Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Future Work and Family Plans of Traditional Women, Nontraditional Women and Men

Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Future Work and Family Plans of Traditional Women, Nontraditional Women and Men

Article excerpt

In exploring the future plans and preferences of young men and women, is it helpful to view women as a heterogeneous group with differing preferences rather than considering women as one homogeneous group? In attempting to answer this question we divided several samples of U.S. undergraduate women from the same institution into a Traditional and a Nontraditional group and compared them with their male peers. The division of women into two groups is based on Hakim's Preference Theory (2000), which was developed and published in her book Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century. The overarching goal of Preference Theory was to be able to explain and even predict the choices women make regarding work and family (Hakim, 2000).

According to Hakim, there were two major ways that Preference Theory differed from the existing theory explaining women's work and family choices. First, Preference Theory was developed with the idea that men's and women's employment patterns were very different (see Hakim 1991, 1995, 1996, 1998). Hakim noted that this varied from existing theories that explained men's and women's labor participation as homogeneous (e.g. van Doorne-Huiskes, van Hoof, & Roelefs 1995, as citied in Hakim, 2000). Secondly, Hakim (2000) argued that historical changes demanded a need for a new perspective on women's work, since women in developed societies now had a choice between whether they wanted to focus on family work or market work.

The polarization of women's employment behavior and preferences, as evidenced in numerous studies reviewed by Hakim (2000) (e.g. Burchell & Rubery, 1994; Singly, 1996; Sexton, 1979), suggested that it was no longer appropriate to consider women as a homogenous group. Hakim proposed that there were now three discrete groups of women: Home-centered, Adaptive, and Work-centered. Hakim presented these groups as ideal-types, which were meant to be a simplified way to describe reality. Hakim estimated that her first group, which she called Home-centered, made up about 20% of women in modern society. These women were characterized as prioritizing family life and children, as preferring not to work fulltime, and as seeking education merely to increase their worth in the marriage market. Hakim's second group, or the Adaptive group, was estimated to consist of 60% of women in modern society. This group also included women who had not planned their future careers. Finally, Hakim's last group, Work-centered women who made up another 20% of women, were described as prioritizing their careers, or other activities in the public realm such as sport, art or other non-career activities, over that of family. Work-centered women were also characterized as investing highly in their education for the betterment of their career.

Hakim (2000) created her theory using qualitative, case-study, and quantitative research results. She justified her classification of women into 3 groups based on empirical evidence she acquired from the American National Longitudinal Survey (NLS). The NLS supplied her with relevant data on the influence of both work orientations and work plans for women over the long term. Hakim focused on the cohort of women who were aged 14-24 in the year 1968 and who were then aged 29-39 years in 1983. The longitudinal study included a representative sample of women, not just college undergraduates. Respondents were asked what they would like to be doing at the age of 35. Results from the survey indicated that 28% planned on having a homemaking career at the age of 35, 47% were labeled 'drifters', or more recently 'adaptives' and either showed no clear pattern in their plans or made a switch to having plans for a career at some point during the study, and 25% were career planners and planned on having a career at the age of 35.

Our study compared two groups of women, Traditional and Nontraditional, based on Hakim's Preference theory. Although Hakim included a very large group of women in her Adaptive category, this was a very diverse group that we felt masked the more important differences between Traditional and Nontraditional women. …

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