Parents who work must juggle the responsibilities of home and career. For single parents, this task is even more arduous, as there is not another parent in the home to assist with household or parenting tasks. Although many individuals are fortunate enough to find employment that mimics the typical workday, many others must take jobs that require non-traditional work schedules, including weekends, evenings, and nights. Because a parent plays a significant role on a child’s development, it would be beneficial to know if and how work schedules affect children, especially those already at risk for behavior and emotional issues.
Rachel Dunifon of the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University in New York recently conducted a study that looked at how mothers’ nighttime work schedules affected their children. She based her research on a sample of 2,367 low-income mothers and their preschool-age children who were part of a larger study called the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Survey. Dunifon said, “Overall, we found evidence suggesting modest positive associations between exposure to maternal night shift work and children’s aggressive and anxious behavior.”
In particular, the results revealed that children of mothers who worked nights were more likely to be anxious or aggressive than those whose mothers did not work full-time night jobs. Aggression was especially increased in children of night-working mothers compared to standard daytime-shift mothers. The night-working mothers’ children also were demonstrated higher levels of depression than children of mothers who worked other shifts. Non-working mothers’ children had the lowest levels of anxiety when compared to the children of night working mothers. Medicaid status, marital status, maternal education, and other factors that contribute to developmental risks did not affect the findings. Also, the increases in negative outcomes were the same for all children with night-working mothers, regardless of whether the children were boys or girls. Dunifon believes her results open up an avenue of research that should be explored more fully and should include examination of paternal work effects on children as well as moderating factors.
Dunifon, R., Kalil, A., Crosby, D. A., & Su, J. H. (2013, January 7). Mothers’ night work and children’s behavior problems. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031241
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