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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: June 17, 2004
Latest Update: June 17, 2004

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Effects of Night Work on Our Lives
by harriet b. presser

  1. Introduction: Paragraph or so on why this article on nightwork attracted me.
  2. Reading Full source for reading: the economy that never sleeps in Contexts. Backup.
  3. Focus: Effects of Night Work on Our Lives
  4. Concepts: Keywords for theory and discussion. (For example: status, isolation, peer group of workers, relative deprivation in time shared with family, sleep deprivation and its importance, sharing family and social roles, . . . )
  5. Discussion Discussion questions.
  6. Linking to Substantive Courses

* * *


Introduction here. Explain briefly why you chose to share this reading. How and where does stress in amrriage over odd working hours link with your life or the life of someone you know?


Copy and paste the section of the article you want to share. Several paragraphs should do. Email to me so that I can upload them to the readings for that session.

For example:

stress on marriages

"Late and rotating work schedules seem particularly damaging to marriages when the couples have children at home. The competing demands of children and spouses come through in intensive interviews with such couples. In Families on the Fault Line, Lillian Rubin writes about one couple working split shifts: "If the arriving spouse gets home early enough, there may be an hour when both are there together. But with the pressures of the workday fresh for one and awaiting for the other, and with children clamoring for parental attention, there isn't a promising moment for serious conversation" (p. 95). From similar interviews in Halving It All , Francine Deutsch reports that, although this arrangement allowed both spouses to care for their children themselves and contribute to family income, "the loss of time together was a bitter pill to swallow. The physical separation symbolized a spiritual separation as well" (p. 177).

"Large survey studies confirm that dual-earner couples with children have a less satisfactory married life when one spouse works at nonstandard times. I found, in a sample of about 3,500 married couples, that those in which one spouse works a late shift report having substantially less quality time together and more marital unhappiness. Couples with children are also more likely to separate or divorce. Neither working the evening shift nor weekends seemed to endanger the marriages; only night work did. One might think that spouses who choose to work night shifts do so because their marriages have soured, but data suggest the opposite: the schedule is the cause and marital strain is the effect. Spouses who moved into night work after the first interviews were not any less happy with their marriages during those pre-change interviews than were other employed spouses."

From: the economy that never sleeps in Contexts. Backup.


  • status - consider both ascribed (that which you are automatically assigned because of who you are, family, money, etc.) and achieved status (that which you earn through your achievements, as rated by various peers)
  • isolation - consider the isolation associated with anomie (Durkheim). Consider the alienation from production (Marx). Consider the competitiveness of the capitalist system (Fellman)
  • relative deprivation - consider that we compare ourselves to many different groups, and that we may feel relatively deprived in comparison to one group and less so in comparison to another. Consider the difference in comparing oneself to workers on standard schedules and to those on non-standard schedules.
  • dominant discourse - consider dominant discourse as the source of normative expectations for family life. Consider that if you do not fulfill dominant discourse expectations you are "different."

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is stressful about non-standard times in a marriage?

    Be sure to give the reader a clue as to what you're looking for. They won't be limited to that, but at least they'll know what you're thinking. Also gives them something to react to.

    For example, coordinating schedules, duplication of efforts with children (one spouse doesn't know what the other has done), disruption of sleep and eating patterns. Consider whether most people have difficulty with these things on normal work schedule. So this makes the worker on non-standard hours "different." What do we know about "blaming the victim" on anything that is beyond our personal experience.

  2. Is quality time together socially constructed, and how is it affected by non-standard working hours?

    Consider that quality time is not a physical thing that you can trip over. We all sort of know what we mean by it, but it's socially and/or textually constructed. That means we know about it because it is written and/or because it comes up in dominant discourse.

  3. . . .

  4. . . .

Conceptual Linking

  • Agencies:
    Sample linking: Consider the availablility of agency help to those who work off hours. Did you ever try to get to the Financial Aid office after work? I institutional time flexible? Is agency time? Is your time? Is child care time? Is counseling time? Where should we locate the accountability for these unmet needs?

  • Law:
    Sample linking: What section of law would we be concerned with on this issue? What about those who are legislating and enforcing worker safety and well being? Does the extra stress affect those conditions? Can we legislate a difference?

  • Moot Court:
    Sample linking: Consider the situation of a single mother who works nights and is trying to give her children time at the local playground after school. She has to get ready for work then. What are her problems and how could she convince the Parks department that she needs help? Assume the role of a professional representing her.

  • Women in Poverty:
    Sample linking: Consider the conflicts when a woman in poverty decides to take a night job. Consider pay, transportation, child care, availability of other jobs, social costs (like loss of friends and support groups because of time conflicts). Where can this woman turn for guidance on these issues?

  • Corrections:
    Sample Linking: If a family is judged dysfunctional because of cumulative stress from conflicting working hours to keep them above the family poverty line, do you think they should be treated the same way we treat families that are dysfunctional because the responsible adult(s) are on drugs? How would you define responsible adult? How would you define dysfunctional? How would you define corrections in this situatedness?

  • Race and Ethnicity:
    Sample Linking: How would you describe the cumulative effects of discrimination in educational and labor systems with dysfunctional effects from accessibility to jobs with standard working hours? Are non-standard work hours a subset of racial and ethnic discrimination, or do they represent an additive problem. I know we keep saying that awareness is one way to deal with real world problems, but whose awarenesss are we talking about here?

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