Parents' Jobs and Children's Lives considers the effects of parental working conditions on children's cognition and social development. It also investigates how parental work affects the home environments that parents create for their children, and how these home environments influence the children directly. The theoretical underpinnings of the book draw from both sociology and economics; in addition, the authors make use of literature derived from developmental psychology. Theoretically eclectic, they rely on the personality and social structure framework developed by Melvin Kohn and his colleagues, on arguments regarding the importance of family social capital developed by James Coleman, as well as on ideas from Gary Becker's "new home economics" as guides to model specification.
The empirical basis for Parcel and Menaghan's study is a series of multivariate analyses using data drawn from the 1986 and 1988 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey's Child-Mother data set. This data set matches longitudinal data on mothers, derived from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, with data on the children of these mothers born as of 1986. Children aged 3 to 6 were given age-appropriate developmental assessments every two years in order to assess the influence of parental work on short-term changes in their cognition and social behavior. The authors also devote considerable attention to the effects of fathers' work and family structure on the well-being of their children.
Parcel and Menaghan's work brings evidence to bear on both the theoretical perspectives guiding the analyses and on current policy debates regarding the nexus of work and family.