Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Nonstandard Work Schedules and Partnership Quality: Quantitative and Qualitative Findings

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Nonstandard Work Schedules and Partnership Quality: Quantitative and Qualitative Findings

Article excerpt

This article questions existing findings and provides new evidence about the consequences of nonstandard work schedules on partnership quality. Using quantitative couple data from The Netherlands Kinship Panel Study (NKPS) (N = 3,016) and semistructured qualitative interviews (N = 34), we found that, for women, schedules with varying hours resulted in greater relationship dissatisfaction than for men. Men with young children who worked varying hours had less relationship conflict and spent more time with children. Parents used nonstandard schedules for tag-team parenting or to maintain perceptions of full-time motherhood. The lack of negative effects, particularly for night shifts, suggests that previous findings-largely U.S. ones-are not universal and may be attributed to wider cultural, industrial relations, and economic contexts.

Key Words: conflict, marital quality, marital satisfaction, nonstandard work schedules, work-family balance, work hours.

The diffusion of nonstandard work schedules in industrialized countries has brought diverse challenges to family relationships (Presser, Gornick, & Parashar, 2008). Nonstandard schedules refer to nonstandard employment hours (outside of fixed 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedules, including evenings, nights, rotating shifts) and nonstandard employment days (Saturday or Sunday or both) (Presser, 2003). Individuals with nonstandard schedules are at work when the majority of society, as well as their family and social network, are not.

The majority of existing research has showed overwhelmingly negative affects of nonstandard work schedules (Perry-Jenkins, Goldberg, Pierce, & Sayer, 2007; Weiss & Liss, 1988; White & Keith, 1990), including higher levels of divorce, less time together as a couple, and lower relationship satisfaction. Nonstandard schedules have been found to exert a strain on relationships due to a lack of companionship and unequal participation in household duties (Hertz & Charlton, 1989), or role overload (PerryJenkins et al., 2007), which can lead to guilt, anger, loneliness, and depression (Matthews, Conger, & Wickrama, 1996). Such schedules have also been linked to higher levels of stress and sleeping and physical disorders (Schulz, Cowan, Cowan, & Brennan, 2004). Exhausted individuals are emotionally unavailable and potentially insensitive to other family members.

One question emerges from this body of literature, which is largely from the United States. Do the studies to date reflect a universal impact of nonstandard work? The United States is a unique case because of the pervasiveness of nonstandard schedules (Presser, 2003), comparatively weak employment protection, and a higher divorce rate. Some Western European countries resist a 24/7 economy, with no trend of increasing nonstandard schedules (Breedveld, 1998; Hamermesh, 1996). The comparatively restrictive employment regulations, the protection of workers, higher wages, and strict opening hours across most of Europe mean that the categorization of nonstandard schedules as bad jobs or as nonnegotiable job conditions (Perry- Jenkins et al., 2007) may be less valid there.

Using a multimethod approach, we question existing findings and provide new evidence by examining the impact of nonstandard schedules on partnership quality, which we define as the level of relationship conflict and dissatisfaction. Using a quantitative survey of the NKPS (Dykstra et al., 2004), we engaged in a couplelevel analysis (N = 2,820) to examine how the impact of nonstandard schedules on partnership quality varies as a function of couples' work schedules, personal characteristics, and relationship and family characteristics, as well as the association among those factors. We also used qualitative interviews (N = 34) to supplement and fill in gaps from the quantitative data and to understand certain effects and explore individual perceptions and strategies that couples develop. …

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