Work-family trajectories and health: A systematic review

Vendula Machů*, Iris Arends, Karin Veldman, Ute Bültmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Work and family lives interact in complex ways across individuals’ life courses. In the past decade, many studies constructed work-family trajectories, some also examined the relation with health. The aims of this systematic review were to summarise the evidence from studies constructing work-family trajectories, and to synthesise the evidence on the association between work-family trajectories and health.

We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, SocINDEX and Web of Science databases. Key search terms related to work, family and trajectories. Studies that built combined work-family trajectories or examined the relationship between work and family trajectories were included. Risk of bias was assessed independently by two authors. The identified work-family trajectories were summarised and presented for men and women, age cohorts and contexts. The evidence on the association with health as antecedent or consequence was synthesised.

Forty-eight studies, based on 29 unique data sources, were included. Thirty-two studies (67%) were published in 2015 or later, and sequence analysis was the primary analytic technique used to construct the trajectories (n = 43, 90%). Trajectories of women were found to be more diverse and complex in comparison with men. Work-family trajectories differed by age cohorts and contexts. Twenty-three studies (48%) examined the association between work-family trajectories and health and most of these studies found significant associations. The results indicate that work-family trajectories characterised by an early transition to parenthood, single parenthood, and weak ties to employment are associated with worse health outcomes.

Work-family trajectories differed greatly between men and women, but differences seemed to decrease in the youngest cohorts. Given the current changes in labour markets and family formation processes, it is important to investigate the work and family lives of younger cohorts. Work-family trajectories were associated with health at different life stages. Future research should examine longitudinal associations of work-family trajectories with health and focus on elucidating why and under which circumstances some trajectories are associated with better or worse health compared with other trajectories.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100466
Number of pages31
JournalAdvances in Life Course Research
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2022

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