as low strain (i.e.,
low demands, low control). In the final model, the independent
variables accounted for 16% of the variance in the dependent
For fathers (Table 4), none of the sociodemographic vari-
ables were associated with time pressure in Step 1, nor were
any of the role occupancy variables entered in Step 2. In Step 3,
with the introduction of family-related characteristics, partner
status became statistically significant, with single fathers re-
porting lower levels of time pressure compared to partnered
fathers. In addition, greater agreement with the statement “par-
enting makes me feel drained or exhausted” was associated
with higher perceived time pressure. In the final step, the fol-
lowing variables were associated with greater time pressure for
men: occupancy of the partner/marital role, greater endorse-
ment of the statement “parenting makes me feel drained or
exhausted” being a multiple job holder and having a high strain
(i.e., high demands/low control) or active (high demands/high
control) work environment compared to low strain (i.e., low
demands, low control). In the final model, the independent
variables together accounted for 14% of the variance in the
dependent variable.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Table 2.
Sociodemographics, role occupancy and role characteristics, by gender.
Women Men p
Sociodem ogr aphic C har ac te ri stic s
Educational attainment
High school or less 32.6 32.7
Some postsecondary 29.1 38.3
College/university 38.3 29.0 .01
Income adequacy
Adequate 79.0 79.7
Inadequate 21.0 20.3 .80
Age (Mean & SD) 36.15 (7.17) 35.85 (7.44).49
Role Occupancy
Partner status
Single 35.0 29.8
Partnered 65.0 70.2 .13
Additional caregiving
Yes 6.2 6.4
No 93.8 93.6 .92
Family Charac t eristics
Number of children
One 36.1 34.8
Two 37.7 40.7
Three or more 26.3 24.5 .60
Child 5 years of age living
in household?
No 48.4 43.0
Yes 51.6 57.0 .07
Child with one or more
health/behavior problems
No 85.5 82.5
Yes 14.5 17.5 .17
Parenting makes me tense and
Disagree 74.7 70.4
Agree 25.3 29.6 .12
Parenting is draining
(Mean & SD) 2.35 (.90) 2.25 (.92) .08
Satisfaction with family-related
supports and services (Mean & SD) 3.13 (1.18) 3.25 (1.20).09
Help with daily chores
(Mean & SD) 3.15 (1.30) 3.31 (1.30).04
Social support (Mean & SD) 19.43 (4.16) 18.41 (4.12).00
Paid Work Characteristics
Long work hours (50+ hours/wk)
Yes 13.65 25.93
No 86.35 74.07 .00
Multiple job holder
Yes 20.0 26.7
No 80.0 73.3 .01
Work schedule
Regular daytime shift 83.5 81.6
Other 16.5 18.4 .40
Paid work demands (Mean & SD) 24.61 (4.34) 24.50 (4.47).67
Decision latitude (Mean & SD) 26.59 (4.83) 25.49 (5.81).01
Job Strain
High (high demands, low control) 21.1 19.9
Active (high demands, high control) 31.9 30.3
Passive (low demands, low control) 23.7 27.7
Low (low demands, high control) 23.4 22.1 .50
Table 3.
Standardized (beta) coefficients for OLS regression of perceived time
pressure on sociodemographic characteristics, role occupancy, family
role characteristics and work role characteristics, women.
StepVariable Model 1 Model 2 Model 3Model 4
1 Sociodemographic
Age –.02 –.04 –.03 –.05
Some post-secondary .04 .05 .04 .04
High school
or less –.00 .01 –.01 .00
Inadequate incomeb .08
*.09 .03 .04
2 Role
parentc –.03 –.05 –.07
Additional care giving **.13 **.15 **.16
3 Family Characteristics
of childrend
Two .06 .05
Three .02 .04
Child <5 years
of age living in
.04 .06
Child has health
or behavioral problem
**.11 **.11
Parenting is
**.24 **.15
Parenting is anxiety
**.12 *.22
Help with chores –.03 –.02
Satisfaction with
supports and services
.00 .01
Social support –.08 –.08
4 Work
Long work hours –.04
work schedule .01
Multiple job holder .06
Job straine
High **.19
Passive .01
Adjusted R2 .00 .02 .13 .16
F (df) for C h ange
in R2 1.22
aCompared to university/college graduates; bCompared to adequate income;
cCompared to partnered parent; dCompared to one child; eCompared to low strain.
*p .05; **p .01.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 169
Table 4.
Standardized (beta) coefficients for OLS regression of perceived time
pressure on sociodemographic characteristics, role occupancy, family
role characteristics and work role characteristics, men.
Step Variable Model 1 Model 2 Model 3Model 4
1 Sociodemographic
Age .06 .05 .01 –.04
Some post-secondary –.06 –.05 –.07 –.09
High school or less –.02 –.03 –.02 –.04
Inadequate incomeb –.04 –.02 –.03 –.01
2 Role Occupancy
Single parentc –.08
*–.13 *–.13
Additional care
giving –.04 –.05 –.06
3 Family
Number of childrend
Two .02 .03
Three .10 .11
Child <5 years of
age living in
–.05 –.08
Child has health or
behavioral problem –.02 –.01
Parenting is draining **.17 *.15
Parenting is anxiety
provoking .05 .08
Help with chores .02 .03
Satisfied with
supports and services
–.09 –.08
Social support –.10 –.09
4 Work Characteristics
Long work hours .09
Non-regular work
schedule –.02
Multiple job holder **.19
Job straine
Passive .05
Adjusted R2 –.00 .00 .06 .14
F (df) for
Change in R2 .85
aCompared to university/college graduates; bCompared to adequate income;
cCompared to partnered parent; dCompared to one child; eCompared to low strain.
*p .05; **p .01.
The first aim of this study was to examine whether the addi-
tional roles of caregiver and/or partner were associated with
increased perceived time pressure among employed parents.
Consistent with the results of previous, albeit limited, research
(Beaujot & Anderson, 2007; Hebert & Grey, 2006), this study
found the added responsibility of caregiver to be associated
with higher levels of perceived time pressure among mothers.
Interestingly, although similar proportions of mothers and fa-
thers reported caregiving responsibilities in this study (about
6%), the addition of the caregiving role was not associated with
time pressure among fathers. Fast et al. (2002) reported a simi-
lar gender difference in their study of employed informal care-
givers in Canada. These researchers found that a higher per-
centage of women (65.4%) than men (49.7%) reported diffi-
culty balancing their multiple roles. In addition, almost one-half
of the women in the study, compared to about one-third of the
men, reported that their caregiving activities resulted in a lack
of time for themselves.
What might account for this gender difference in the rela-
tionship between caregiving and perceived time pressure? The
answer may lie in the gendered nature of unpaid caregiving
work in Canada. In another Canadian study, Cranswick and
Dosman (2008) reported that compared to male caregivers,
female caregivers were more likely to perform: personal care
activities (e.g. bathing, dressing), regularly scheduled house-
work tasks (e.g. meal preparation, laundry), tasks related to
medical care, and overall coordination activities. Male caregiv-
ers were more likely than their female counterparts to perform
tasks related to household maintenance and yard work. As
Cranwick and Dosman (2008: p. 50) observe:
Not only are some of the tasks that women perform more
personal, they also have to be performed according to a regu-
lar schedule, for example the administering of medicines and
the preparation of meals. Other tasks such as care management
must be done during the day when offices are open, competing
with work time in the case of working caregivers. The time-
specific nature of certain tasks is likely to add burden and
stress to caregivers. In contrast , tasks outside the house such as
house maintenance or outdoor work can usually wait until the
care provider has the time to perform them.
As the North American population continues to age, informal
caregiving demands will only increase, making the need for
appropriate social and economic policies to assist informal
caregivers with balancing their work and life responsibilities
even more critical (Barrette, 2009; Cranwick & Dosman, 2008;
Duxbury et al., 2009).
In addition to the role of caregiver, this study also examined
the relationship between perceived time pressure and occu-
pancy of the marital/partner role among employed parents.
Single-parent households, a growing family form in Canada,
currently comprise about 17% of all families in Canada (Statis-
tics Canada, 2008). Although most single parent households are
led by women, the rate of single father headed households is
growing in Canada more rapidly than single mother households.
A prevalent assumption in the time pressure literature is that
single mothers likely experience higher rates of time pressure
than their partnered counterparts due to the absence of a live-in
partner to share household and child rearing responsibilities
(Barrette, 2009; Brooker & Hyman, 2010). Single parents also
have fewer financial resources than partnered parents (Williams,
2010), perhaps affording them less of an opportunity to “out-
source” household work such as housework and yard work as a
way of minimizing time pressure. In addition to financial con-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
straints, employed single parents are more likely than employed
partnered parents to work in low-wage occupations which in
turn are associated with more limited access to family-friendly
policies which may facilitate balancing their work and family
roles (Lambert, 1999; Mason, 2003). Surprisingly, however, the
results of this study indicated no statistically significant asso-
ciation between perceived time pressure and lone motherhood;
that is, employed single mothers reported a level of time pres-
sure similar to that of partnered mothers. This finding is con-
sistent with the results of some previous research (Baxter &
Alexander, 2008; Hebert & Grey, 2006) but inconsistent with
one other study that reported higher perceived time pressure
among single compared to partnered mothers (Gunthorpe &
Lyons, 2004).
What might explain the lack of association between time
pressure and single motherhood in this study? It is important to
note that this study included only employed mothers and it is
possible that single mothers who experience high levels of time
pressure are unable to maintain employment and would there-
fore not have met the inclusion criteria for participation in this
study. As concluded by Mason (2003: p. 49), in her qualitative
study of 95 employed and non-employed lone mothers in sev-
eral Canadian cities:
There were two major influences on a lone mothers ability
to remain attached to the workforce: the presence of mothers,
sisters or others able and willing to provide emergency child-
care, and family-friendly work environments. Those without
one or the other of these critical supports struggled and fre-
quently withdrew from the paid labor force. Less critical, but
still significant were factors associated with employment bene-
fits, affordable housing, transportation, and recreation.
In other words, the sample in our study may be a very selec-
tive one whereby only those single mothers who have the nec-
essary supports in place to be able to successfully balance the
time demands of family and paid were likely included as study
participants. Other research, though not specifically examining
time pressure, provides an alternative view to understanding the
lack of association between single motherhood and time pres-
sure observed in this study. Some writers have been critical of
what they consider a one-sided portrayal of single mothers in
both the academic and popular press, that is, an “…almost ex-
clusive focus on the dysfunctions and distress of single-parent
families which does injustice to those solo parents who are
relatively successful with regard to self-support and quality of
life” (McManus, Korabik, Rosin, & Kelloway, 2002: p. 1319).
Indeed, some research does report that single mothers do not
experience more difficulty than partnered mothers in balancing
home and work life (McManus et al., 2002; Hertz & Ferguson,
1998). The work, family, and community experiences of single
mothers are likely diverse and unfortunately many studies,
including this one, do not have detailed enough measures in
place to reflect that diversity. The experience of time pressure
is complex, and simply the occupancy or lack of occupancy of
the partner role, fails to reflect that complexity. Unfortunately,
with a few exceptions, quantitative research on time pressure
has focused primarily on couple families (e.g. Deding & Laus-
ten, 2011; van der Lippe, 2007; Tezli & Gauthier, 2009) and
those that do consider marital status, often do not do so in com-
bination with parent status (e.g. Roxburgh, 2002), or fail to
distinguish between single mothers and single fathers (e.g.
Gunthrope & Lyons, 2004).
In contrast to mothers, partner status did make a difference
for employed fathers, with single fathers in this study reporting
significantly lower levels of perceived time pressure than part-
nered fathers. Similar to mothers is that this finding was
somewhat unexpected. Although compared to single mothers,
single fathers are more economically well-off (Williams, 2010),
compared to partnered fathers, on the other hand, they are not
(Galarneau, 2005). That is, Canadian data indicates that relative
to couple fathers, single fathers have lower educational attain-
ment, are less likely to be employed full-time, and are much
more likely to be living in a low-income household (Williams,
2010; Galarneau, 2005). Thus, like single mothers, one might
expect single fathers to be more pressed for time than fathers in
couple households due in part to more limited access to the
social and financial resources that could be used to minimize
time pressures. However, the greater time pressure among
partnered than single fathers in this study is consistent with the
role scarcity perspective (Goode, 1960) which argues that oc-
cupying additional roles (in this case the partner role) should be
associated with greater time pressure; that is, while a partner
can be an important resource for balancing work and family
obligations, fulfilling one’s partner role responsibilities also
requires time and effort. Single fathers’ lower perceived time
pressure may also be due to the fact that they are more likely
than couple fathers to work part-time (Galarneau, 2005). Fi-
nally, some research suggests that single fathers may be less
likely than other types of parents to spend time caring for their
pre-school age children—a period in a child’s life which typi-
cally requires daily, time-intensive parenting (Hook & Chala-
sani, 2008). In addition, compared to partnered households,
single fathers may spend more money on eating out rather than
preparing food at home, perhaps resulting in less time pressure
(Ziol-Guest, 2009).
Unfortunately, the measurement limitations in this study
prevent a more in depth understanding of the reasons for the
findings. Single parents in this study were those who indicated:
being divorced/separated/widowed/never married, not living
with a partner, and having a child living in their household at
least “part of the time”. Access to potentially important infor-
mation, such as custody arrangements and the duration of single
parenthood, were not available in the present study. Among
single fathers there is obviously much variability in terms of
their own and the other parent’s level of involvement in their
children’s lives which would likely impact on fathers’ experi-
ence of single parenting and the perception of being pressured
for time. Also not addressed in the present study was the pres-
ence of other supportive people, such as grandparents, who may
be available to assist employed single fathers in the daily de-
mands of raising a family as a single parent.
The second aim of this study was to examine how family and
work characteristics may be related to time pressure. Regarding
family role characteristics, although neither the number of chil-
dren nor the presence of a young child were associated with
time pressure for parents in this study, perceptions of time
pressure did increase for mothers who were the parent of a
child with a health and/or behavioral problem. Parenting a child
with health or behavioural issues was not associated with time
pressure for fathers. Although similar proportions of mothers
and fathers in this study reported this family circumstance (see
Table 2), no information was collected regarding the amount of
time actually spent on parenting a child with such challenges.
Given that gender influences both the amount and type of care
giving provided in families (Dufur, 2009), it is possible that
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 171
mothers in this study may take on a larger share of the respon-
sibilities or “case management” for these children than fathers.
Mothers may report feeling time pressured because of the addi-
tional cognitive planning that would be needed to deal with
illness or behavioural issues, not to mention perhaps time spent
communicating with schools and/or the health care sector.
Gender differences also emerged in regard to subjective family
characteristics. Again, although similar proportions of mothers
and fathers agreed with various statements that parenting was
emotionally draining or anxiety-provoking (Table 2), such
perceptions were related to mothers’ but not fathers’ experience
of time pressure.
Why might the perception of parenting as anxiety provoking
be associated with greater perceived time pressure among em-
ployed mothers than fathers? This question is difficult to an-
swer. The single item measures of parental role quality used in
this study pose challenges to their meaningful interpretation.
The cross-sectional nature of the study also adds to the chal-
lenge: does feeling time pressured lead to the perception of
parenting as exhausting or visa versa? Compared to mothers
who disagree with such statements, it is plausible that mothers’
who agree, for a variety of reasons, spend more of their time in
parenting-related activities, leading to perceptions of time
pressure. Perhaps mothers who perceive parenting as exhaust-
ing and/or anxiety provoking have fewer economic and social
resources at their disposal, making it more difficult to fulfill
their parenting responsibilities in a time-efficient manner. It is
important to note, however, that mothers’ perceptions of par-
enting quality in this study remained statistically significantly
associated with time pressure, even after adjusting for other
characteristics which may differ between women in this study
and be related to time pressure, such as the availability of social
support and various employment characteristics. Additional
research is needed to understand this finding.
Interestingly, more tangible types of support, such as satis-
faction with family-related supports and services in the com-
munity and help with household chores, were not associated
with mothers’ or fathers’ experience of time pressure. Regard-
ing the latter finding, although previous research has reported
actual time in unpaid family work as quite consistently associ-
ated with perceived time pressure among women (Deding &
Lauston, 2011; Hebert & Grey, 2006), research using measures
assessing relative contribution to paid and domestic work (i.e.,
the division of labour) have produced more ambiguous results
(Beujot & Anderson, 2006; Tezli & Gauthier, 2009). The lack
of association in our study between tangible social supports and
time pressure may be due, in part, to our use of relatively crude,
single item measures of both unpaid family work demands and
availability of family services.
In contrast to family characteristics, fewer gender differences
emerged in the relationship between paid work characteristics
and mothers’ and fathers’ perceptions of time pressure. Objec-
tive job characteristics in this study, with the exception of
holding down multiple jobs among men, were unrelated to per-
ceptions of time pressure. The relationship observed in this
study between multiple job occupancy and time pressure seems
a reasonable one, due to the time splitting required between
being at two (or more) places of employment, along with the
additional role of being a parent. For both mothers and fathers
in this study, high strain jobs (i.e., high demands, low control)
were associated with greater time pressure. Workers in high
strain jobs would have greater perceptions of things being hec-
tic, having to work fast, and being frequently interrupted when
trying to complete their work tasks (Karasek et al., 1998). Such
workers would also have less access to resources that might
assist them in coping with a psychologically demanding job,
such as the freedom to make work-related decisions on their
own and a say about what happens on their job. Thus, the sta-
tistically significant association observed both in this study and
in Roxburgh’s (2002) between high demands/low control and
increased perceptions of time pressure, seems quite logical.
Some research suggests that a highly strained paid work envi-
ronment increases workers’ perceptions of work-family conflict
(Neil & Hammer, 2007), which in turn, may increase percep-
tions of time pressure.
Study Limitations
There are a number of limitations to this study both in design
and measurement. This study is cross-sectional, and therefore,
there was not enough evidence to establish the temporal rela-
tionship between perceptions of time pressure on the one hand
and work and family role occupancies/characteristics on the
other. Although the perception of time pressure was positioned
as the dependent variable in this study, based on previous pub-
lished literature in the area, time pressure could plausibly act as
in independent variable in some of the relationships examined
here (e.g. perceptions of parenting quality). In addition, indi-
viduals’ work and family role occupancies and their associated
characteristics are not static, but rather, change over time; the
inability of this study to capture the dynamic nature of work
and family roles in relation to perceptions of time pressure also
limit the ability to draw any causal conclusions. More research
with diverse samples of participants, in terms of life stage, fam-
ily composition, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and socioeco-
nomic position, is required to advance the field.
The quality of family and paid work roles in the study were
considered to be a function of a combination of subjective and
objective role characteristics (Neal & Hammer, 2007). Al-
though the measurement of several of the objective paid work
characteristics was relatively crude (e.g. work hours, non-
standard work), the use of Karasek’s job strain measure in this
study, given its strong theoretical and research base, was a
strength. On the other hand, the quality of measures of family
characteristics was weaker. Several single item measures were
used in this study as indicators of family role quality, such as
the extent to which participants endorsed several statements
regarding their parenting role. The interpretation of the results
of this study could have definitely been strengthened with the
use of a theoretically-based, psychometrically sounder measure
of family role quality.
Finally, it is important to note that although statistically sig-
nificant associations were reported in the study between work
and family role occupancies/characteristics and perceived time
pressure, the predictor variables only explained a modest
amount (about 15%) of the total variability in the dependent
variable. Obviously, there are other factors associated with
perceived time pressure that were not included in this study and
need to be addressed in future research, such as the number of
daily activities, general health, and the occupancy of other roles
such as volunteer. The inclusion of more valid and reliable
measures of the family and paid work role characteristics would
also enhance the explanatory power of our multivariable mod-
els of time pressure.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
The overall aim of this study was to better understand the
patterning of perceived time pressure among working mothers
and fathers in Canada according to whether they occupied the
additional role of partner and/or caregiver, as well as according
to characteristics associated with their paid work and family
roles. The main finding of this study is that both role occupancy
and role quality is related to perceived time pressure among
employed parents and that the precise nature of these relation-
ships depends on gender. However, more longitudinal research,
combined with the greater use of psychometrically sound and
theoretically-informed measures of time pressure and family
work, is required to advance the field.
Although study limitations temper firm conclusions, the re-
sults do have implications for the development of work and
family policy. To enhance the psychosocial paid work envi-
ronment of parents, job redesign practices that could reduce
workplace stress may include increasing the employees’ overall
job control, skill use, and reducing work-role conflict, by en-
couraging employees to be more active in decision making
processes (Lowe, 2007). Additional support by governments
could reduce caregiver burden by programs that provide respite
and assistance in arranging seniors move into care facilities. To
assist mothers in the early years of raising children, adequate
access to affordable child-care is critical (Brooker & Hyman,
2010). The availability of high quality and affordable early
childhood education and care can have a major impact on par-
ents (and children’s) quality of life, by reducing family care-
giving demands and altering how young children spend their
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