Dual-Career Couples: Coping with Multiple Role Stress

By Ugwu, Leonard | Gender & Behaviour, June 2009 | Go to article overview

Dual-Career Couples: Coping with Multiple Role Stress


Ugwu, Leonard, Gender & Behaviour


The study investigated the type of stress dual-career couples encounter at home and at their workplace and how they having been coping with stressful situations. A total of one hundred and thirteen (113) dual-career couples working at the University of Nigeria and ministry of health, Nigeria participated in this study. Results showed that dual-career couples who receive no assistance from house-helps reported more role overload than their counterparts who receive no assistance from anybody, X^sup 2^^sub (1)^ = 13.3, p < 0.05. Results also showed that dual-career couples who live with aged parent(s)/ parent(s)-in-law and their own children reported more role overload than their counterparts are neither living with their children nor with aged parent(s), X^sup 2^^sub (1)^ = 24.45, p < 0.05. The major sources of stress for dual-career couples living with their own children and aged parents centred on children-related activities.

In the 70's, the typical Nigerian married employee in most private and public organizations was a male who had a traditional marriage with a wife at home caring for the children. Domestic chores and other family care responsibilities were naturally assigned to women, while men were primarily concerned with instrumental tasks. There was a clear division of labour with men providing the needs of the family while women performed care giving services at home. Summarily put, women controlled the home fronts while men were in charge of the provision of family needs.

But today, women are entering the world of work in thousands, which has changed the family structures. Nigerian society is also undergoing a metamorphosis as the number of dual career families is in the increase. Women's crossing of the role - boundary by incorporating paid work in their already existing nurturance role has brought significant challenges to many households. The fallout of these changing family structures in an increase is the number of dual - career couples in contemporary families.

Dual - career couples are defined as mixed-sex couples who are married or cohabiting and who are both currently employed outside the home. The dual-career couples may be working in the same organization or in different organizations but whichever, they contend with the multiple role conflicts that arise from the work/ home domains. Howard (1992) asserts that dual - career couples hold multiplicity of roles and that they are prone to stress and burnout.

Perceived multiple role stress is generated when meeting demands of one role interferes with meeting demands of another role (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, & Snoeck, 1964). Since dual-career couples are the occupants of many roles (family responsibilities and work behaviour expectations), they may be experiencing multiple role stress, which if not properly managed may lead to role strain (Maclean, Glynn & Ansara, 2004). Reviewing literature on the type of stress dual-career couples encounter, Ifelunni (1993) and Ifeagwazi (2005) revealed that dual-career families experience a great deal of multiple role stress. Thoits (1987) and Epstein (1987) had earlier, in their separate studies, suggested that the nature of stress dualcareer couples encounter would not be understood until conditions under which it develops or how it is managed, are investigated. This becomes necessary since many writers have suggested that multiple role stress impact negatively on the employees' well-being (Barnett & Baruch, 1985; Brown & Harris, 1978).

In a similar study, Gore and Mangion (1983) investigated the differential effects of roles and role combinations on dual-career couples. They found that absence of the employment role was equally distressing for men and women, but having parental responsibilities increased symptoms only for women for whom being a parent was more likely to mean caring for children in a daily way. Dores sWorters (1994) found that the effect of family responsibilities was more on working women than in working men. …

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