Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Nonstandard Work Schedules, Perceived Family Well-Being, and Daily Stressors

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Nonstandard Work Schedules, Perceived Family Well-Being, and Daily Stressors

Article excerpt

Data from two studies assessed the effects of nonstandard work schedules on perceived family well-being and daily stressors. Study 1, using a sample of employed, married adults aged 25 - 74 (n = 1,166) from the National Survey of Midlife in the United States, showed that night work was associated with perceptions of greater marital instability, negative family-work, and work-family spillover than weekend or daytime work. In Study 2, with a subsample of adults (n = 458) who participated in the National Study of Daily Experiences, weekend workers reported more daily work stressors than weekday workers. Several sociodemographic variables were tested as moderators. Both studies demonstrated that nonstandard work schedules place a strain on working, married adults at the global and daily level.

Key Words: marital stability, stress, work-family spillover, work schedules.

The United States' transformation into a 24-hours-a-day-and-7-days-a-week global economy in which business occurs around the clock is increasing the need for a larger workforce willing to work nonstandard schedules (Presser, 2003). Nonstandard schedules (e.g., night, afternoon, weekend, rotating shifts) have increased in recent years; according to a 2001 United States Bureau of Labor estimate, over 15 million full-time wage and salary employees work an alternate shift (U.S. Department of Labor, 2001). Given the continual growth of shift workers in the labor force, it is critical that researchers improve their understanding of what nonstandard schedules mean for the quality of family life in order to inform workplace policies. Most noticeably, Presser has begun to fill mis gap in the literature vis-à-vis the challenges individuals and families face when one or more family members has a nonstandard schedule. Nevertheless, more research is still needed to understand how nonstandard schedules relate to individuals' perceptions of the compatibility between work and family demands.

Guided by ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), which recognizes the interrelatedness of the multiple environments in which human development takes place, we examined how work schedules were linked to home life using data from two studies: Study 1 refers to our analyses using data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, and Study 2 refers to our analyses using data from the National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE), an in-depth study of MIDUS participants. We restricted the samples to employed, married adults, because our main focus was testing the associations between work and indicators of marriage and family life. For Study 1 , we tested the association between work schedules (i.e., night, weekend, day) and perceptions of marital instability and work-family spillover. Marital instability, as operationalized here, was indicated by reports of greater conflict and likelihood of separation or divorce. We also tested the link between work schedules and four aspects of work-family spillover - the degree to which negative or positive mood, skills, and experiences at work reverberate to experiences at home (or vice versa; Staines, 1980). For Study 2, we moved from a global to micro analysis by assessing differences in daily work and family stressors experienced by weekday and weekend workers over 8 consecutive days. For both studies, we considered the importance of sociodemographic and life course variables.


Over one fourth of dual-earner couples have at least one spouse who works a nonstandard shift (Presser, 2003). For many couples trying to balance work and family, the number of hours spouses are working per week and which hours spouses are working may have consequences for individuals' ability to spend time with their spouses. For example, evening and night workers may have difficulty being a companion to their spouses because they are absent from home at times when interaction and shared activities commonly occur (Mott, Mann, McLoughlin, & Warwick, 1965). …

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