Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Cognitive Factors in Effectively Coping with Home/Career Stress

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Cognitive Factors in Effectively Coping with Home/Career Stress

Article excerpt

Many women who choose to combine family and career often report stress related to professional, parental, and marital obligations and expectations. Surprisingly, little research has examined the adequacy of women's efforts to cope with this stress. In particular, research is needed to identify the critical cognitive variables that can influence women's inferences about home/career stress and their choice of coping strategies. Such data would be useful for targeting the cognitive change mechanisms in any cognitive-based treatment interventions for this population.

The present study compared two models for describing critical cognitive factors that influence women's choices of effective coping strategies for dealing with home/career stress. In the first model, two cognitive characteristics of a woman, her sex-role beliefs and her conceptual level, are viewed as the major causal factors that influence her choice of effective coping strategies. In the second model, a woman's sex-role beliefs and her conceptual level are assumed to influence her cognitive appraisal of her level of stress and/or her appraisal of her resources for coping with stress, and these appraisals subsequently influence the woman's choice of effective coping strategies.

The findings from this study provide some support for a cognitive mediated model of home/career stress-coping. In this model, a woman's sex-role beliefs and her conceptual level influence her cognitive appraisal of her resources for coping with the stressful demands, and this appraisal then influences her level of effectiveness in coping with the situation. In particular, a woman's sex-role beliefs and her cognitive appraisal of her resources for coping with stressful home/career demands appear to be significant cognitive variables that influence her level of effective coping. Androgynous women tend to report more confidence in their ability to cope with stressful home/career demands than do feminine women, and women who appraise themselves as having more resources to cope with stressful home/career demands tend to select more effective coping strategies.

It is not surprising that women who combine family and career responsibilities will report stress due to conflicting professional, parental, and marital role expectations (Gilbert, Holahan, & Manning, 1981; Holahan & Gilbert, 1979; Rapaport & Rapaport, 1969; Scanzoni & Fox, 1980). College-educated mothers employed outside the home report home/career stress which is often associated with both their high achievement motivation (Holahan & Gilbert, 1979) and their strong needs to effectively handle the two full-time roles (Moulton, 1980). Obviously, some women are able to effectively cope with home/career stress, while others in similar situations report symptoms such as depression, insomnia, psychosomatic ailments, and dissatisfaction with themselves and their lives (Schaeffer, 1981). Because of the clear evidence that some women report stress-related symptoms related to coping with home/career demands, and because it is also clear that women differ in how effectively they cope with stressful home/career demands, research is needed to identify the cognitive mediating variables that play significant causal roles in understanding differences in coping effectiveness.

A number of models used for conceptualizing stress and coping (see Matheny, Aycock, Pugh, Curlette, & Silva-Cannela, 1986) assume that cognitive variables such as beliefs, schemata, and cognitive appraisals influence how effectively women cope with home/career stress. Although cognitive variables have been found to be related to coping effectiveness, more needs to be known about the causal relationships among cognitive variables and coping effectiveness. This study will evaluate two competing models of home/career stress-coping which involve different assumptions about the causal relationships among four cognitive variables and level of effective coping. …

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