Academic journal article Family Relations

Nonstandard Work Schedules and Developmentally Generative Parenting Practices: An Application of Propensity Score Techniques

Academic journal article Family Relations

Nonstandard Work Schedules and Developmentally Generative Parenting Practices: An Application of Propensity Score Techniques

Article excerpt

Data from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care (Phase I) and propensity score techniques were used to determine whether working full time in a nonstandard schedule job during the child's first year predicted parenting practices over 3 years. Results indicated that women who worked full time in a nonstandard schedule job during the first year had poorer maternal sensitivity at 24 and 36 months. Modest differences in Home Observation for the Measurement of the Environment scores were also observed at 36 months. The results provide strong evidence that full-time maternal employment in nonstandard schedule jobs may interfere with the creation and maintenance of developmentally generative parenting practices.

Key Words: health, life-span wellness, social relations and health, stress, work-family issues.

Parenting practices during infancy have substantial implications for infants, parents, and families. In early childhood, there is consistent evidence linking parenting practices like the creation of a warm and stimulating environment to infant health (Coulibaly, Séguin, Zunzunegui, & Gauvin, 2006) and cognitive and socioemotional development (Susman-Stillman, Kalkose, Egeland, & Waldman, 1996). Effective parenting during infancy also appears to have delayed effects that last into young adulthood (Sroufe, Egeland, Carlson, & Collins, 2005). Parenting activities that foster optimal child development also contribute to parental efficacy and other domains of parental well-being, thereby creating (at least) the potential for a positive feedback loop whereby parental well-being reinforces subsequent use of effective parenting behaviors. Thus, parenting practices during infancy have both immediate and long-term implications for children, in part because they provide a foundation for a lifetime of effective parenting (Bell & Harper, 1977; Conger & Simons, 1997).

The social factors contributing to developmentally generative parenting practices or parenting behaviors that contribute to optimal child health and development in early childhood are less clear. In this study, we conceptualized parenting practices as a specific domain of parenting (Darling & Steinberg, 1993), and we sought to determine whether full-time maternal employment in a job where the work schedule exists outside the Monday through Friday 8-to-5 norm (Presser, 1995) undermines developmentally generative parenting practices during early childhood. Specifically, we sought to determine whether differences exist in maternal sensitivity and the creation of a nurturing and stimulating home environment between women with a full-time nonstandard work schedule and those in other work arrangements, including nonworking.

Practical and theoretical concerns guide the focus on nonstandard maternal work schedules. Practically, over 6 million women with young children work in jobs requiring a nonstandard work schedule (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2005). The simple fact that nearly 14% of working mothers of infants are exposed to nonstandard schedules necessitates consideration of whether this work arrangement undermines developmentally generative parenting. Indeed, results from previous research suggest that nonstandard work schedules interfere with effective parenting (Heymann & Earle, 2001; Strazdins, Clements, Korda, Broom, & D'Souza, 2006). Other research, however, suggests no differences in parenting between mothers in standard and nonstandard work schedules (Barnett & Gareis, 2007). Interpreting results from previous research is challenging because entrance into maternal employment, particularly full-time employment in jobs requiring a nonstandard work schedule, is influenced by a variety of self- and social-selection processes. We applied propensity score matching procedures to minimize potential biases introduced by selection processes (D'Agostino, 1998; Rosenbaum & Rubin, 1983). …

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