Sex, Career and Family: Including An International Review of Women's Roles

By Michael P. Fogarty; Rhona Rapoport et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter VII
Family Patterns and Work

The change in demography and in cultural norms and values, as indicated above, have brought about a situation where many highly qualified women seek to combine work and family life, rather than give up one for the other. Just as highly qualified women show a range of levels and types of aspiration in relation to their careers, so they show a range of attitudes and behavioural patterns in relation to family life--from remaining single without the intention of marrying, marrying and not having children, to the other extreme of marrying and following a traditional homemaker role with no intention of ever working. The idea that women are 'naturally' maternal and domestically minded while men are 'naturally' ambitious and competitive in the world of work is too simple a view to be tenable in today's society. Graduate women, like graduate men, have various attitudes towards careers--in general, and specifically in relation to themselves; and they have different orientations to family life. The aim of this chapter is to describe in some detail the family patterns found among highly qualified women, and to seek out current relationships between family patterns and career orientations.

It has been argued that some highly qualified women want, need and feel that they ought to pursue their careers, and that tying them down to the chores of family life makes for unhappiness for themselves, their children and their marital relationship. It has also been argued that the strains of combining work and family for a woman in the early phases of family development are more than most individuals and marriages can bear, and that it may in some cases be deleterious for the mental health of the developing children. Is the family a blessed haven of personal fulfilment of a psycho-social trap beset with stresses and strains?

Any answer which is formulated to this question is liable to be labelled as obvious, a hazard encountered in reporting the finding of much social investigation. One reason that this hazard exists, of course, is that informed readers entertain a number of hypothetical

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