Work-Family Role Choices for Women in Their 20s and 30s: From College Plans to Life Experiences

Work-Family Role Choices for Women in Their 20s and 30s: From College Plans to Life Experiences

Work-Family Role Choices for Women in Their 20s and 30s: From College Plans to Life Experiences

Work-Family Role Choices for Women in Their 20s and 30s: From College Plans to Life Experiences

Synopsis

This study follows over 200 women making employment and family choices during their first decade after college graduation. Based on interview responses, the authors organize the women into four life choice categories: Careerists, Homemakers, Breadwinners, and Nesters. Using models of adult change as well as extensive quotes and empirical analyses, the authors identify the facilitators and barriers for each alternative. Women relate the consequences of each choice for themselves, their spouses, and their children. While each group faced unique problems, in all groups, women were satisfied with career and family aspects of their choices if they followed their individual values, found supportive friends, coworkers and spouses, and if they worked in those rare challenging jobs in family-supportive organizations. The book explores the ways women, spouses, counselors, and employers can facilitate satisfying life choices and how to anticipate the questions each group faces in their next decade.

Excerpt

Combining employment roles and family roles is one of the crucial challenges most men and women face in the twenty-first century. Yet society is changing so rapidly because of advances in technology, increased social diversity, and greater global competition, that advice from well-meaning friends, relatives, and mentors may no longer be accurate. We want to provide an empirically based record of the real experiences of women facing this challenge today. We wrote this book primarily to provide sound information to young adult women, their friends, spouses, employers, and counselors. The information is based on a 10-year longitudinal study of college graduate women. It is presented in narrative form, rather than a scientific format, to encourage nonscientists to use the results in their daily life choices.

Like many longitudinal studies, there were issues we wanted to address in the 1990s that hadn't seemed so important in the 1980s. In 1980, asking women whether or not they would return to work during the first three years following childbirth seemed logical. That was when most day care centers took children and the years when a large number of women returned to employment if they were going to be employed mothers. Today, we wished we had asked about returning to work after a shorter period, but we did the best we could to understand 1990s reality by asking more detailed questions in the followup questionnaire. Given these longitudinal limitations, the voices of the women who participated in this study still emerge today as . . .

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