Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Satisfaction with Work and Family Life: No Evidence of a Cultural Reversal

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Satisfaction with Work and Family Life: No Evidence of a Cultural Reversal

Article excerpt

Hochschild (1997) argued that in recent decades the rewards of work have increased relative to those of family life and that this cultural reversal has aggravated the time bind that families face by increasing working hours. To the contrary, pooled data from the 1973-1994 General Social Surveys indicate that in working families, women have shifted away from finding work more satisfying than home toward finding home a haven. Moreover, were it not for women's growing labor force participation and the changing distribution of marital status, the shift would have been even larger. Men's relative work-home satisfaction has been stable. Finally, finding work a haven is unrelated to weekly working hours, and it has not contributed to any increases in working hours over time.

Key Words: family relations, family work relationship, job satisfaction, social change, trends, working hours.

In The Time Bind, Hochschild (1997) found that for many, work takes precedence over home as a source of friendship, accomplishment, meaning, and even relaxation. Home is a place where they are beleaguered by disorder, the demands of children and spouses, and feelings of lack of control. Hochschild interprets these findings as an indication that in recent decades a cultural reversal has occurred, in which the rewards of work have increased relative to those of family life. Although some "workaholic" men have always gained greater satisfaction from work than home (Duncombe & Marsden, 1993, in Hochschild, 1996), Hochschild argues that this pattern has become more prevalent.

Such a cultural reversal has negative consequences, as it signifies reduced investment in family life. Not only are workers relatively more attached to the workplace, Hochschild argues, but they spend more time there than in the past in order to avoid spending time at home. Long hours on the job aggravate the time bind (Hochschild, 1996, 1997) that many families experience. Long working hours by wives negatively affect their husband's health (Stolzenberg, 2001), presumably because wives have less time to manage family members' health. Long working hours also may decrease families' informal socializing and community involvement (Hochschild, 1996).

The claims of a cultural reversal accompanied by longer hours at work have received considerable attention from both scholars and journalists. Nevertheless, these claims require further investigation. First, they require a representative national sample, one that encompasses all workers. Hochschild's (1997) findings are based mainly on a participant observation study at a large manufacturing firm ("Amerco") and a survey of mainly middle- or upper middle-class employees of large corporations whose children attended company-- sponsored Bright Horizons Children's Centers (p. 199). Hays (1998), Jacobs (1999), and Maume and Bellas (2001) also have commented on this limitation. Second, longitudinal data are needed. Hochschild's data cannot provide evidence of a cultural reversal in relative satisfaction with work and home over time (Bielby, 1998; Hays). Moreover, the findings raise many unanswered questions about what explains relative satisfaction with work and home (Jacobs; Jacobs & Gerson, 2000) and what accounts for any change over time.

This study tests Hochschild's (1997) hypothesis of a cultural reversal with longitudinal data from a national sample, the 1973-1994 General Social Surveys (GSS). First, the study charts the trend in the prevalence of individuals who are more satisfied with work than family life to determine whether a cultural reversal has occurred. Second, it assesses the contributions of individual change and population turnover to overall change (Brewster & Padavic, 2000; Firebaugh, 1997). Third, it seeks to explain change by testing some of Hochschild's hypotheses about groups that are likely to be more satisfied with work than family life and to have contributed to a cultural reversal. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.