Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Nonstandard Schedules and Young Children's Behavioral Outcomes among Working Low-Income Families

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Nonstandard Schedules and Young Children's Behavioral Outcomes among Working Low-Income Families

Article excerpt

This article focuses on how maternal employment in nonstandard schedules at night, on the weekends, or that rotate on a weekly basis influence preschoolers' behavioral outcomes. Examining low-income working mothers and their children aged 2 - 4 years from the Welfare, Children, and Families: A Three-City Study (N = 206), we find that maternal nonstandard schedules are associated with negative behavioral outcomes for young children. There is some evidence that the negative effects of nonstandard schedules on behavior problems operate indirectly through increased parenting stress. Moderating influences of child gender and family composition are also detected. These findings are consistent with the small number of studies demonstrating the negative effects of nonstandard schedules on children of varying ages.

Key Words: behavior problems, low-income families, maternal employment, nonstandard work schedules, parenting, preschoolers.

Today in the United States, it is exceedingly common for mothers with young children to be employed. Sixty-two percent of mothers with children younger than 6 years worked in 2004 compared to 39% in 1975 (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2005). During the same time period when maternal employment increased, demand for services at night and on the weekend also expanded, leading to the creation of more service sector jobs requiring schedules outside the standard weekday workweek (Presser, 2003). Although there are numerous definitions of standard and nonstandard schedules, generally work schedules are considered to be standard if they are regularly scheduled on weekdays during the hours of 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. and nonstandard if they occur primarily in the evening, at night, on the weekend, or change from week to week. Because service sector jobs that require nonstandard schedules employ a disproportionate number of mothers with young children and generally pay low wages, low-income mothers are overrepresented in these kinds of jobs with night, evening, and weekend schedules (Presser, 2003). Recent studies of mothers who left welfare for work find that high proportions of welfare leavers are employed in entry-level service and sales occupations (Holzer & Stoll, 2001) with some analysts estimating that over 50% of these caregivers are employed on the weekends and about one quarter to one half of mothers work at night or in the early morning hours (Richer, Savner, & Greenberg, 2001). Similarly, Presser (2003) estimates that among mothers with a low level of educational attainment, which is often associated with low socioeconomic status, almost 50% worked in nonstandard shifts in 1997. As record numbers of low-income mothers work in nonstandard schedules, there is a growing need to better understand how their employment schedules affect their well-being and that of their children.

Although researchers have studied the effects of increasing maternal employment on young children (Han, Waldfogel, & Brooks-Gunn, 2001), little is known about the consequences of the timing of work schedules on these children, especially in low-income families. The majority of the studies done to date that examine the effects of nonstandard shifts on families concentrate on the direct effects on parental outcomes, whereas few consider the effects on young children. On the one hand, working nonstandard schedules may represent a family-friendly work option for higher income, dual-earner families, especially if such occupations provide greater flexibility or more discretionary time during daytime hours to spend with their young children (Garey, 1999; Presser, 2003). On the other hand, nonstandard schedules may have very different connotations for low-income parents who often work these shifts as a last resort, when jobs with standard schedules cannot be found (Dodson & Bravo, 2005; Presser & Cox, 1997).

We seek to address this gap in the literature by focusing on how nonstandard schedules influence preschoolers' behavioral outcomes in lowincome families. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.