Work-Related Parental Absence (WRPA) is common in contemporary family life. Industries such as aviation, fishing, logging, mining, and petroleum extraction all require the employee to work away from family from short to significant periods of time. In Canada’s petroleum industry, work schedules that involve parental absence are especially common. There has been ample research conducted on the impact of military deployment on families, some research on how mining families are impacted by WRPA, and a small amount of research on the effects of WRPA among offshore European petroleum workers and their families. However, there is no research currently available that investigates the impact of WRPA on Canadian oil and gas petroleum workers and their families. In this article, we share the results of a qualitative study that examined the experience of WRPA through interviewing 10 heterosexual couples. Use of Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis identified a tripartite thematic structure consisting of positive, negative, and neutral aspects of the WRPA experience, which in turn were shaped by specific adaptive strategies undertaken by families. The results of this research provide important insights into a common, yet poorly understood, lifestyle within the Canadian employment landscape.


Paternal Absence, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, Families

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Nuttgens is an Associate Professor with Athabasca University’s Graduate Centre for Applied Psychology. His areas of research interest include counselling ethics, counsellor supervision, paternal absence, and indigenous mental health. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: simonn@athabascau.ca.

Dr. Emily Doyle is an Academic Coordinator in the Faculty of Health Disciplines at Athabasca University. Her clinical work and publications focus on systemic family therapy, postmodern approaches to research and practice, and the social and institutional organization of experience.

Dr. Jeff Chang is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Disciplines at Athabasca University. In addition to this topic, his clinical work and publications focus on high-conflict divorce, postmodern therapies, school-based mental health, and clinical supervision.

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