According to research published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology by the American Psychological Association, women and men report similar levels of work-family conflicts, both in the form of work interfering with family and family interfering with work.
The main motive of the study was to collect empirical evidence on whether and how gender affects the stress level caused by the effort of trying to combine work and family life.
Contrary to common public perception, the researchers found hardly any evidence that women and men are burdened differently by the compatibility of work and family.
"The way this issue is presented in the media frames the way we think about it, and it creates a perpetual cycle. Women hear other women are struggling with this issue, so they expect they will experience greater work-family conflict. There is also some socialisation for it being OK for women to talk more about it than men" says lead researcher Kristen Shockley, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Georgia.
Shockley and her team have evaluated more than 350 individual studies conducted over three decades with a total of about 250.000 participants - a very large data set that speaks for the quality of the study. Approximately half of the studies analyzed are from the United States, the remainder from Europe and Asia.
The researchers were surprised to find that men and women reported similar levels of work-family conflict regardless of the level of gender equality in their country (although very few studies have been conducted in the Middle East where different findings would have to be expected). The results of the study rather hint to one difference: that the conflict between career and family is mainly discussed as an exclusively women's issue in countries, where a great deal of equality is already achieved.
Previous research has found that men often do not feel comfortable discussing work-family concerns because they fear being stigmatized, a negative impact on their career or that their masculinity might be in danger. This is why they may feel more open discussing their issues in anonymous, confidential studies, Shockley assesses.
She also says: "I do think it's harming men, who are silently struggling and are experiencing the same amount of work-family conflict, but no one is acknowledging it".
Article: "Disentangling the Relationship Between Gender and Work-Family Conflict: An Integration of Theoretical Perspectives Using Meta-Analytic Methods, Kristen M. Shockley, PhD, University of Georgia; Winny Shen, PhD, University of Waterloo; Michael M. DeNunzio, MS, and Eric A. Knudsen, MS, City University of New York; and Maryana L. Arvan, MS, University of South Florida; Journal of Applied Psychology, published online, Thursday, July 27, 2017.
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