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05 December 2013

Parent work schedules affect relationships with kids

Research from North Carolina State University shows that working a job that doesn’t keep 'regular' hours can hurt the relationships between parents and adolescents.

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Research from North Carolina State University shows that working a job that doesn’t keep 9am to 5pm hours can hurt the relationships between parents and adolescents, increasing the likelihood that children will engage in delinquent behaviours.

 However, the researchers found that in some circumstances, an unconventional work schedule can be a benefit for children.

To determine the impact of “non-standard” work schedules on child-parent relationships and delinquency, the researchers looked at nationally representative data from 1,986 adolescents aged 10-17.

The data included information about parent work schedules, self-reporting from the children on their relationships with their parents and self-reporting from the children on delinquent behaviours.

Different schedules

These behaviours included acts such as vandalism, hurting others badly, theft and skipping school. Non-standard work schedules are anything outside the conventional “9 to 5” framework, such as night or evening shifts.

The researchers evaluated two-parent households where both parents worked standard, 9 to 5 jobs; households where one parent worked a standard schedule and one worked a non-standard schedule; and households where both parents worked non-standard schedules. The researchers also looked at single-mother households where the mothers worked a standard schedule, and where the mothers worked a non-standard schedule.

“One thing we found is that ‘tag-team’ parenting, where one parents works a non-standard schedule, can result in stronger family relationships,” says Josh Hendrix, a PhD sociology student at NC State and lead author of a paper on the research.

“Specifically, in households where the father works 9 to 5 and the mother works a nonstandard schedule, adolescents reported higher levels of closeness to their parents than households where parents both worked standard schedules. They also reported lower levels of delinquent behaviour. There was no advantage when the father worked a non-standard schedule and the mother worked 9 to 5.”

Weaker bonds

However, children in two-parent households where both parents work non-standard schedules reported weaker bonds with their parents, compared to children in households where both parents work standard schedules.

 While other research shows that these weakened parent-child bonds put children at greater risk of delinquency, the children in two-parent households where both parents work non-standard schedules in this study did not report higher levels of delinquent behaviour.

However, children of single mothers who work non-standard schedules did report both higher levels of delinquent behaviour and weaker child-parent bonds.

“Non-standard work is becoming increasingly prevalent in our society, so many people will end up working in these types of jobs. We are not blaming single mothers or telling people not to work a non-standard job if that is what’s available,” Hendrix says.

“What we want to highlight is the need for social institutions to be in synch with each other,” says Dr Toby Parcel, a professor of sociology at NC State and senior author of the paper. “Research indicates that approximately one in five workers works a non-standard schedule and we need support systems – such as after-school programmes – to accommodate the needs of those families. That’s just one example. What about households with parents who work swing shifts or night shifts? Addressing their needs is an important challenge we must face.”

The paper, “Parental Non-standard Work, Family Processes, and Delinquency During Adolescence", is published online in the Journal of Family Issues.

EurekAlert

 
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