Academic journal article Family Relations

Implications of Shift Work for Parent-Adolescent Relationships in Dual-Earner Families

Academic journal article Family Relations

Implications of Shift Work for Parent-Adolescent Relationships in Dual-Earner Families

Article excerpt


This investigation examined the implications of shift work for parent-adolescent relationship quality-intimacy, conflict, parental knowledge, and involvement-in a sample of 376 dual-earner families. The findings suggested that mothers' relationships with their adolescents were not negatively impacted by their working nonstandard schedules but fathers' relationships were. Adolescents with shift working mothers reported more relationship intimacy than adolescents with daytime working mothers. In contrast, fathers with nonstandard shifts knew significantly less about their teens' daily activities than did fathers with daytime shifts. The combination of fathers having nonstandard schedules and a marriage with high conflict predicted less intimacy with adolescents. Our findings suggest the need for policy that assists nonstandard workers with staying knowledgeable about their adolescents' daily activities.

Key Words: marital conflict, parent-adolescent relationships, shift work, work and family.

In many dual-earner families, one parent has a work schedule that differs from the standard 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daytime schedule. Under Presser's (2003) broad definition of shift work, which includes weekend work, 57.3% of dual-earner couples with a child have at least one spouse with a nonstandard work schedule. Having a nonstandard schedule may either facilitate the supervision of children and handling family responsibilities or complicate family life. For many families trying to balance work and family, the issue may not just be how many hours parents are working per week but when those hours occur. Indeed, Mott, Mann, McLoughlin, and Warwick (1965) found that "one of the most common spontaneous complaints about shift work is that it interferes with family life" (p. 18). In the most thorough treatment of this issue to date, Strazdins, Clements, Korda, Broom, and D'Souza (2006) examined the links between mothers and fathers working nonstandard shifts and the adjustment of offspring aged 2 - 11 years of age, using a national Canadian data set. Relying on reports from mothers, Strazdins et al. (2006) found support for a mediational model in which the links between nonstandard hours and children's social and emotional difficulties were partially mediated by poorer quality family environments, including less effective parenting. Much less is known, however, about the implications of parents working nonstandard shifts for the quality of relationships with adolescent offspring. As such, the implications of parents working a nonstandard schedule for the quality of parent-adolescent relationships (i.e., intimacy, conflict, knowledge, and involvement) were the focus of this study.

Theoretical Framework

Guided by ecological (Bronfenbrenner, 1986) and family systems (Cox & Paley, 1997) frameworks, the aim of this study was to investigate the link between parents' work schedules and parent-adolescent relationship quality. As Piotrkowski (1979) stated, "Family members use time and space to negotiate the patterns of closeness and distance among them . . . [and] the way a work organization structures time and space is one key to the family's process of distance regulation" (p. 86). Thus, nonstandard work schedules may interfere with working parents' ability to find the time and energy to foster close, positive relationships with their children. We therefore first sought to compare parent-adolescent relationship quality for families in which parents had nonstandard work schedules versus families in which parents had standard daytime schedules. Because mothers and fathers have different work experiences that may influence the family system in different ways (Bronfenbrenner & Crouter, 1982), we included both parents' work schedules in our models.

Second, we attempted to better understand the family conditions under which shift work is related to parent-adolescent relationship quality. As previous research has shown (Belsky, 1984), relationships between mothers and adolescents and fathers and adolescents may differ depending on the quality of the marital relationship. …

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