Parents’ nonstandard work schedules and children’s social and emotional wellbeing: A mixed-methods analysis in Germany

  • Jianghong Li
  • Heike Ohlbrecht
  • Matthias Pollmann-Schult
  • Filip Elias Habib
Keywords: nonstandard work schedules, shift work, parents, social and emotional wellbeing, children, mixed methods, pairfam


Many children live in households where either one or both parents work nonstandard schedules in the evening, night or weekend. Using a mixed methods design, this study examined whether nonstandard work schedules were linked to lower social and emotional wellbeing in children. The quantitative analysis based on the German Family Panel Study (pairfam) showed that children whose parents worked rotating shifts and other types of nonstandard schedules reported elevated levels of emotional and conduct problems. However, not all types of nonstandard schedules were detrimental to child wellbeing: fixed shift work did not have a negative impact on child social and emotional wellbeing. Overall, the effect of mothers’ work schedule on child wellbeing was stronger than that of fathers. The qualitative interviews revealed that nonstandard work schedules made everyday life unsettling and family environment chaotic because it was difficult to plan. Thus, for most families where one or both parents worked such schedules stress was a defining feature of the daily life and parents accepted it as “part of their life”. Families used different strategies to deal with stress and attempted to protect children from it. Contingent on what resources available to them, some families managed well, while others did not cope so well and children were adversely affected.