The Changing Worlds of Family and Work

Madonna Harrington Meyer, Wendy M. Parker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

4 Scopus citations


In the United States, the worlds of family and work are often incongruent. Much has changed since the Leave It to Beaver era of the 1950s, when men worked primarily outside the home and women worked primarily inside the home. In the past several decades, aging and life course scholars have documented and analyzed unprecedented increases in single mothers raising children; widespread entry of women, particularly mothers of young children, into the labor force; and modest increases in men’s contributions to the unpaid house work and child care at home (Glass 2000). In some respects, these trends have narrowed gender gaps, but in other respects these trends have collided, leaving many women, and a growing share of men, feeling mounting pressures at home and at the office. Moreover, the efforts to juggle work and family responsibilities with few supports from the welfare state or employers leaves many ill prepared for the financial challenges of their own old age. This chapter explores these changing trends and their impact on the ways in which families balance paid and unpaid work over the life course. We pay special attention to differences between women and men and to differences among women by race, class, and marital status. We focus on how the presence of certain US policies, and the absence of others, shapes both the ways that families balance work and family obligations and the implications of that balance on economic security in later life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages15
StatePublished - 2011

Publication series

NameHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
ISSN (Print)1389-6903
ISSN (Electronic)2542-839X


  • Child Care
  • Flexible Schedule
  • Private Pension
  • Single Mother
  • Unpaid Work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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