Sociology 971
Week 13 – Work and Family

Casper & Bianchi (2002)

1. Researchers found that gender role attitudes have a greater impact on marital satisfaction and how couples reconcile their gender ideologies and the division of labor is crucial of marital satisfaction. (Vannoy and Philliber 1992) Also, marital conflict is positively associated with wife’s labor force participation but women’s employment is not related with the higher risk of marital dissolution (Rogers 1991; Greene and Quester 1982; Johnson and Skineer 1986). Based on these findings, could differences in gender role ideology between husband and wife or different pace of changes provide possible (and alternative to theoretical frameworks such as economic theories) explanation for increasing marital instability?


Amato et al. (2003)

1. Some researchers measure marital quality using spouses’ reports of satisfaction. In contrast, Amato et al, consider it as multidimensional and use three dimensions to measure for marital quality, respectively marital happiness, marital interaction and divorce proneness. Do you find their approach a better measurement for marital quality? And even when we accept their argument, don’t you think there is a possibility that these measures might be arbitrary and incomplete? For example, they could get different results if other dimensions of marital quality have been used, i.e. marital conflict as they also acknowledged. Do you think to what extent this possible measurement error distorts their findings?

2. One interesting result is the gender differences in responses regarding housework and marital quality. For example, husbands reported they increasingly did a larger proportion of housework than wives answered that husbands did. And with the more housework husbands do, they reported less happiness while wives reported more happiness. It seems that the story is quite different from whose perspective you look at this issue. Then, could studies based on data with wives’ responses miss or not capture the actual phenomenon? Or it does not matter much even if there is a possibility of doing so.

3. How can we interpret Amato et al.’s finding that support for lifelong marriage increased from 1980 to 2000? Does this finding surprise you?

4. Using the variables in this analysis, the authors were not able to explain the overall decline in marital interaction between 1980 and 2000. What do you think are some possible explanations for this decline?

5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a decomposition analysis to investigate the research questions posed in the article? How are the conclusions we can draw from this research limited by the nature of the analysis?

Bianchi (2000)

1. When people refer to the effects of maternal employment on children and their well-being, the quantity of time spent with children is usually of interest. However, what about the quality of time invested in children (what do mothers do with children)? Does the quality matter or not at all? A study by Nock and Kingston found that the difference in time for direct childcare and play/education between the employed and nonemployed mothers was less than one hour. What do you think about the effects of maternal work for children’s well-being taking into account this finding?

2. Related to the work and family issues, we need to consider about inequality in parental investment in terms of both time and money (resources). For example some research found the differences by parents’ educational attainment and their effect on children (Martin 1999, 2000; MacLanahan 2004). Do you think more money (resources) could offset the relative less time spent with children? Could these effects vary for the short-term (young children’s psychological well-being) and the long-term (parents’ ability to support children’s college education)? If so, what does matter more in your opinion?

3. Bianchi maintains that “childhood is not fixed and unchanging.” She also argues that notions of “what children need” and the standards of good mothering are changing too. And these changes “tend to push mothers toward market work because good childhoods increasingly include components that cost money.” What do you think about this argument? Does it change the nature of childrearing if her argument is correct and also the direction of effects of maternal work on children’s outcome?


Bianchi et al. (2000)

1. This study found that the propensity to do housework increased for men and decreased for women. And surprisingly, among women the greatest decline was observed for those who are not employed, rather than for those who are employed. What do these trends imply, especially in association with increasing female labor force participation?

2. Bianchi et al found that gender ideology affects the time spent in housework differently wives and husbands. Wives with egalitarian gender ideologies do less housework, but there was no effect for husbands. It seems that husbands do not behave according to their (gender egalitarian) ideology. What accounts for these differences? Is this gender ideology mechanism not actively operated within the dynamics between spouses - husbands just (or can) tolerate wives with egalitarian ideology and consequently wives (can) do less housework?

3. How does Bianchi et al.’s study advance the literature regarding the gender division of household labor? What do we gain from examining men and women in all household types, rather than restricting analysis to married couple households?

4. Bianchi et al. attempt to adjudicate between three competing theoretical perspectives: time availability, relative resources, and the gender perspective. What are the main tenets of each? Do you think the authors’ measures captured the key components of these perspectives? Can you envision measures or analyses that might allow us to better evaluate these theoretical models? In all, how compelling did you find Bianchi et al.’s conclusions?


Oppenheimer (1994)

1. Showing the long term historical trend, Oppenheimer argues that demographic behaviors, widely attributed to the rise in female labor force participation, such as fertility decline and increasing divorce rate, in fact have followed the long term historical trend. She also argues that the post-war era including baby boomer generation was unusual in history; therefore, we can not take this period as the model of the traditional American family, which might be due to factors such as a favorable economic climate, etc. Do you agree with her? Then what do you think about the “family war” (whether American family is declining or not) and how do you evaluate both parts of debates?

2. Oppenheimer argues that economic independence theory is about whether people marry, not when. So we need to be careful of the different implication and consequences between the delayed marriage and nonmarriage in terms of effects of the increasing female labor force participation. What is your opinion for this argument?

3. Cohabitation is important to understand the changes in behavior related to marriage and family although we have limited data and no conclusive explanation about it. Given the increasing proportion of cohabiting and ever cohabited people, let’s think about those who cohabited and break up instead of marrying; do they marry eventually or form other short-lived cohabiting unions? If they choose not to marry and enter into another cohabiting union, why do they do this? Is it totally voluntary based on one’s preferences or due to the delays in marriage as Oppenheimer suggested? Do you think understanding this mechanism help us grasp the underlying driving forces in recent dramatic socio- demographic changes?

4. Oppenheimer questions the tendency that norms and values are typically determinants of behavior, i.e. modernization leads to changes in family norms, which changes family behavior. In contrast, she suggests that changing conditions lead to changes in norms and/or behavior, i.e. demographic, social and economic context influences responses. Do you agree with her, if so, to what extent? If disagree, why? Also discuss her argument compared with other theories and explanations such as post-materialistic value theory.

5. Oppenheimer claims that “From a historical perspective, one way of viewing the rise in married women’s’ employment is that their work represent a functional substitute for the work of their children, facilitating the more extensive schooling of children, thereby fostering upward intergenerational social mobility.” (p.321). According to her, women’s labor force participation is not the cause for the demographic changes such as low fertility and marital instability, but the consequences of historical and socio-economic change. Compared with the economic independence theory, do you find which argument more reasonable?

6. Also she argues that we should look at mothers’ market work at the level of family beyond at the individual level. In other words, we should consider maternal work as a “highly adaptive family strategy rather than as a threat to the family as a social institution.” Do you find that understanding the married women’s labor force participation as strategies developed to maintain an economic homeostasis over the family’s developmental cycle has strong explanatory power?

7. As Oppenheimer argued, the “invisible” men among the research examining the consequences of increasing female labor force participation are quite problematic. She suggests the collaborative model- in that marriages are based on the contributions by each partner and argues that this model could explain the low fertility as well as the marital instability. Do you agree with her argument and if so, think to what extent the response or reaction of another partner (usually husband) matters? And how do we (re)evaluate the previous one-sided research and its implications?

Across readings

1. One of main reasons that people are concerned about the rise in married women’s labor force participation is related to children’s well-being. But what about the well-being of parents, especially of working mothers? Is there a tendency to overlook or ignore the consequences of increasing maternal work for working mothers themselves while too much attention is given to the well-being of children?

2. In terms of the effect of rise in female labor force participation, mother is often (or almost) assumed to be an (appropriate) caregiver. However, fathers tend to increase their time spent with children to adjust increasing maternal employment in U.S. and other family members such as daughters or older female relatives share this responsibility in developing countries (Bianchi 2000). What are the implications of these facts in the analysis of work and family issues? And other family members other than mothers, especially fathers should be just an alternative option in terms of childcare?

3. Casper and Bianchi (2002) conclude that “the likelihood of the continued movement toward gender equality in occupation and earnings may depend on men’s and women’s more equal participation in child rearing and domestic work” (p.307). Consider Amato et al.’s (2003) finding that an increase in the husband’s share of housework was associated with a decline in marital happiness and a rise in divorce proneness among men (whereas it appears to have an opposite effect for women, improving marital quality).

What implications does this finding have for the feminist project of creating a more equal division of labor within the home and increasing men’s share of housework? In other words, what are the implications for the feasibility of achieving this goal? What might be the potential consequences?