The State of Theory in Work and Family Research at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century

Authored by: Maureen Perry-Jenkins , Shelley M. MacDermid

Handbook of Family Theories

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415879453
eBook ISBN: 9780203075180
Adobe ISBN: 9781135118754


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Over 30 years ago, Kanter (1977) proposed a fundamental shift in our understanding of the work– family interface with the simple, yet profound, idea—work and family, far from being separate spheres, are contexts that intersect and interact with each other in a myriad of ways. Since that time, research on work and family has flourished across multiple disciplines, including: psychology, sociology, family studies, economics, communication, organizational behavior, law, political science, social work, and public policy. One consequence of its interdisciplinary roots is that the work– family literature covers topics ranging from the effects of daily work stressors on later family behavior to macro-level studies that examine the ways in which different social norms across countries shape workers commitment to family and employment. Although an exciting and vibrant field of study, work and family scholars face the challenge of integrating research across disciplines, each with its own diverse approaches to studying work–family phenomena, in a way that captures the complexity of the topic while also framing issues in a clear and concise manner. Research in this field has much to offer to the policy arena because it addresses many societal problems such as unemployment, underemployment, recruitment and retention, work–life stress, and productivity, as well as related topics such as healthcare and childcare. Thus, it is important that we identify the most useful theories that not only assist us in organizing the plethora of work and family research that has arisen across disciplines but also moves the field forward in a grounded and coherent way.

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