Researchers: Be careful with assignment of irregular shifts

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Toby Parcel, Ph.D., says employers may want to consider who is being assigned to night shifts.
Toby Parcel, Ph.D., says employers may want to consider who is being assigned to night shifts.

The children of single mothers working a nonstandard shift are more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, according to a new analysis.

Researchers at North Carolina State University delved into data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 for close to 2,000 adolescents. What they found is that when families had a single mother working anything outside of the “9-to-5” timeframe, the family bonds became frayed. Because of those weaker relationships, children were more likely to skip school or have other negative behaviors. 

“You can infer, pretty reasonably, that if they are working on a 3-to-11 shift, it's harder to attend after-school sporting events or awards ceremonies,” said Toby L. Parcel, Ph.D., NC, State Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

One helpful strategy could be implementing childcare or an afterschool program at work “that would at least relieve the parent from worrying about supervision,” Parcel said. 

When one parent works a regular shift and the other a nonstandard shift, tighter familial bonds can develop: When a father worked 9-to-5 and the mother was on a nonstandard schedule, adolescents reported increased closeness.

Employers should “recognize that each family has unique needs,” advised Joshua Hendrix, a doctoral candidate in sociology at NC State. 

The analysis was in the Journal of Family Issues.