Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Personality and labor force participation across the life course: A longitudinal study of women's careers

Abstract

The influences on and consequences of women's labor force experience are examined using data from members of the Berkeley longitudinal studies born between 1920 and 1929. In adolescence, these women were overwhelmingly oriented toward marriage and family rather than career, yet more than two-thirds eventually spent substantial time in the paid labor force. Consistent labor force participation was lower for women who had been attractive, outgoing, feminine, self-confident, and status seeking in their high school years. High labor force participation, however, was associated with increases in self-confidence, status seeking, assertiveness, and intellectual investment between adolescence and later adulthood. The demographic correlates of labor force participation changed over the life course: as family responsibilities diminished in the later middle years, both family composition and husband's occupational status decreased in importance, while the importance of a woman's own education level and her husband's expected retirement income increased.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Bennett, Sheila K. andGlen H. Elder, Jr. 1979 “Women's work in the family economy: A study of depression hardship in women's lives.” Journal of Family Studies 4:153–176.

  2. Block, Jack andNorma Haan 1971 Lives through Time. Berkeley, CA: Bancroft Press.

  3. Eichorn, Dorothy 1981 “Samples and procedures.” In D. H. Eichorn, J. A. Clausen, N. Haan, M. P. Honzik, and P. H. Mussen (eds.), Present and Past in Middle Life: 33–51. New York: Academic Press.

  4. Elder, Glen H., Jr. 1974 Children of the Great Depression. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  5. Helson, Ravenna, Teresa Elliott, andJanet Leigh 1989 “Adolescent personality and women's work patterns.” In D. Eichorn and D. Stern (eds.), Adolescence and Work: Influences of Social Structure, Labor Markets, and Culture: 259–289. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

  6. Helson, Ravenna, Valery Mitchell, andGeraldine Moane 1984 “Personality and patterns of adherence and nonadherence to the social clock.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 46:1079–1096.

  7. Klein, Ethel 1984 Gender Politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  8. Kohn, Melvin andCarmi Schooler 1983 Work and Personality: An Inquiry into the Impact of Social Stratification. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Co.

  9. Marini, Margaret M. andMary C. Brinton 1984 “Sex typing in occupational socialization.” In Barbara Reskin (ed.), Sex Segregation in the Workplace: Trends, Explanations, Remedies: 192–232. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

  10. Miller, Joanne, Carmi Schooler, Melvin L. Kohn, andKaren A. Miller 1979 “Women and work: The psychological effects of occupational conditions.” American Journal of Sociology 85:66–94.

  11. Millsap, Roger andWilliam Meredith 1988 “Component analysis in cross-sectional and longitudinal data.” Psychometrika 53:123–134.

  12. Moen, Phyllis 1985 “Continuities and discontinuities in women's labor force participation.” In G. H. Elder, Jr. (ed.), Life Course Dynamics: 1960's to 1980's:113–155. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

  13. Moen, Phyllis andKen R. Smith 1986 “Women at work: Commitment and behavior over the life course.” Sociological Forum 1:450–475.

  14. Oppenheimer, Valerie 1982 Work and the family: A study in social demography. New York: Academic Press.

  15. Parnes, H. S. 1981 Work and Retirement: A Longitudinal Study. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  16. Rollings, E. M. andF. I. Nye 1979 “Wife-mother employment, family and society.” In W. R. Burr, R. Hill, F. I. Nye, and I. L. Reiss (eds.), Contemporary Theories about the Family, Vol. 1: Research Based Theories: 203–226. New York: Free Press.

  17. Shaw, Lois B. 1985 “Determinants of the increasing work attachment of married women.” Work and Occupations 12:41–57.

  18. Spitze, Glenna 1988 “Women's employment and family relations: A review.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 50:595–618.

  19. Stroud, Janice 1981 “Women's careers: Work, family and personality.” In D. H. Eichorn, J. A. Clausen, N. Haan, M. P. Honzik, and P. H. Mussen (eds.), Present and Past in Middle Life: 353–390. New York: Academic Press.

  20. Waite, Linda J. 1980 “Working wives and the family life cycle.” American Journal of Sociology 86:272–294.

  21. Wilensky, Harold 1961 “Orderly careers and social participation.” American Sociological Review 26:521–539.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to John A. Clausen.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Clausen, J.A., Gilens, M. Personality and labor force participation across the life course: A longitudinal study of women's careers. Sociol Forum 5, 595–618 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01115393

Download citation

Key words

  • women
  • labor force participation
  • personality
  • longitudinal study
  • marriage