Odd Work Hours Could Weaken Family Bonds

Stressed woman
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For some moms and dads, working a night shift or hours that fall outside the 9-to-5 norm could hurt the relationship they have with their kids, a new study suggests.

Researchers also found a link between single mothers working unconventional hours and adolescent delinquent behaviors.

Despite revealing these negative effects, the analysis suggests that in some cases, a nonstandard work schedule could actually bring children closer to their parents. [10 Scientific Tips For Raising Happy Kids]

The researchers say they hope their work highlights gaps in support systems for working families as odd hours become more common.

"Research indicates that approximately one in five workers works a nonstandard schedule and we need support systems — such as after-school programs — to accommodate the needs of those families," Toby Parcel, a professor of sociology at North Carolina State University, said in a statement. "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."

Parcel and colleagues took their data from 1,986 kids between the ages of 10 and 17 who were participating in a nationally representative longitudinal study (one that follows participants over many years).

The researchers looked at the work schedules of the kids' parents, the kids' own reports about delinquent behavior (such as vandalism and cutting school) and the kids' reports about their relationship with their parents.

Compared with children in households in which both parents worked 9-to-5 jobs, children living with two parents who worked nonstandard schedules reported weaker bonds with their parents, though they were not more likely to engage in delinquent acts than other kids. Children living with single moms working nonstandard hours, however, reported both weaker bonds with their parents and higher levels of delinquent behavior, the researchers said.

One arrangement that seemed to strengthen family bonds was "tag-team" parenting, where just the mom works a nonstandard schedule, said study researcher Josh Hendrix, a sociology doctoral student at NC State.

"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," Hendrix explained in a statement. "They also reported lower levels of delinquent behavior. There was no advantage when the father worked a nonstandard schedule and the mother worked 9 to 5."

The study was detailed online in November in the Journal of Family Issues.

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Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and Space.com since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.