Being Together, Working Apart: Dual-Career Families and the Work-Life Balance

By Gilbert, Lucia Albino | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Being Together, Working Apart: Dual-Career Families and the Work-Life Balance


Gilbert, Lucia Albino, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


Schneider, Barbara and Linda J. Waite (Eds.). BEING TOGETHER, WORKINGAPART: DUAL-CAREER FAMILIESAND THE WORK-LIFE BALANCE. Cambridge University Press, 2005,553pp. ISBN: 0-521-84571-8.

I am not a fan of edited books. Such volumes tend to reiterate what is known and add little to providing a more nuanced and synthesized sense of a field. This lengthy volume reporting on the 500 Family Study undertaken by the University of Chicago's Sloan Center on Parents, Children, and Work, which the two editors direct, is an exception.

A main purpose of the project was investigating how work affects the many dimensions of middle-class dual-earner family life and how conflicts are negotiated between home and work. The main sections of the volume center around four themes: Experiences at Work and Home, Marriage and Family, Making It Work at Home, and Parenting and Adolescent Development. The concluding section, "Lessons to be Learned," emphasizes the importance of using data from the volume to educate the public and create a public agenda about the needs of working families.

The volume has many strengths. Particularly noteworthy is the interesting juxtaposition of young researchers and noted scholars in the field of work and family. The chapters themselves are mostly authored by the doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and research associates who worked on the project and who present findings on different aspects of the larger data base in a consistent research-article-style format. Each chapter is then followed by commentaries by one or two distinguished scholars from a wide range of disciplines who not only provide a critique of the data presented and conclusions drawn but also place the chapter's findings within a heuristic framework of next steps. As one commentator noted, "The major challenge for the use of this extremely rich source of data is to match the human and financial resources allocated to the administration of the survey and collection of data by an equal amount of support for the analysis and interpretation of its findings" (p. 44). The commentaries are excellent and make fascinating reading for novice and seasoned researchers alike. Other strengths include the breadth and depth of the project's scope; the national basis of the sample, which was drawn from eight Sloan Study related sites across the country; the breadth of methodologies and instruments used, including the Experience Sampling Method; the wide range of topics addressed (e.g., from emotional aspects of family life to religiosity, time watching television, and who does what at home and work); the extent to which findings buttress past research (e. …

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