Academic journal article Family Relations

Low-Income Mothers' Nighttime and Weekend Work: Daily Associations with Child Behavior, Mother-Child Interactions, and Mood

Academic journal article Family Relations

Low-Income Mothers' Nighttime and Weekend Work: Daily Associations with Child Behavior, Mother-Child Interactions, and Mood

Article excerpt

This study investigated low-income mothers' daily nighttime and weekend work and family outcomes. Sixty-one mothers of preschool-aged children reported daily on work hours, mood, mother-child interaction, and child behavior for two weeks (N = 724 person-days). Although nighttime and weekend work are both nonstandard schedules, results showed adverse associations of working nighttime hours on family outcomes-more negative mood and mother-child interactions; less positive child behavior-but no relationship between weekend work and family outcomes.

Key Words: low-income families, parent-child relationships, work and families, working mothers.

In the last half century, the number of women participating in the labor force in the United States has increased dramatically, with particular increases among low-income women (Blank, 2002). At the same time, the nature of work in the United States has evolved. Service and sales sectors have expanded, and the economy increasingly operates around the clock, amplifying demand for workers outside the traditional 9-to-5 workday (Presser, 2003). It is now common for individuals to work nonstandard schedules - in the evening, nights, or on weekends - leading to concerns about the effects of work scheduling on families and children. Nonstandard work is more common among lower-income individuals (Presser), and so children in low-income families are more likely to be affected by their parents' nonstandard work schedules.

Research on the effects of nonstandard work schedules on both workers and their families has generally found that nonstandard work schedules have negative effects, particularly in studies of mixed- and higher-income families (Han, 2005, 2006; Han & Waldfogel, 2007; Strazdins, Clements, Korda, Broom, & D'Souza, 2006; Strazdins, Korda, Lim, Broom, & D'Souza, 2004). Studies focused on low-wage workers, however, have produced mixed results (Han, 2008; Hsueh & Yoshikawa, 2007; Joshi & Bogen, 2007; Phillips, 2002), and additional information is still needed about how mothers' nonstandard work schedules affect low-income families. Prior research has commonly compared parents categorized as working standard or nonstandard schedules, on the basis of a typical work week. That design has three limitations: unobserved selection into different schedules may bias results; "standard" and "nonstandard" categories may mask withinperson variability in work schedules; and, in most studies, the "nonstandard" category includes both nights and weekends, although their consequences may differ.

This study addressed a number of limitations in the literature on work during nonstandard schedules. First, it focused on an understudied group, low-wage workers with preschool-age children. Second, it collected daily reports from low-income working mothers over a period of two weeks regarding work schedules, maternal mood, mother-child interaction, and child behavior. Rather than comparing workers who have been grouped into static work schedule categories, the design of this study allowed for the examination of within-family variability in work schedules. Thus, the results presented here more rigorously address the selection problem that has plagued studies of nonstandard work schedules. Finally, this study considered the effects of different types of nonstandard schedules - nighttime work and weekend work - separately.


Although researchers' exact definitions of nonstandard work schedules differ, most agree that nonstandard work includes evenings, nights, or weekends, and on rotating or irregular shifts (Presser, 2003). Standard schedules are defined as fixed daytime hours, Monday to Friday. Work during nonstandard schedules is increasingly common. Across income levels, 29% of working mothers worked nonstandard schedules in 2004 (McMenamin, 2007). That rate is even higher in the services and hospitality industries, which employ high numbers of low- wage workers. …

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