Maternal Exposure to Work Schedule Unpredictability and Child Behavior


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This article estimates the association between maternal exposure to unpredictable work schedules in the service sector and child internalizing and externalizing behavior.


Precarious work is widespread and characterized by low wages, few benefits, and nonstandard schedules. But working parents, especially in the service sector, contend with unpredictable work schedules as well. These schedules have negative consequences for workers, but may also perpetuate inequality across generations by negatively affecting children.


This article takes advantage of novel survey data from The Shift Project, covering 2,613 mothers (surveyed 2017–2019) working in the service sector with children (mean child age of 7.5), to examine the association between maternal work schedules and child behavior as well as the mediators of this relationship.


Maternal exposure to unpredictable work schedules is associated with children’s externalizing and internalizing behavior. Mediation analysis shows that for parents with the most unpredictable schedules, this aspect of job quality operates on children’s behavior by increasing household economic insecurity, reducing developmental parenting time, and diminishing maternal well-being.


These results demonstrate that work scheduling conditions may have consequences not just for workers themselves but also for their children.

Daniel Schneider and Kristen Harknett. “Maternal Exposure to Work Schedule Unpredictability and Child Behavior.” Journal of Marriage and Family 84(1): 187-209.