Balancing work and family : the policy problems and opportunities of child care and nonstandard work schedules




Lane, Abby Christina

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As the nature of work in the United States has shifted toward an economy that demands work outside of traditional hours, it is increasingly important to understand the implications of nonstandard work schedules for work-family balance. This dissertation focuses on the intersection of nonstandard and unpredictable work schedules of low-income parents, maternal well-being, and child care. In it, I aim to better understand the ways that nonstandard work schedules may affect maternal well-being and complicate child care decisions, with attention to both policy problems and solutions. In Chapter 1, I explore whether there is an association between nonstandard work schedules and maternal parenting stress using Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study data. Results do not suggest evidence of an association between work schedules and maternal parenting stress, evidence of variation by family characteristics of interest, or moderation by primary child care arrangement. In Chapter 2, I examine mothers’ perspectives on the social, economic, and structural factors important in child-care decision making through in-depth interviews with low-income mothers working nonstandard schedules who have young children, including specific challenges and opportunities created by nonstandard work schedules related to child care. I find that mothers prioritize finding a caregiver they trust, cost, location, their work schedule, and a provider that offers opportunities for learning. Nonstandard work schedules add considerable challenges to the processes of finding, securing, and maintaining care for many mothers. A critical factor for mothers with irregular work schedules and mothers not living with a romantic partner was whether or not they had an extensive support system of family and friends able to help manage child care during nontraditional hours. Finally, Chapter 3 explores issues of the supply and demand of licensed, center-based child care at nontraditional times in Texas, focusing on the supply of care; mothers’ preferences on center-based, nontraditional-hour care; and potential policy prescriptions. Findings suggest that the provision of extended nontraditional-hour care in a center-based setting is limited, although there is demand from mothers despite challenges finding such care. A range of potential policy options are discussed, including center- and employer-based policies.



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