School of Social and Political Sciences - Research Publications

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    The gendered associations between precarious employment and mental health in working-age Australians: A longitudinal analysis using 16 waves of the HILDA survey.
    Ervin, J ; Taouk, Y ; Hewitt, B ; King, T (Elsevier BV, 2023-12)
    Unemployment and precarious employment (PE) are routinely found to be associated with poorer mental health. Importantly, women are over-represented in PE (due to disproportionate unpaid care demands), yet a gender lens has been lacking in much of the extant literature. This study addresses several gaps by reconsidering how PE can be conceptualised from a gender perspective and examining the impact of differing levels of multidimensional PE on the mental health of working-age Australians. Utilising sixteen annual waves (2005-2020) of the HILDA survey, this longitudinal study employed mixed-effects analysis and Mundlak modelling to examine the association between PE and mental health in working-age (25-64yrs) adults. Mental health was assessed using the MHI-5 scale. A multidimensional PE scale (based on objective and subjective indicators) was developed and three levels of precarity were modelled. 19,442 participants were included in the analyses and all models were stratified by gender. We found women experience greater exposure to PE in Australia, and our results showed a ubiquitously strong and negative association between PE and mental health in both women and men, across all levels of PE, with a dose dependent association observed with increasing PE. Additional adjustment for prior mental health slightly attenuated effect sizes, but the strength and direction of all associations were unchanged. This study provides longitudinal evidence of the detrimental impact of PE on the mental health of working age Australians, highlighting the importance of labour regulations and employment policies to minimize PE for all adults. However, given women's differential exposure to PE, this study also reinforces the urgent need for gender-sensitive social policies to address continued inequity in the division of unpaid household labour to promote a more equitable paid labour market into the future.
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    Trajectories of Unpaid Labour and the Probability of Employment Precarity and Labour Force Detachment Among Prime Working-Age Australian Women
    Ervin, J ; Taouk, Y ; Hewitt, B ; King, T (SPRINGER, 2023-10)
    Abstract Worldwide, women are over-represented in precarious and insecure employment arrangements. Importantly, the high unpaid labour demands women experience over the life course compromise paid labour force participation for women. This study explores the way different trajectories of time spent in unpaid labour throughout women’s prime working and child-rearing years (from baseline age of 25–35 yrs to 42–52 yrs) are associated with indicators of precarious employment and labour force detachment later in life. We applied group-based trajectory modelling to 17 waves (2002–2018) of data from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey to identify trajectories in unpaid labour. We then examined associations between these estimated trajectories and employment outcomes in wave 19 (2019). Our study shows that chronic exposure to high amounts of unpaid labour over prime working-age years (compared to lower exposure levels) increases women’s probability of precarious employment and labour force detachment later in prime working life. This provides evidence that ongoing inequity in the division of unpaid labour has considerable long-term implications for gender inequality in the paid labour force, and underscores the importance of urgently addressing how men and women share and prioritise time across both paid and unpaid labour domains.
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    Time use, time pressure and sleep: is gender an effect modifier?
    Scovelle, AJ ; Hewitt, B ; Lallukka, T ; O'Neil, A ; King, TL (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2023-06-01)
    BACKGROUND: The gendered division of labour contributes to differences in the way time is spent and experienced by women and men. Time spent in paid and unpaid labour is associated with sleep outcomes, therefore, we examined (i) the relationships between time use and time pressure, and sleep, and (ii) whether these relationships were modified by gender. METHODS: Adults from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey were included in the analysis (N = 7611). Two measures of time use (total time commitments, ≥50% of time spent in paid work) were calculated based on estimates of time spent in different activities. One measure of time pressure was also included. Three sleep outcomes (quality, duration and difficulties) were examined. Logistic regression and effect measure modification analyses were employed. RESULTS: Total time commitments were associated with sleep duration, whereby more hours of total time commitments were associated with an increase in the odds of reporting <7 h sleep. Gender was an effect modifier of the association between ≥50% of time spent in paid work and (i) sleep duration on the multiplicative scale, and (ii) sleep difficulties on the multiplicative and additive scales. Men who spent <50% of time in paid work reported more sleep difficulties than men who spent ≥50% of time spent in paid work. Feeling time pressured was associated with poor sleep quality, short sleep duration and sleep difficulties. CONCLUSIONS: Time use and time pressure were associated with sleep, with some effects experienced differently for men and women.
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    The association between unpaid labour and mental health in working-age adults in Australia from 2002 to 2020: a longitudinal population-based cohort study.
    Ervin, J ; Taouk, Y ; Hewitt, B ; King, T (Elsevier BV, 2023-04)
    BACKGROUND: Unpaid labour is a daily part of most people's lives, none more so than for women. Yet, in comparison to paid work, the effect of unpaid labour on mental health is an under-researched area. This study aims to address key gaps in the extant literature, examining how unpaid labour is associated with mental health in working-age men and women, and whether gender differences exist. METHODS: In this longitudinal population-based cohort study, 19 waves of the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey were used to employ a fixed effects regression analysis to examine the associations between unpaid labour and mental health in working-age (aged 25-64 years) Australian adults. Mental health was assessed using the MHI-5 scale. Both the individual and the combined effects of four different domains of unpaid labour (household work, childcare, care for adults, and outdoor tasks) were interrogated, as were the gender differences. FINDINGS: Of the 37 352 participants (297 036 observations) in waves 2002-20 of the HILDA Survey, 22 832 people (190 207 observations) were aged 25-64 years, and after excluding participants with missing data, 21 014 participants (150 163 observations) were included in the analysis. Increasing time in household work was negatively associated with mental health in both men (β coefficient=-0·026 [95% CI -0·04 to -0·01]) and women (β coefficient=-0·009 [-0·02 to 0·001]), as was care for adults (disabled or older people) in women (β coefficient=-0·027 [-0·04 to -0·01]). Conversely, increasing time in childcare for women (β coefficient=0·016 [0·01 to 0·02]) and outdoor tasks for men, was positively associated with mental health (β coefficient=0·067 [0·04 to 0·09]). A null finding for the overall cumulative total unpaid labour exposure for both men and women was probably attributable to the opposing direction of effects between the individual domains that constituted the total load. INTERPRETATION: This study reveals considerable variance and nuance in how different domains of unpaid labour affect mental health, as well as continued inequity in the division of unpaid labour in households, with women doing considerably more unpaid labour than men. This study also exposes important challenges associated with measuring and understanding total (combined) unpaid labour as a determinant of health. FUNDING: University of Melbourne Research Training Scholarship, Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Award, Australian Research Council Linkage Project.
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    Children's sleep and fathers' health and wellbeing: A systematic review
    Coles, L ; Thorpe, K ; Smith, S ; Hewitt, B ; Ruppanner, L ; Bayliss, O ; O'Flaherty, M ; Staton, S (W B SAUNDERS CO LTD, 2022-02)
    Night-waking is typical across infancy and early childhood, inevitably disrupting family sleep. For some children, sleep problems develop and endure throughout childhood. This systematic review focused on fathers, and synthesised the evidence pertaining to the effects of children's sleep (from birth to 12 years) on fathers' health and wellbeing. A total of 29 studies were included. Key outcomes reported for fathers were: sleep and fatigue; mental and general health; and family functioning. An association between child sleep and father's sleep was observed when child's sleep was measured via actigraphy or paternal report, but not when measured via maternal report, suggesting that mothers may not always be aware of disruptions that awaken fathers. Findings showed poorer child sleep was associated with poorer general health and wellbeing among fathers, however, associations of poor child sleep with depression were fewer, and less frequent than those reported for mothers in the same households. Poor child sleep was negatively associated with the quality of family relationships, both within the couple and between parent and child. Future studies seeking to understand the interplay of child sleep and family wellbeing should apply objective measurement of sleep and integrate formal measures of family dynamics into the study design.
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    P024 Children’s sleep and fathers’ health and wellbeing: a systematic review
    Coles, L ; Thorpe, K ; Smith, S ; Hewitt, B ; Ruppanner, L ; Bayliss, O ; O’Flaherty, M ; Staton, S (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2021-10-07)
    Abstract Introduction Night-waking is typical across infancy and early childhood. Although mothers are traditionally primary carers for children overnight, child sleep may impact others in the household, such as co-dwelling fathers. Despite expectations of more ‘hands on’ fathering, the relationship between children’s sleep and fathers’ health and wellbeing has not been previously synthesised. Methods This systematic review was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) statement and registered with the Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO). Focusing on fathers, this review synthesised evidence pertaining to effects of children’s sleep (from birth to 12 years) on fathers’ health and wellbeing. Results From 4,421 records, 29 studies met inclusion criteria. Findings showed: (1) child sleep was associated with father’s sleep when child sleep was measured through father-report or objective measurement; (2) poorer child sleep was associated with poorer general health and wellbeing among fathers, however, associations of poor child sleep with depression were fewer; and (3) poor child sleep was negatively associated with quality of within-couple and parent-child relationships. Discussion Results suggested two principal issues: (1) Systematic variation in measures and findings underscores importance of objective measurement. Yoked actigraphy techniques are vital for understanding inter-relationships of family sleep and attendant outcomes. (2) Different patterns of child sleep and parent outcomes suggest direct and indirect pathways of effect. Understanding patterns of overnight caregiving, and factors underpinning parent decisions, are important for understanding mechanisms linking child sleep to fathers’ outcomes and for designing effective interventions to support parents.
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    Restless sleep and emotional wellbeing among European full-time dual-earner couples: gendered impacts of children and workplace demands
    Tan, X ; Ruppanner, L ; Hewitt, B ; Maume, D (Routledge, 2022)
    Role strain theory illuminates how work and family impinge on our intimate lives in gendered ways. Drawing upon data from the 2012 European Social Survey, we estimate structural equation models to understand the links between work and family conditions on full-time dual-earning couples’ restless sleep and emotional wellbeing. Our results show that young children (aged two or under) disrupt full-time working mothers’ but not full-time working fathers’ sleep, improving emotional wellbeing for fathers but not mothers. Compared to men, women report a significantly larger association between work hour dissatisfaction and restless sleep, probably highlighting the more time strain they experience due to their family responsibility on top of their full-time work. These gender gaps are the most pronounced among those couples working longest hours, suggesting that when inter-role strain intensifies for both partners, women suffer disproportionately. Collectively, our findings identify significant and gendered consequences of childcare and workplace demands and spotlight restless sleep as a key mechanism linking women’s role strain to poor emotional wellbeing.
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    Indigenous family life in Australia: A history of difference and deficit
    Dunstan, L ; Hewitt, B ; Nakata, S (Wiley-Blackwell, 2020)
    Indigenous family life has been a key target of family and child policies in Australia since colonisation. In this paper, we identify four main policy eras that have shaped the national and state policy frameworks that have impacted Indigenous families: the protectionism, assimilation, self‐determination and neoliberalism eras. Our analysis of these national and state policy frameworks reveals an enduring and negative conceptualisation of Indigenous family life. This conceptualisation continues to position Indigenous families as deficient and dysfunctional compared with a white, Anglo‐Australian family ideal. This contributes to the reproduction of paternalistic policy settings and the racialised hierarchies within them that entrench Indigenous disempowerment and reproduce Indigenous disadvantage. Further, it maintains a deficit paradigm that continues to obfuscate the positive aspects of Indigenous family life that are protective of Indigenous well‐being.
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    The Dynamics of Family Formation and Dissolution
    Hewitt, B (WILEY, 2021-12)
    Abstract The HILDA Survey has provided an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the determinants and consequences of family formation and dissolution in Australia. This review gives an overview of this research, focusing on (i) relationship formation, (ii) fertility, children and parenting and (iii) relationship dissolution.
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    Gender Equality and Health in High-Income Countries: A Systematic Review of Within-Country Indicators of Gender Equality in Relation to Health Outcomes.
    Milner, A ; Kavanagh, A ; Scovelle, AJ ; O'Neil, A ; Kalb, G ; Hewitt, B ; King, TL (Mary Ann Liebert, 2021)
    Background: Gender equality is recognized as an important political, social, and economic goal in many countries around the world. At a country level, there is evidence that gender equality may have an important influence on health. Historically gender equality has mainly been measured to allow for between-country, rather than within-country comparisons; and the association between gender equality and health outcomes within countries has been under-researched. This article thus aimed to systematically review within-country indicators of gender equality in public health studies and assess the extent to which these are related to health outcomes. Materials and Methods: We used the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) approach with two independent reviewers. Results: Data from the eight included studies revealed that there was heterogeneity in the way gender equality has been measured as a multidimensional construct. Associations between gender equality and a number of different health outcomes were apparent, including mortality, mental health, morbidity, alcohol consumption, and intimate partner violence, with gender equality mostly associated with better health outcomes. Conclusions: Further investigation into the effects of gender equality on health outcomes, including a clear conceptualization of terms, is critical for the development of policies and programs regarding gender equality.