Children are affected when parents work long hours

The jobs of the new economy requiring 55 hours or more per week may have a negative affect on children, especially boys.

In Western Australia about 20% of fathers with a young son work 55 or more hours per week. New results from the longitudinal Raine Study in Australia showed that when fathers work long hours their sons, ages 5 to 8, are more likely to exhibit delinquent and aggressive behaviors. The father’s long work hours did not seem to affect girls’ behavior. It is important to note that few Australian mothers worked long hours during this phase of the study (mid-1990s) and there is not enough data to link mother’s working hours to girls’ or boys’ development.

The trend of working long hours has crept into many jobs in the new economy. Fifteen percent of German fathers worked more than 55 hours per week in 2011.  The ongoing interest in how fathers affect children’s development has resulted in an interesting body of research showing the positive effects of highly involved fathers.  Canada’s Father Involvement Research Alliance prepared a comprehensive review of the literature in 2007.

It is not possible to tell from this study whether limited time with fathers causes the negative behavior in boys, or whether other variables, such as total amount of adult attention, is causal. For example, an alternative explanation for these results could be that the amount of time parents spend with their children – mother or father—affects the development of boys differently than girls.   The culture of long working hours affects how much time both parents have to spend with their young children. If this finding is replicated in future research, it suggests boys may be more at risk when families work long hours.