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U.S. News Archive
February 01 - February 06, 2000





This page contains news for the period Tuesday, February 01, 2000 through Sunday, February 06, 2000.





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Friday, February 04, 2000

Late night shifts increase risk of divorce

A story published today in USA Today reports that if mom or dad works the midnight-to-8-a.m. shift, the risk of divorce increases significantly compared with parents who work daytime hours, research now shows.

The risk of divorce is six times greater for men married less than five years and three times greater for women married more than five. Researchers can't account for the differences in gender or length of marriage.

"Clearly, something is going on when one of the spouses works nights that adds extra stress to the marriage," says Harriet Presser, study author and social demographer at the University of Maryland in College Park.

Presser believes that factors at play include sleep deprivation, the impact on the family's social life and lack of time alone as a couple.

"If, indeed, social interaction among family members builds greater bonds, communication and caring, we would expect that the more time spouses have with each other, the more likely they are to develop strong commitments," she says.

Her five-year study of 3,475 married couples is the first to examine what working late-night hours does to the stability of marriages.

Presser's findings don't apply to couples without children who work similar hours. Such spouses seem to be able to adjust to the late-night schedule without the extra demands.

Only slightly more than half - 54.5 percent of employed men and women regularly work a standard, 35-to-40-hour workweek Monday through Friday on a fixed daytime schedule. The rest work non-standard schedules. Two-fifths of all employed Americans work mostly evenings or nights, on rotating shifts and/or weekends, she says.

"Clearly, the issue of non-standard work schedules touches millions of American couples with children, and the numbers will grow," her report says. "We need to pay close attention to this important social phenomenon."

Divorced elderly less likely to get care from children

A story published today by Reuters Health reports that new research suggests that as more baby boomers approach senior citizen states, about 50% of them who have gone through a divorce are less likely to receive care from their children than the 50% whose first marriages have remained intact or who have been widowed.

"I guess we found it disturbing to find the pretty large negative effect of divorce, but the adverse effects of divorce (for children) that have been pretty well documented in literature... seem to definitely carry on to adult life," said study lead author Dr. Liliana Pezzin, an assistant professor at John Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

The story says Pezzin and colleague Barbara Steinberg Schone reviewed statistics collected in the first part of the ongoing Assets and Health Dynamics of the Elderly (AHEAD) survey. The survey looks at how changes in the areas of health, family and economic resources are interrelated in a sample of Americans who had reached age 70 or older as of 1993.

From the overall group, the investigators narrowed their sample to include 2,840 individuals, focusing particularly on how such changes manifested themselves among unmarried parents and their adult children -- including divorced or widowed parents and biological or step-children. Their study findings were published in the journal Demography.

The researchers paid particular attention to three types of economic relationships within this group -- the degree to which the different generations lived together, the amount of money given by parents to children and children to parents, and the amount of time the children spent with their parents.

The authors noted that divorced parents -- among the 90% of the approximately 4.6 million elderly in the US who currently live at home and need long-term care -- were much less likely to reside with or receive care directly from a biological child, even if the parent was disabled. If the child did provide care, it was likely that he or she did so by paying for someone else to provide it.

However, 68% of all elderly parents did get some sort of assistance from their children, although the number dropped to 30% if the child involved was a step-child rather than a biological child. Pezzin and Schone also noted that widowed parents more often lived with a child -- and were twice as likely to get financial assistance from that child -- than were divorcees.

"Divorced persons are more likely to rely on formal care -- paid care purchased in the market, and that leads one to think that public programs such as Medicare home health will play a more dominant role to fill in the gap for reduced levels of exchange between family members -- parents and children -- and we should be prepared for that," Pezzin said.

"I think that government programs have to start paying attention to this trend," continued Pezzin. "We have seen quite an increase already for Medicare home health starting in 1990... and one possibility on the private side is for families to get long-term healthcare insurance to provide for their parents -- but it tends to be very expensive," she cautioned.


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