Understanding the role of parental employment quality in child mental health

Reasons for the study

Canada is facing an urgent mental health crisis among children and youth. The causes of mental health problems in children are complex and multifactorial. However, there is evidence that socioeconomic conditions such as poverty and material hardship are powerful predictors. Socioeconomic status in childhood is shaped in large part by the quality of parental employment – referring to hours, stability, security, earnings and other aspects of parental employment conditions that influence family well-being. As the labour market in Canada and other wealthy nations has shifted towards more contingent and precarious employment, a growing number of parents are having to rely on casual, insecure and low-paying jobs to make ends meet. These labour market trends have important and under-appreciated implications for child health and health equity.

This study will use general population surveys in Canada to better understand the role of parental employment quality as a social determinant of child mental health. The study will shed light on an upstream driver of household socioeconomic disadvantage, with the goal of informing cross-sectoral policy and programmatic interventions to improve child mental health and health equity in Canada.

Objectives of the study

  • Describe the patterns and dynamics of parental employment quality in Canada
  • Examine the relationship between parental employment quality and child mental health
  • Identify policy levers to improve parental employment quality as an upstream driver of child mental health and health equity

Target audience

The findings of this research will be of value to Ontario's Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development and Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services, as well as to labour, employers and mental health organizations.

Project status


Research team

  • Faraz Vahid Shahidi, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
  • Anne Fuller, McMaster University (PI)
  • Kathy Georgiades, McMaster University
  • Jinette Comeau, King's University College
  • Arjumand Siddiqi, University of Toronto
  • Gita Wahi, McMaster University
  • Andrew Pinto, St. Michael's Hospital

Funded by

Edwin S.H. Leong Centre for Healthy Children