Dual-Career Marriage: A System in Transition

Dual-Career Marriage: A System in Transition

Dual-Career Marriage: A System in Transition

Dual-Career Marriage: A System in Transition


Dual-career marriage, in which wife and husband each pursue a professional career, offers a window into the changing landscape of gender roles and relations. In the span of a single generation, the family in which both parents work outside the home has gone from being the exception to being the rule. This book examines the multi-layered implications this impressive, rapid change holds for the fabric of family and marital life and for the course of men's and women's work lives.

Intensive interviews with dual-career wives and husbands provide rich information about four major issues:

• In what ways and for whom do dual-career marriages replicate the traditional gender arrangements of one-career marriages, and in what ways do dual-career marriages represent a revolution in gender roles?

• How do the two careers of spouses develop side by side, and in what ways do dual-career spouses help or hinder each other's careers?

• How do work and family combine in dual-career marriages?

• How are relationships between spouses and between parents and children affected by dual careers?

This book presents a subtle, textured portrait of contemporary dual-career marriage -- examining the complicated interplay of expectations, behaviors, and emotions within and between dual-career spouses. The author observes that the centrality of family or work to each spouse's sense of self powerfully affects how the couple negotiates the challenges posed by dual-career marriage, including feelings of competition between spouses, questions of geographic moves, and division of domestic tasks. The study illuminates many issues of clinical relevance, such as the common hazard of dual-career spouses having little time for marital intimacy once the rigorous demands of careers and children are met, and the complicated intrapersonal as well as interpersonal tensions generated by gender roles in transition.


Within the home and within society, dual-career marriage constitutes a system in transition. Each dual-career marriage is constantly in flux, as careers evolve, children grow, and marital relations change. And within modern society, the ways in which husbands and wives juggle two careers with family life continue to shift over time. At issue at both levels of transition--marital and sociohistorical--are changing gender roles. Dual-career marriage offers a revealing glimpse at the evolution of gender roles underway in contemporary society.

Of many narratives (e.g., political, economic, religious) that one could tell about contemporary Western society, one compelling storyline belongs to the marked shift in gender roles. The majority of men and women now in dual-career marriages grew up in families with a breadwinner father and a homemaker mother. Questions such: as "How will I fit work and family together?" "How will my spouse and I divide roles at home and in the world?" "Who will care for our children?" are relevant and pressing for men and women today in a way both new and significant.

The challenges posed by adding a wife's career into the family equation seem substantial at a pragmatic level alone: Without a "homemaker," how does the home get made? More subtle and complex are the psychological challenges: How do changes in gender roles occur? What are the benefits and costs? What are the effects of the many years of observing more traditional gender roles between parents? What are the implications of years of expecting, enacting in play . . .

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