Issues in Dual Career Households

Subject: Family
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 11
Word count: 3079
Topics: Adolescence, Job, Management, Marriage, Parenting


The society has gone through complete social changes whereby the need for gainful employment for women has resulted in an increase in dual-career households. This trend is seen in virtually all fields regardless of the career type. Traditionally, women who combined their career and marriage were considered to be at a disadvantage, but this view has consistently changed as many women enter the labor market. Currently, couples are supporting each other’s career development, and there is a greater extent of acceptance of women in the workforce, sharing of marital responsibilities and increasing trend of having few children to ensure time for career development. As a greater number of women enter the labor market, there are important issues that arise in terms of balancing and managing families and careers. These women are part of an emergent new lifestyle where there are extensive opportunities for women in educational and job spheres.

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A dual-career couple is defined as an ‘unusual’ and ‘revolutionary’ type of family resulting from social changes and dynamic trends in marriages (Gilbert, 1994). This type of family is characterized by both heads of the family pursuing their careers full time and maintaining a marriage and children simultaneously. This type of a family is perceived as a break from the traditional families as it brings equality between the genders by breaking down the gender lines (Gibler, 1993). In a dual-career family setting, the man no longer has a sole responsibility of providing for the household as these tasks are shared between the man and the wife.

Despite bridging the gender gaps, this type of family has created unique challenges and issues that relate to areas such as raising children, family role conflict, work role conflicts, role expectations and socialization. Given that both spouses are expected to perform roles that they are not traditionally socialized to experience as part of their lifestyle, they face the challenge of resolving role expectations and balancing careers and family. To maintain stable relationships, these couples are required to effectively negotiate childcare, housework and support each other emotionally to continually develop and maintain their relationships.

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The study of issues of dual career households is important in understanding social trends, especially the reasons for the declining in marriages globally. In the United States, the rate of marriages has declined significantly since 1970s. According to the results from a study conducted by Pew Research Center, only half of the adult population is married, and 20% of adults above 25 year of age have never been married. Currently, the most preferred method of marriage in America is cohabitation, with most people preferring to marry later in life (Wang and Parker, 2014). Other than understanding the implication of social change in influencing marriages, this topic also has important implication in academic and professional fields as it provides for more research to be conducted to bridge the informational gap on the implication of changes of marriages from traditional families to dual-career families.

Review of Literature

Work-Life Balance in Dual Career Household

According to Wheatley (2012), the increase in dual career households have been precipitated by rise in the number of women participating in the labour market, and the separation of “work-rich, time poor,” and “work-poor, time rich households”. Therefore, work-life balance on dual career households is one of the issues that has been focused in various literature. The discourse of work-life balance is very important since it focuses on the employer’s flexibility or the employees’ flexible working (Costa, 2003). Work-life balance can be described as the individuals’ ability to integrate their household/family roles and career responsibilities effectively (Wheatley, 2012). Work life balance is not easy to achieve among dual career couples, and this is due to gender equality advocacy that requires equal opportunity to both female and male in job opportunities. People have different views on work and family, and this mainly due to the difference in cultural traditions, societal institutions, and family structures (Hassan, 2010). The main issue that arises in dual career couples is balancing work and family, and this has been argued to be a very complex issue (Wheatley, 2012). Work life balance is multi-dimensional, which requires a person to effectively manage several responsibilities both at the workplace and at home (Delina, & Raya, 2016).

Work related balance been a multi-dimensional concept has numerous factors that influence it from a dual career household perspective. The major factors that influence the balance between work and life of dual career couples are mainly family factors, individual factors, work factors, and organizational factors. For instance, the fact that dual careers household have more income than single-earner families have the propensity of enhancing financial pressure to the latter as compared to the former (Hanson & Ooms, 1991). Nonetheless, despite the fact that dual career household have more financial stability than the single career households, there are some problems that are associated with such families due to the aspect of juggling between work and life (Delina, & Raya, 2016). The responsibilities and tasks that are carried by couples in dual career households are more, and there are many expectation to fulfil both work and family responsibilities. For instance, Kossek et al. (2012) indicates that couples in dual career households have the propensity of being endlessly inclined to work and neglect household responsibilities due to fear of losing the job.  Therefore, such households have no time for their families and the family unity becomes disoriented. There is also the issue of work to family spill over that maybe a hindrance to a happy family.  The relationship between a husband and a wife is also affected since the two are too busy concentrating on work related matters (Benin & Nienstedt, 1985). The spill overs have influence on both work and family, and this is because destructive work-to-home spill over and home-to-work spill over have higher extent of turnover intentions and emotional fatigue (Babakus et al., 2008).

Issues in Dual Career Couples

One of the issues that dual career couples face is the issue of time squeeze, as they have more work to do in a very limited time span. Some studies have indicated that dual career couples have the propensity of facing this type of problem at home due to their many working hours (White et al., 2003). Management of time is a big issue and such household couples have to multi task so us to cope up effectively. Multitasking is not a good attribute since some prior studies have indicated that it reduces productivity (Rubinstein et al., 2001). Consequently, multitasking as a result of ‘time squeeze’ has the propensity of enhancing frustrations in personal life, especially since there is minimal time to relax and leisure.  Dual career couples have minimal time to engage in leisure, maintain friendship, and spend time with family since they are exhausted (Delina, & Raya, 2016).

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The other major issue and challenge that may arise in the dual career households in the aspect of role conflict (Delina, & Raya, 2016). As indicated by Ashforth et al. (2000) work-family blurring is an outcome of integrated work and family roles. Consequently, other studies have indicated that the restrictions and responsibilities within the workplace have been hazy with the growing number of dual-career couples (Roehling & Moen, 2003). Therefore, this becomes a risk between the roles of work and family scopes among the dual career households couples (Delina, & Raya, 2016). Additionally, previous studies have indicated that the couples that are in such households have to balance between work and family simultaneously and this might instigate conflict, and this is because the individual has a dilemma on what to prioritize Adams et al. 1996;  Frone et al., 1997). For instance, when there is a sick child at home and there are tight deadlines to meet in the work place (Delina, & Raya, 2016). The work-related stress might affect the relationship of the couples making the marriage to deteriorate.

Overworking is another issue that the couples are prone to suffer, and this is very common in dual career couples (Clark & Moen, 2001). Overworking is mainly related to the fact that the couples have a lot of tasks to complete in their respective households. The numerous responsibilities at home and role conflicts make the dual career couples to work late at weekend or take work home at evenings.  The issue of working late at weekend and taking work at homes have a negative effect and interferes with family responsibilities (Neault and Pickerell, 2005). Consequently, stress and strain is also a fundamental issue among dual career couples, and this has been asserted to be mainly because of work overload and family conflict. Strain and stress also arises as couples in dual career households have to balance between aspects such as work, spouse, children, and in some cases parents, and all these variables requires energy and commitment.  Consequently, some studies have indicated that dual career couples with children have more stress and strain as compared to those with no children.

Parent-Adolescent Relationships in Dual-Career Households

Adolescents are considered to be very rebellious and they are always trying new things, therefore they need to be watched closely and guided by their parents comprehensively. However, for dual career parents it becomes very complicated since they are both away at work and they have little time to offer the required guidance to their adolescent children. Davis, Crouter, & McHale (2006) indicate that there is continued discussion on the implication of the parents that are constantly working with and their relationship with their children. The available studies on the issue of adolescents have focused on the manner that working parents influence the growth and development of their children.  Adolescents have different developmental needs as compared to the young children, however, they need time and advice of their parents (Davis, Crouter, & McHale, 2006). Thus, the fact that dual career couples have difficulty in balancing between work and family makes it difficult for them to find time to appropriately guide their children due to  the conflicting roles. The relationship also become complicated when the parents are working on shift since conflicting roles will be more intense.

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Previous studies have indicated that parent-adolescent relationship is very important for adolescent development and this include making sure that the parents are closeness and intimate (Youniss & Smollar, 1985). The parents are should have adequate knoweledge regarding their adolescent children so as to offer the utmost support, however when both parents are more employed this type of support is absent. Adolescence has been depicted as a period of stress and storm, enhanced conflict during adolescent has been argued not to originate from the norm (Davis, Crouter, & McHale, 2006). However, some studies have indicated that when the parents-adolescent relationship is highly confliction, it is mainly because of low self-esteem and more depressive aspects among the adolescent (Davis, Crouter, & McHale, 2006). The relationship of adolescent with their parents, especially if the adolescent is in a dual career household is an issue that has to be explored comprehensively. This is because studies have indicated that both parents have an important role in implicating the well-being and development (Davis, Crouter, & McHale, 2006). Therefore, the aspect of dual career households raises different dynamics in rearing adolescents, and this is because the parents have to juggle between work and taking care of the volatile and hyper-active children.

Application to Practice and Conclusion

This analysis has provided important insights that form a strong basis for application in professional practice in practical settings. Worth noting is the fact that despite the promotion of equal opportunities for men and women in both education and job environments, women still face discrimination when trying to access these opportunities. The compounding inequalities such as tenure, salary, hiring and other micro inequalities have not been solved by the many years of affirmative action that are aimed at creating an enabling environment for women to take part in the labor market as men. In the traditional societies, the expected role of women is taking care of the households, and the man taking care of providing for the complete needs of the family. However, the blurring of the gender lines not only makes the work of the women more, but also difficult to manage. Balancing a family, especially one with young or adolescent children and a career is very difficult for women as is (Miller, 2015). Young children need a lot of care, and more so adolescents who need a close relationships with their parents at the critical time when they are forming their identities. As such, it can only become even more complicated and difficult for women to balance their careers and family, in an environment where they have to struggle to be treated equally and given their deserving opportunities (Gibler, 1993). Empowerment of women and formulation of effective policy to reduce discrimination of women could help improve the extent to which women are able to balance their career and family, thereby reducing the stress and burnout experienced when trying to manage in a problematic situation.

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The review of the literature provides important insights into practice by providing situational factors that promote a healthy family-career balance in a dual career household. Many researchers stress that a successful life is highly dependent on a good marriage. In this case, a good marriage or choosing the most appropriate or compatible partner is key to the success of a dual career family. According to interviews conducted by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook CEO, women executives in top leadership positions highlighted that choosing a spouse is one of the most important career choices that they ever made (Sandberg, 2013). The study revealed that these women succeeded because they married husbands who were more receptive of the idea of women earning more than them and even supported them achieve all their career goals. Sheryl Sandberg also confirmed the assertions made by other women executives by saying that “I don’t know of a single woman in a leadership position whose life partner is not fully—and I mean fully—supportive of her career. No exception” (Sandberg, 2013, p. 110). Psychologists working with dual career couples should focus on enhancing the marriage first and ensuring that there is a strong union before addressing the issues arising from family situation. This will ensure that both partners are approachable and open to accepting each other’s roles in the new lifestyle, making them even more receptive to changes and being supportive of each other.

This analysis of the readings from this topic poses some questions for a scholar-practitioner that are aimed at helping in the improvement of professional practice in the future. Is full employment for both heads of a family desirable, to both of them, and the country’s GDP? How should the household chores, traditionally done by women be compensated in the new lifestyle? What measures should be adopted to ensure that the most productive and educated women are retained in the workforce while ensuring that their children received high quality care? How can modern families retain the strong national identity while moving the traditional cultures towards gender equality?

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