Work-family role conflict and marital adjustment in dual-career couples

Susan Myrna Seidman, Fordham University


Only recently, researchers have begun to analyze the process by which dual-career couples achieve an integration of family and career. The antecedents and consequences of role conflict are well-documented; however, little has been discerned as to how couples respond to it. This investigation examined the responses of dual-career couples in an attempt to illuminate the process of coping with role conflict. Mental health clinicians have developed only preliminary guidelines for helping these couples to cope with an inherently difficult situation. As a first step in assembling this information it is important to better understand the options these couples have in integrating or choosing not to integrate their career and family lives. This research investigated the relationship between family and career commitment and marital adjustment. Specifically, it focused on the differences between husbands' and wives' attitudes and behaviors relevant to their family and career roles. The hypotheses included the following: wives would have greater family commitment and interrole conflict than would husbands; husbands would have greater career commitment than would wives; role conflicts would be resolved in favor of the more salient roles; high career and family commitment wives would tend to resolve role conflicts by meeting all expectations rather than by sacrificing one role commitment for the other. Additionally, presence of children, hours worked per week, and income were examined in relation to marital adjustment. The sample consisted of 125 dual-career couples from across the country (volunteers from professional conventions, business, hospital, and educational settings). The modal couple in the study was married 6 years, upper-middle class with fewer than two children, and working more than 40 hours per week. No differences were found between husbands' and wives' career behavior, career saliency, or expressed commitment to family. Wives, however, did score higher than husbands on family role behavior, attesting to their greater actual family task behavior. Husbands and wives scored similarly on interrole conflict, marital adjustment, and number of hours worked per week. Predictors of marital adjustment were only slightly different for husbands and wives. Unlike the case with wives, family role behavior did not significantly contribute to the variance in husbands' marital adjustment.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Seidman, Susan Myrna, "Work-family role conflict and marital adjustment in dual-career couples" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8918460.