Here’s How Your Work Schedule Could Affect Your Kid, According To A New Study

woman stressed at work

Gone are the days of the typical 9-5 work days for many parents. We see many professions, especially those that revolve around health care or law enforcement or a variety of service related roles, that require employees to work different shifts. Parents are often required to work overnights or very early mornings, or even split shifts which divide their day.

A new study, conducted by the University of Washington has shown that consistent scheduling of shifts, even if those shifts are late at night or early in the morning, can sometimes have a positive effect on a child's behavior.

Science Daily reports that the study focused on families that consisted of two parents and where one of those parents worked shift work hours.  The study showed that the effects of shift work affect children differently, depending on their age and gender. It also said that non set shifts, or shifts that vary often cause the most issues for children. Not surprising since we know that many children thrive when there is a consistent routine in the home present.

Study author Christine Leibbrand came to her conclusions by analyzing children's behavior and how it corresponded with their parents' work schedules. The behavior of the children, who were between the ages of 5 and 15, was measured from the results of a 28 question survey which looked at issues such as anxiety, aggression and getting along with peers.

woman working daughter with her
Credit: iStock / LightFieldStudios

Leibbrand found that boys and girls benefited from having mothers who worked night shifts, especially at a younger age. One could assume that by working the night shift that meant the mother was home during the day to spend time with the children.

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Inconsistent shift work or split shifts worked by a mother were found to result in greater behavior problems among boys of all ages, and older girls. Dads who worked the same inconsistent or split shifts tended to result in more behavior problems among girls, especially younger ones.  However boys tended to exhibit benefits to their behavior when their fathers worked night shifts. The same logic may apply to a mother who works night shifts in that boys benefit when their father is home with them during the day.

We know that routine is so important to children. Knowing when there parent is home vs when they are at work helps children manage their days, and it appears is beneficial when it comes to positive behavior.

Leibband also suggested that inconsistent shift work also has negative affects on adults in that it can affect their moods, affect stress levels and energy levels, which no doubt affects all matters in the household. Unpredictable shifts can affect a parents moods which children pick up on and can negatively affect their own behavior.

Leibband says that workplaces need to work at providing more stability for employees including paid family leave and potentially access to child care.

"Most parents want to spend time with their children and want to find a way to do that," she said. "We should be prioritizing people's well-being and balancing of work and home life."

What do you think?

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