Odd Working Hours Cause Family Stress: Need for Night and Weekend Shift Workers Continues to Rise

Article excerpt

Working at nonstandard times--evenings, nights, or weekends--is taking its toll on American families. One-fifth of all employed Americans work variable or rotating shifts, and one-third work weekends, according to Harriet B. Presser, sociology professor at the University of Maryland. The result is stress on familial relationships likely to continue in coming decades.

The consequences of working irregular hours vary according to gender, economic level, and whether or not children are involved. Single mothers are more likely to work nights and weekends than married mothers. Women in clerical, sales, or other low-paying jobs participate disproportionately in working late and graveyard shifts.

Married-couple households with children are increasingly becoming dual-earner households, generating more split-shift couples. School-aged children, however, may benefit from parents' nonstandard work schedules because of the greater likelihood that a parent will be home before or after school. On the other hand, a correlation exists between nonstandard work schedules and both marital instability and a decline in the quality of marriages.

Nonstandard working hours mean families spend less time together for dinner but more time together for breakfast. One-on-one interaction between parents and children varies, however, based on parent, shift, and age of children. …