This study examined associations between parental precarious work schedules and child behavior problems among a sample of families with low incomes receiving child-care subsidies and tested three hypothesized mediators of these associations: work–family conflict, economic insecurity, and child-care instability.
As “just-in-time,” or on-call, scheduling practices become more prevalent among low-paid workers, working parents must balance family demands with precarious work schedules characterized by instability, unpredictability, and lack of control. Precarious work schedules may threaten child well-being by increasing parents’ work–family conflict and stress, economic insecurity, and child-care instability. Yet, few studies have been able to empirically test these relationships.
This study uses data from a survey of child-care subsidy recipients to test the associations between five dimensions of parental precarious work schedules—variable work hours and shifts, limited advance notice, unexpected schedule changes, and lack of schedule control—and child externalizing behavior problems via work–care conflict, economic insecurity, and child-care instability. Analyses use Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression and decomposition methods and control for a host of child, parental, and household characteristics.
Variable shifts were indirectly associated with more parent-reported child behavior problems via work–care conflict, whereas unexpected schedule changes were indirectly associated with more behavior problems via both work–care conflict and material hardship.
These findings add to a growing evidence-base on the incongruence between precarious employer-driven scheduling practices and the needs of families with young children.