Methods: This study used the core and topical module of Wave 5 of the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation. We drew a nationally representative sample of 2,566 children aged 0 to 5 whose mothers worked at one paid job or were enrolled in school. The dependent variables measured the number of regular caregivers each child has and if one of the care arrangements is a child care center. Our independent variables were mothers’ daily work schedule (regular daytime, shift, and irregular) and weekend work. We ran cumulative logit regression models for the number of care arrangements and logistic regression models for use of a center, while controlling for an extensive range of mothers’ employment characteristics and family characteristics.
Findings: Nearly 10% of children whose mothers worked shift and irregular schedules and 8% of those whose mothers worked weekends were regularly cared for by at least three non-mother care providers. While a center was one of arrangements used for 40% of children whose mothers had a standard schedule, just 20% of children whose mothers worked nonstandard schedules were in centers. The odds of having multiple caregivers increase by 44% if mothers had an irregular work schedule, and by 29% if mothers worked on weekends. The odds that a child care center was used were 54% and 29% lower for children whose mothers had shift and irregular schedules, respectively, than for children whose mothers had a standard work schedule. In general, a child’s chance of being in a center care was positively related to mothers’ weekly work hours, earnings, and family incomes and negatively related to daily overtime work.
Implications: Mother’s nonstandard work schedules predict that a child is cared for by a greater number of care providers and is less likely to attend a child care center. Given the importance of stability and quality of child care for child development and a potential relationship between a higher number of caregivers and an elevated risk of communicable illness as well as child health and behavioral problems, further research and work-family policy initiatives to address this issue are warranted.