Children's development suffers when parents work shifts

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Pre-school children whose parents work outside normal hours are more likely to have cognitive and behavourial problems, finds new research.

midnight-clock

Children whose parents work night shifts are more likely to have behavourial problems

A team of researchers from the WZB Berlin Social Science Centre carried out a literature review of 23 studies published between 1980 and 2012 that investigated associations between parents’ ‘non-standard (NS) work schedules’ and four child developmental outcomes: internalising and externalising problems, cognitive development and body mass index.

Of the 23 studies, 21 reported negative associations between parent’s NS work schedules and at least one child developmental outcome.

Two and three year olds were most likely to be affected by their parents working night shifts or weekends.

Two studies found that children whose parents worked evening or night shifts were more likely to have behavourial problems, such as excessive fussiness and distractibility, as well as internalising and externalising behaviours.

This type of behaviour in children was magnified if their parents worked outside normal hours on a full-time, rather than part-time basis.

Some of the studies also showed that children’s behavourial and cognitive problems were more pronounced if they came from low-income, single parent families. One reason for this, claim the researchers, is that single parents may struggle to find childcare and those who can, may not be able to afford as high-quality childcare as more advantaged families.

Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood and Too much Too Soon campaigner, said, ‘Every study that comes out indicates what we already know about early childhood.

'We live in a competitive consumer culture where parents think that children need a lot of toys, but what they need is time, care and love.

‘It would help if our culture cared about childhood. In contrast to England, Finland, a country that spends more on children’s early years, has the smallest gap between the rich and poor, high education standards and a small number of people in prison.’