Dual-income families struggle to balance increasing demands

Women more likely to sacrifice to live up to "traditional" role

LONDON, ON, May 7 /CNW/ - A new study on the workload for dual-income families gives us one more reason to remember mom on Mother's Day. It reveals moms are as dedicated as ever to their families, despite taking on additional work outside the home.

In fact, working moms will sacrifice their own needs to meet family responsibilities and don't find relief in outsourcing home duties.

"In the face of role overload and competing expectations, women attempt to cope by cutting back on the time they have for themselves," said Chris Higgins, Statistics Professor, Richard Ivey School of Business. "It may be that the demands associated with obtaining support, such as hiring and monitoring outside help, counterbalance the demands one has outsourced."

An expert on work-life balance, Higgins is lead author of the study, which will be published in an upcoming edition of Journal of Marriage and Family. "Coping with Overload and Stress: Men and Women in Dual-Earner Families" is co-authored by Linda Duxbury of Carleton University's Sprott School of Business and Sean Lyons of Guelph University's College of Management and Economics.

It looks at how men and women use four coping strategies, "scaling back, "seeking support," "family-role restructuring" and "work-role restructuring," to deal with role overload. Scaling back involves limiting personal time, while seeking support involves hiring outside help. Family-role restructuring includes streamlining family roles to accommodate family members' demands, while work-role restructuring involves restructuring work roles for family demands.

Results show women report higher levels of overload and stress than men, despite having the same family responsibilities and fewer work demands. This suggests women may be more concerned than men about the consequences of doing less at home because it takes them away from their "traditional" role as caregiver. Women are also more likely than men to cope by scaling back, which may increase stress.

In contrast, men are affected by activities that take them away from work. They also choose household chores defined as "masculine tasks," such as home maintenance and playing with their children, which combine work with leisure and have a well-defined beginning and end.

"These findings suggest that traditional gender-role socialization still has a powerful influence on the dual-earner employees of today," Higgins said.

The study also found work demands were the main cause of role overload and neither men nor women would cut back in that area.

"People still ascribe to the 'myth of separate worlds,' which puts work first and family and personal life second," said Higgins. "It may be that scaling back and restructuring within the family role are the only coping strategies available to many families."

In light of that, both men and women could benefit from having their families do more at home, the study showed.

About the Richard Ivey School of Business, The University of Western Ontario

The Richard Ivey School of Business (www.ivey.ca) at The University of Western Ontario is Canada's leading provider of relevant, innovative and comprehensive business education. Drawing on extensive research and business experience, Ivey faculty provide the best classroom experience, equipping graduates with the skills and capabilities they need to tackle the leadership challenges in today's complex business world. Ivey offers world-renowned undergraduate and graduate degree programs as well as Executive Development at campuses in London (Ontario), Toronto and Hong Kong.

SOURCE Ivey Business School

For further information: For further information: Dawn Milne, Richard Ivey School of Business, (519) 850-2536, dmilne@ivey.ca

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