Maternal Work Schedules: Consequences for Parenting and Child Development

Despite a well-developed literature examining the effects of maternal employment on early child development, research examining how maternal work schedules affect children is scant. This omission is problematic because 15 to 25% of mothers of young children have jobs requiring a nonstandard schedule outside the typical 8-to-5 work week, and projections suggest this trend will increase. Moreover, because a disproportionate number of mothers at or near poverty work in these jobs, research in this area has important implications for understanding the effects of poverty on child development. 

The goal of this project is to understand how early maternal employment in jobs that operate outside the traditional 8-to-5 (Monday through Friday) schedule influence children's early cognitive, language, and socioemotional development. Guided by a bioecological model of human development and  using prospective data from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care, we will achieve our goal by accomplishing four specific aims that will: 

  1. Identify whether early maternal employment in jobs with nonstandard schedules contributes to poorer developmental outcomes in children
  2. Determine whether differences exist in maternal behavior (e.g., maternal responsiveness and cognitive stimulation) and psychological well-being between mothers in jobs with nonstandard schedules and those with standard schedules
  3. Identify whether differences in maternal behavior and psychological well-being explain differences in child development by maternal work schedule
  4. Delineate whether the effect of early maternal employment in jobs with nonstandard schedules on maternal behavior, psychological well-being, and child development differ by social context (i.e., race and poverty), level of family support or infant temperament.

Project Team:  Joseph G. Grzywacz, PhD, (Principal Investigator); Stephanie Daniel, PhD, (University of North Carolina, Greensboro), Esther Leerkes, PhD. (University of North Carolina, Greensboro), Jenna Tucker, and Jill Walls (University of North Carolina, Greensboro). 

Funding Agency:  This two-year project is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R03 HD050204).

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