Life's a Balancing Act: How Men and Women Experience the Work-Home Interface across the Life Course.
Lin, Katherine Y.
AbstractAs women, and particularly mothers, have increased their labor force participation in the last half-century, and as the expectation for men to spend more time in childcare and housework has increased, more men and women now must combine role responsibilities in the work and home domains than ever before. Using quantitative and qualitative data, this dissertation takes a sociological approach to understanding the variation in experiences at the work-home interface that have arisen in this time of substantial social change. In assessing how taking on work-home roles can influence individual outcomes, I show that it is important to consider both within- and between-gender differences at the work-home interface, and highlight the utility of applying a life course perspective to work-family research. The first empirical chapter uses two waves of a national sample of working adults to document how transitions in family roles are related to perceptions of work spilling over into home, and home spilling over into work, and how these associations differ by gender. This chapter provides evidence that taking on dual work-home role responsibilities can produce both role strain and role enhancement, laying the groundwork for future studies of how strain and enhancement might combine rather than compete. The second empirical chapter uses data from qualitative interviews with medical trainees to show how competing devotions to work, family, and personal lives shape the way important career decisions are made. The third empirical chapter uses nationally-representative and longitudinal data to document the association between working, parenting, and long-term health trajectories. Taken together, these studies suggest that social policy agendas should consider the ways in which work and home domains are linked, as well as focus on important turning points across the life course. Policy efforts to mitigate gender inequality in the labor force would do well to continue to push for gender-neutral work-family policies, as it is clear that conflict at the work-home interface is not a solely female experience, and that both men and women navigate and seek solutions for complex work-home dilemmas across the life course.
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