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Women and men report similar levels of work-family conflicts, although men are less likely to talk about it or do anything to address it, according to research from the University of Georgia.
Researchers at the University of Georgia spent several years examining the findings from more than 350 studies conducted over three decades that included more than 250,000 participants from across the world. The research was published online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
“We essentially found very little evidence of differences between women and men as far as the level of work-family conflict they report,” said Dr Kristen Shockley, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Georgia.
“This is quite contrary to the common public perception. The way this issue is presented in the media frames the way we think about it, and it creates a perpetual cycle. Women hear that other women are struggling with this issue, so they expect they will experience greater work-family conflict. There also is some socialisation for it being OK for women to talk more about it than men.”
She added: “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.”
Some minor differences were detected between men and women about work-family conflict when the data were divided into different subgroups, but none of them were large in magnitude, Shockley said. Mothers reported slightly greater family interference with work than fathers, as did women in dual-earner couples. Men in dual-earner couples reported slightly greater work interference with family, as did women when the sample was restricted to men and women in the same occupations. While some of the included studies were conducted decades ago, approximately half were published in 2010 or later.
Men and women may experience the same level of work-family conflict but perceive it differently, Shockley said. Women may feel guiltier about work interference with family because of traditional expectations that mothers are caretakers, but there has been little research on that issue and there weren’t enough studies to include in the meta-analysis, she added. A father’s traditional role has been as the primary breadwinner so men may feel they are fulfilling their family responsibilities by working, resulting in less guilt, she said.
She called for company and government policies to provide greater support for work-family policies that benefit both women and men, including flexible work arrangements, child care support and both paid maternity and paternity leave.