How Unpredictable Work Hours Turn Families Upside Down

Several cities and states, including New York and San Francisco, have passed fair scheduling laws. On Thursday, Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, plans to announce that she and Senator Elizabeth Warren will reintroduce the Schedules That Work Act, which would require employers in the United States to provide schedules two weeks in advance and compensate employees whose schedules are changed abruptly or are particularly long or difficult.

One in 10 American children have parents with these jobs, the researchers estimated, and they suffer consequences, too.

Children of parents with precarious schedules were much more likely to exhibit anxiety, guilt or sadness than children of parents with stable schedules, according to survey results from 4,300 workers with children 15 and younger. They were also more likely to argue, destroy things and have tantrums.

Families’ economic hardship was one reason, researchers found, and another was time pressure. Parents with irregular schedules had less money and time for family meals, playing with children or helping them with their homework. The biggest way parents’ work schedules affected their children? Those with unpredictable schedules were more likely to feel stressed, irritable or depressed.

“The most important thing in parenting is parenting that’s sensitive and responsive and warm, and you think about what your ability would be to do that if you’re worrying about money, the child care schedule, your work schedule and how you’re going to scramble and cover things,” said Jane Waldfogel, a professor of social work at Columbia who studies policies that affect children and families.

Because parents were reporting on their children’s behavior, it could be that those who were tired and stressed judged their children’s behavior more harshly. But a lot of other research has also found that financial hardship, inconsistent routines, low-quality child care and family stress affect children for years to come.