Weathering the Storm: The Effects of Working from Home and Income Loss on Spousal and Mother-Child Relationships During COVID-19

Jeremy W Lim-Soh, National University of Singapore
Poh Lin Tan, National University of Singapore

The large-scale move towards working from home caused by the pandemic may increase work-life conflict and worsen family relationships, especially for working mothers. Income loss due to economic disruptions may also negatively affect spousal and parent-child relationships. This paper tests these hypotheses using longitudinal data on 341 heterosexual married couples with children aged below 12 in Singapore. The dataset consists of three waves: a baseline survey in April-June 2018 and two follow-up waves during and shortly after the lockdown in May and June 2020 respectively. Results partially support the first hypothesis. Married women were significantly more likely to report worsened spousal relationships if they were working from home during the pandemic, but more likely to report improved relationships if husbands were working from home. Neither parent’s work from home status was significantly associated with changes in mother-child relationships. Women’s income loss was associated with improved rather than worsened relationships with their children. Moderation analysis suggests that relationships in families with younger children were generally more stable but also more sensitive to mothers’ income loss. The results point to tensions between mothers’ roles at home and in the workplace, with working mothers shouldering greater care burdens when working from home.

Keywords: COVID-19, Family demography, Urbanization and urban populations

See paper.

  Presented in Session P6.