Sex, Career and Family: Including an International Review of Women's Roles

By Robert N. Rapoport; Michael P. Fogarty et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter V
The Conceptual Framework of the Research

A number of the assumptions underlying the P.E.P. studies as a whole-not only the family and sample studies-were set out in Chapter I. The research itself has focused on the idea of a life cycle; on the typical patterns of development found in the life histories of men and women in particular directions at key turning points.

The conceptual framework used views the processes of formulating ambitions, career development, family life and so on through time. The reason for this emphasis is that it has become increasingly apparent that many of the generalizations made in the literature about the pressures on, or the wishes or involvements of women, their husbands, and employers are phase specific. Generalizations holding for one time of life may not hold for others, and therefore a framework is necessary that makes it possible to analyse factors at play by specific phase of the life cycle.

Furthermore, the research is process orientated, and focuses on how movement or change occurs from one phase to another. As women move from the roles involved in one phase into those of the next phase, a process of reorganization is at work. To accomplish the reorganization, there is a necessary un-organization, a certain amount of turbulence, and then a new organization forms around the role expectations and obligations in the new situation. Individuals vary in the degree of disorganization and turbulence subjectively experienced. If one seeks to alter a structural situation during the steady state between critical transition points, one may expect to encounter resistance. This is an important perspective in relation to the policy implications of the research findings and will be returned to in that context.

The overall development cycle is difficult to delineate on the basis of social status transitions because these become differentiated at a very early age into different role systems-school, work, family and other roles. In a very general sense the life cycle can be seen as a

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