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Exploring the impact of nonstandard work on child behavior: When safety nets are not enough

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

An emerging body of research on the effects of nonstandard work has revealed a negative association with children’s development. Evidence suggests that these effects may be particularly harmful for younger children. While many studies have focused on cognitive well-being, a handful of studies have considered behavior as a potential outcome. Understanding predictors of young children’s behavior is especially important, as researchers have identified this construct as an important marker of school readiness. Moreover, children’s behavior is of particular interest to researchers and policymakers because of the links to later mental health problems. Young children are the primary focus, as this developmental period is characterized by rapid brain development, acquisition of new skills, and refined social interactions. These developmental changes have the potential to shape future behavior. The current study builds on this body of literature by examining the relationship between maternal nonstandard work schedules and young children’s behavior. Additionally, safety nets (i.e. TANF/welfare utilization, housing subsidies, and financial assistance from family and friends) are included as a potential mediating factor. Using nationally representative data from the Fragile Families Child Well-Being Study, structural equation models were utilized to investigate the study aims.
The Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study is a prospective study of a large and diverse sample of new (mostly unmarried) parents and their children. Data were collected in twenty U.S. cities. The total sample size is approximately 4,900 families including 3,700 unmarried couples and almost 1,200 married couples. The analysis for the current study includes a subsample of year 5 participants - namely children whose mothers were employed at year 5 and who had complete data on the outcome variables (i.e. direct assessments of children’s behavior) (n=3974). The analyses therefore exclude the roughly 760 children whose mothers were not employed at year 5.
Results highlight the direct and indirect associations with maternal nonstandard schedule occupancy. In an effort to understand more detailed effects of nonstandard work, various types of nonstandard schedules (i.e., evening, night, and weekend) were tested as separate predictors of child behavior. Day and evening shifts were not significantly associated with safety nets. Night and weekend shift occupancy, however, were positively associated with safety nets. Having a safety net was significantly linked to internalizing and externalizing behavior. Safety nets partially mediated the relationship between nonstandard shift occupancy (i.e. night and weekend only) and young children’s externalizing and internalizing behaviors. These results provide preliminary evidence that the type of schedule occupied by mothers may have important implications for young children’s externalizing and internalizing behaviors.

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