Volume 37 - Article 22 | Pages 709–726  

Parental nonstandard work schedules during infancy and children’s BMI trajectories

By Afshin Zilanawala, Jessica Abell, Steven Bell, Elizabeth Webb, Rebecca Lacey


Background: Empirical evidence has demonstrated adverse associations between parental nonstandard work schedules (i.e., evenings, nights, or weekends) and child developmental outcomes. However, there are mixed findings concerning the relationship between parental nonstandard employment and children’s body mass index (BMI), and few studies have incorporated information on paternal work schedules.

Objective: This paper investigated BMI trajectories from early to middle childhood (ages 3–11) by parental work schedules at 9 months of age, using nationally representative cohort data from the United Kingdom. This study is the first to examine the link between nonstandard work schedules and children’s BMI in the United Kingdom.

Methods: We used data from the Millennium Cohort Study (2001‒2013, n = 13,021) to estimate trajectories in BMI, using data from ages 3, 5, 7, and 11 years. Joint parental work schedules and a range of biological, socioeconomic, and psychosocial covariates were assessed in the initial interviews at 9 months.

Results: Compared to children in two-parent families where parents worked standard shifts, we found steeper BMI growth trajectories for children in two-parent families where both parents worked nonstandard shifts and children in single-parent families whose mothers worked a standard shift. Fathers’ shift work, compared to standard shifts, was independently associated with significant increases in BMI.

Conclusions: Future public health initiatives focused on reducing the risk of rapid BMI gain in childhood can potentially consider the disruptions to family processes resulting from working nonstandard hours.

Contribution: Children in families in which both parents work nonstandard schedules had steeper BMI growth trajectories across the first decade of life. Fathers’ nonstandard shifts were independently associated with increases in BMI.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Educational gradients in nonstandard work schedules among mothers and fathers in the United Kingdom
Volume 44 - Article 26

Race/ethnic inequalities in early adolescent development in the United Kingdom and United States
Volume 40 - Article 6

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

The gender gap in schooling outcomes: A cohort study of young men and women in India
Volume 48 - Article 33    | Keywords: cohort studies, educational attainment, gender, India, secondary education

Union formation and fertility amongst immigrants from Pakistan and their descendants in the United Kingdom: A multichannel sequence analysis
Volume 48 - Article 10    | Keywords: assimilation, fertility, life course, migrants, sequence analysis, union formation, United Kingdom

The sex preference for children in Europe: Children’s sex and the probability and timing of births
Volume 48 - Article 8    | Keywords: Europe, family structure, fertility, gender, progression rate, sex, sex composition, son preference

Investigating the application of generalized additive models to discrete-time event history analysis for birth events
Volume 47 - Article 22    | Keywords: discrete-time event history, educational differentials, fertility, general additive models, parity progression, period fertility, postponement of childbearing, retrospective histories, time since last birth, United Kingdom

Women's economic empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence from cross-national population data
Volume 47 - Article 15    | Keywords: agency, Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), economic growth, education, employment, sub-Saharan Africa, women's economic independence