Bearing the Consequences? Parental Commuting and Children's Well-Being

Christine Borowsky, SOCIUM Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy, University of Bremen

For many parents, commuting is the direct link between work and family. Whereas it is just a few minutes ride for some, others commute over long distance to reach their work place. Nowadays, the feminisation of the labour market brings challenges for couples as both have to find an adequate job in the same location. Further, workers have been faced with increasing expectations regarding their spatial mobility. This is particularly demanding for families which usually prefer to spare their children a move. Due to these socio-economic changes, long-distance commuting is becoming a popular phenomenon. Some families might perceive it as solution for the work/family challenge. However, it may come with costs.

We already know that long-distance commuting can affect the commuter and the relationship to their partner. However, the question arises whether the well-being of commuter’s children might be affected as well. Here, research is still scarce.

This is the first study to focus on the parent-child relationship as key mediator between commuting time and child well-being. It is hypothesised that parental long-distance commuting is negatively connected with the parent-child relationship, which in turn is highly important for the children’s well-being. Using the German Family Panel, a structural equation model is performed to test this hypothesis. Results show that long-distance commuters have a poorer parent-child relationship, and, additionally, the children have a lower well-being. Clear gender differences exist, as all relations apply in particular to mothers. Summarised, children of long-distance commuting mothers are at risk for a poorer well-being. These findings confirm that although commuting is a strategy to combine work and family it may come with costs for the children.

Presented in Poster Session 1