Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

A Mixed-Methods Exploration of Christian Working Mothers' Personal Strivings

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

A Mixed-Methods Exploration of Christian Working Mothers' Personal Strivings

Article excerpt

The current study explored the motherhood strivings of 200 Christian professional mothers in the workforce and the strivings' relationship to positive affect, negative affect, satisfaction with life, interrole conflict, and the presence of psychological symptoms, in order to understand the influence of Christian subcultural factors on the experience of working Christian mothers. A mixed-methods study was conducted, including a content analysis informed by grounded theory methodology of the content of the motherhood strivings, and a quantitative analysis of how types of strivings are related to positive affect, negative affect, satisfaction with life, interrole conflict, and the presence of psychological symptoms. Qualitative analysis of the content of the motherhood themes resulted in two predominant themes: motherhood as living up to societal ideals and motherhood as embodiment of personal values. With respect to the quantitative findings, spiritual self-transcendence strivings were negatively correlated with interrole conflict. High-level, abstract strivings were positively correlated with the presence of interrole conflict, and negatively correlated with satisfaction with life. Strivings reflective of the intensive mothering ideology, specifically, the strivings that were reflective of the "entirely child centered" and "assume full responsibility" tenets of intensive mothering, were positively correlated with interrole conflict.

Recent research on motherhood reveals that the practice of mothering is strongly influenced by contextual factors, as mothers draw on "the social, material and psychic resources available in their external settings, their relationships, their life histories and current experiences" (Elliott, Gunaratnain, Hollway & Phoenix, 2009, p. 19). Two important contextual variables are employment status and religious affiliation. According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau in 2009, 77.5 percent of women with children under the age of 18 are in the labor force. Religion also influences parenting, affecting aspects such as disciplinary attitudes and practices, child abuse, affection toward and monitoring of children, and parental coping in stressful contexts (Mahoney, 2010). Contextual variables also interact with each other. In the case of employment and religion, the intersection is found in the empirical connection between religious participation and an emphasis on marriage, child rearing, and homemaking for women (Hall, Oates, Anderson, & Willingham, in press), resulting in potential tension between religiously-influenced attitudes and employment. In this study, mothering is examined in a sample of Christian professional women, through the study of their mothering goals. These goals provide insight into what these women value, as well as shed light on how their goals may relate to their well-being (Emmons, 1991; Greenfield, Valliant, & Marks, 1989), contributing to our understanding of the influence of Christian subcultural factors on the experience of working Christian mothers. In the following paragraphs, existing research on personal strivings, motherhood ideology, and interrole conflict will be examined as the theoretical foundation for the present study.

Personal Strivings

Personal strivings are individualized goals representing the typical objectives that individuals strive to accomplish in their everyday behavior (Emmons, 1986; see Emmons, 2003 for a review). Strivings are more focused and changeable than implicit motives, yet broader and more stable than specific goals or plans (McClelland, Koestner, & Weinberger, 1989). Properties of personal strivings, such as the value and importance of the strivings, and ambivalence and conflict between strivings, possess considerable value in predicting both psychological and physical well-being (Emmons & King, 1988; Emmons 8c McAdams, 1991). For example, Emmons (1991) found that affiliation strivings (i. …

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