PSYC 3480 Women’s Psychology – Chapter 11
Balancing Family and Work
Women’s Family and Employment Roles: Perceptions and Attitudes
Although the traditional view of the male provider-female homemaker was once seen as the
expected and desirable family type, most adults today do not perceive it as ideal.
Perceptions of Working and Stay-at-Home Mothers
According to social role theory, women are assumed to be higher than men in warmth and
nurturance, whereas men are assumed to be higher in agency and competence.
o Mothers who go back to work/school after birth or following a brief leave are viewed as less
warm and communal than those who cut back to part time or stay at home.
Mothers who are employed full time are judged more harshly than non-mothers who are employed
full time – viewed as less nurturing and less professionally competent.
Mother are judged as less likely to be hired than are non-mothers with the same credentials; fathers
are judged to be as hireable as non-fathers.
Factors Influencing Attitudes Toward Women’s Multiple Roles
One factor that affects attitudes toward women’s multiple role is age.
o 25% of young adults think it is a bad timing for mothers to work outside the home compared
to 40% of older adults.
Ethnicity also plays a role.
o Historically, poor and working class women of color have been in the labor force to help
o Not surprising that Black female college students play to return to work sooner than White
o Sizable minority of Black and Latina/o adults believe that men should maintain the primary
financial responsibility for families.
Gender also influences attitudes.
o In a survey, women are less likely than men to agree that married women should be full
o Majority of college students say that balancing is a priority for them.
History of one’s own mother also influences.
o Adolescent and young adult children whose mothers were employed during their childhood
do no feel they were neglected and appreciate the effort their mothers took to help the
o Women and men whose mothers worked all/most of the time are more likely than those
whose mothers worked little/at all to agree that working mothers can have relationships
with their children just as well.
Division of Family Labor
Increasing number of women and men have substantial household and child care obligations along
with major work responsibilities.
Housework and Child Care
Studies in the 70s/80s showed men increased their household labor very little when wives employed
Even though they have no increased, men’s contributions in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe
still does not equal that of women.
Division of housework between men and women is more egalitarian in countries with progressive
gender ideologies. Although Black and Latino husbands are more involved with household and child duties than are
White husbands, employed women still perform a disproportionate share of responsibilities.
Women still assume the main responsibility for traditional chores whereas men have more
responsibility for traditional male chores.
Tasks done by women are performed 1-2 times a day while those of men are done periodically.
Women continue to perform most child care activities and fathers focus on play activities.
Lesbian families – likely to share child care and household tasks.
Concern – finding time to fulfill all their responsibilities
Another issue is arranging for good child care – central concern for employed women
o Worries about child care can lead to high levels of stress for employed moms.
Caring for Aging Parents
Increasing numbers of midlife women are part of the “sandwich generation” – caring simultaneously
for their children and aging parents.
Women provide the bulk of eldercare in the US and other nations.
Estimated that women can expect the spend 18 years providing to older parent and children.
Average female caregiver; 48, married, works outside the home – likely to be a daughter, DIL, grand.
About half of employed caregivers have reported rearranging work schedules, decreasing work hours
or taking an unpaid leave, others pass up promotions, quite or retire early.
Other nations as well – European and Australian women who provide extensive care for older
relatives are more likely to cease employment than those not providing such care.
o It places strain on their income; they may have less time for their family, friends – increasing
Caregivers of older relatives show higher levels of depression, anxiety, hostility, stress, family tension
Employed mothers have less leisure time than either employed fathers or non-employed mothers.
Feminists say the concept of leisure is different for women and men, with women experiencing less
time for leisure in their lives than men.
o Common focus of women’s leisure is the combining of family obligations with leisure
o A woman may perceive the family’s leisure as her leisure
o Home is commonplace where leisure occurs; can be combined with household chores.
o Women often multitask – watching TY, cleaning; may be fragmented vs large blocks of time
Even after retirement women have less leisure time because they continue domestic chores and
Women’s Perceptions of the Division of Family Labor
Although women perform 2/3 of household labor, only a small percent rate is as unfair.
Women’s gender socialization has led them to believe that both childbearing and household work
are in women’s domain – possible.
Pressures to adhere to their socially prescribed maternal role make it difficult for some women to
surrender caregiving duties to their spouses.
They may compare their household responsibility to that of other women rather than to their
husband’s responsibility and not see themselves as burdened.
For those that feel the division is unfair, the perceived inequity does not stem from the amount of
time spent on household tasks but from their share of the total time spent by the couple.
Study – the more time wives spent relative to their husbands’, the more likely they were to view the
allocation of family responsibilities as unfair and to feel dissatisfied with it. Other hand- the more a wife believes she matters to her husband, the more likely she is to report
that the division of the housework is fair.
Explanations of the Division of Family Labor
Domestic responsibilities are allocated on the basis of each spouse’s time availability.
Full time homemakers, who have more time available, spend more time in household tasks than
The more time women and men spend in paid work, the less they expend in housework.
Another explanation is that women’s disproportionate share of household labor results from their
lower degree of marital power
o Power in marriage depends on work related resources (income)
o The more resources one partner has in relation to the other, the greater that partner’s
influence over the other
o The person will use their power to limit engagement in these tasks
Evidence suggests that it is not the difference in husbands and wives’ income that explains women’s
participation in household labor, but rather how much she earn
o For every $7500 in additional income, a woman’s share of housework declines by 1 hr/week
o Even when women bring greater work resources to the marriage, men retain higher power
Even when men have fewer occupational resources than their wives, they apparently maintain other
forms of power
Another explanation is that the unequal distribution reflects spouses’ beliefs about appropriate
o Many couples have internalized the traditional gender beliefs that managing children and
the home is primarily the wife’s responsibility and that husbands should be main financial
Men who have non-traditional attitudes about family roles spend more time doing housework than
those with traditional views, whereas women with non-traditional views spend less time in
household labor than those who have traditional beliefs
College students with traditional gender role attitudes find it more acceptable for a man to
Balancing Family and Work: Costs and Benefits
White students estimated a higher likelihood of negative outcomes from working during
motherhood than did Black students
The long history of Black women’s employment may contribute to their more positive attitudes
The effects of performing family and work roles are complex and encompass both positive and
Many employed women, especially mothers experience role strain – stress stemming from one’s
Role strain can stem from role overload – role demands that exceed one’s available time and/or
Can also stem from interrole conflict – incompatible demands stemming from 2/more roles. Women in 2 career families often experience the dual pressures of performing well in fast paced
demanding careers and performing well in their roles as mothers, increasing stress and exhaustion.
The more role strain women experience, the greater their depression and stress and the lower their
job and life satisfaction
What produces role strain?
o Scarcity hypothesis – excessive role responsibilities deplete the individual’s limited supply of
time and energy and, consequently, can lead to stress
o When peop