Mothers' Nonstandard Working Hours, Economic Hardship, and Child Wellbeing

Afshin Zilanawala , University College London
Anika Schenck-Fontaine, Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories

The implications for children and families of mothers working nonstandard shifts (i.e. working outside the hours of M-F 9-5) is increasingly well understood. The effects of nonstandard working hours are not distributed equally across families, but are particularly pronounced for low-income families. The negative effects of nonstandard work on child wellbeing are significantly stronger in low-income families. Unfortunately, very little research on nonstandard working hours focuses on the economic wellbeing of mothers who regularly work nonstandard hours. This limits our understanding of the mechanisms that explain the adverse effects on children. We extend the literature by taking a more nuanced approach to the study of economic hardship by examining three dimensions: income poverty, material deprivation, and subjective financial stress. Secondly, we explore whether mother’s nonstandard work experiences alongside economic hardship are related to child outcomes. We use the first three waves of the Millennium Cohort Study to answer these questions. We found children of mothers who work at nonstandard hours and experience material hardship to have more behavioral problems in early childhood. Equally we found a longitudinal association between nonstandard work schedules at age 3 and verbal and spatial skills at age 5. In contrast to our results on material hardship, we did not find any significant interactions between nonstandard work and the other two dimensions of economic hardship. Our results shed light on the role of nonstandard work in the lives of children in the UK alongside understanding the nexus of distinct dimensions of economic hardship and nonstandard work.

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 Presented in Session P1. Poster Session Fertility, Family and the Life Course