Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 11, Issue 12, pp 729–735 | Cite as

Physician role conflict and resulting career changes

Gender and generational differences
  • Carole Warde
  • Walter Allen
  • Lillian Gelberg
Original Articles


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate gender and generational differences both in the prevalence of role conflict and in resulting career changes among married physicians with children.

STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey.

PARTICIPANTS: We sent a survey to equal numbers of licensed male and female physicians (1,412 total) in a Southern California county; of the 964 delivered questionnaires, 656 (68%) were returned completed. Our sample includes 415 currently married physicians with children, 64% male and 36% female.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: The prevalence of perceived role conflict, of career changes for marriage, and of career changes for children were evaluated. Types of career changes were also evaluated. More female than male physicians (87% vs 62%, p<.001) and more younger than older female physicians (93% vs 80%, p<.01) and male physicians (79% vs 54%, p<.001) experienced at least moderate levels of role conflict. Younger female and male physicians did not differ in their rates of career change for marriage (57% vs 49%), but female physicians from both age cohorts were more likely than their male peers to have made career changes for their children (85% vs 35%, p<.001). Younger male physicians were twice as likely as their older peers to have made a career change for marriage (49% vs 28%, p<.001) or children (51% vs 25%, p<.001). The most common type of career change made for marriage or children was a decrease in work hours.

CONCLUSIONS: Most physicians experience role conflict, and many adjust their careers in response. Flexible career options may enable physicians to combine professional and family roles more effectively.

Key words

career choice stress, family characteristics marital status physician practice patterns 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Gerson K. No Man’s Land. New York, NY: Harper Collins; 1993.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Nadelson CC, Notman MT, Lowenstein P. The practice patterns, life styles, and stresses of women and men entering medicine: a follow-up study of Harvard Medical School graduates from 1967–1977. JAMWA. 1979;34(11):400–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Le Bailley SA, Brotherton SE. Career Paths of Men and Women in Pediatrics: Descriptive Findings from the Survey on Pediatric Careers. Elk Grove Village, Ill: American Academy of Pediatrics; 1988.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Callan CM, Klipstein E. Women physicians in Connecticut: a survey. Conn Med. Aug 1981;494–6.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Levinson W, Tolle SW, Lewis C. Women in academic medicine. N Engl J Med. 1989;321:1511–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Dennerstein L, Lehert P, Orams J, Ewing J, Burrows G. Roles and achievement factors affecting career success of medical graduates. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 1989;10:89–102.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Richardsen AM, Burke RJ. Occupational stress and job satisfaction among physicians: sex differences. Soc Aci Med. 1991;33:1179–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Di Matteo MR, Shugars DA, Hayes R. Occupational stress, life stress and mental health among dentists. J Occup Org Psychol. 1993;66:153–62.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Linn L, Yager J, Cope D, Leake B. Health status, job satisfaction and life satisfaction among academic and clinical faculty. JAMA. 1985;254:2775–83.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Driscoll MP, Ilgen DR, Hildreth D. Time devoted to job and off-job activities, interrole conflict, and affective experiences. J Appl Psychol. 1992;77:272–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Pleck JH, Staines GL, Lang L. Conflicts between work and family life. Monthly Labor Rev. March 1980;29–32.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hughes DL, Galinsky E. Gender, job and family conditions and psychological symptoms. Phychol Worn Qu. 1994;18:251–70.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Drucker DG. Role conflict in women physicians: a longitudinal study. JAMWA. 1986;41:14–6.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Parcel TL, Menaghan EG. Parents’ Jobs and Children’s Lives. Hawthorne, NY: Walter de Gruyter; 1994.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Hendrick SS. Self-disclosure and marital satisfaction. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1981;40:1150–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ricer RE. Marital satisfaction among military and civilian family practice residents. J Fam Prac. 1983;17:303–7.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Daniel C, Wood FS. Fitting Equations to Data. New York, NY: Wiley; 1971.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Gonzolez ML, ed. Socioeconomic Characteristics of Medical Practice. Chicago, Ill: American Medical Association Publications; 1993;10, 11,27,40, 141.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Roback G, Randolph L, Seidman B. Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the U.S. Chicago, Ill: American Medical Association Publications; 1993;12, 41–42, 75–77.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Thompson CA, Thomas CC, Maier M. Work-family conflict: reassessing corporate policies and initiatives. In: Sekaran U, Leong FT, eds. Womanpower: Managing in Times of Demographic Turbulence. Newbury Park, Calif: Sage Publications; 1992;61–78.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Friedman DA. Linking Work-Family Issues to the Bottom Line. New York, NY: The Conference Board; 1991;15–17.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Rieder MJ, Hanmer SJ, Haslan RH. Age- and gender-related differences in clinical productivity among Canadian pediatricians. Pediatrics. 1990;85:144–9.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Fein OT, Garfield R. Impact of physicians’ part-time status on in-patients’ use of medical care and their satisfaction with physicians in an academic group practice. Acad Med. 1991;66:694–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Capowski G. The joy of flex. Am Management Assoc. March 1996;12–18.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Elliott TL. Cost analysis of alternative scheduling. Nurs Management. 1989;20:42–7.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Hicks DH, Klimoski RJ. The impact of flextime on employee attitudes. Acad Management J. 1981;24:333–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Barker K. Changing assumptions and contingent solutions: the costs and benefits of women working full- and part-time. Sex Roles. 1993;28:47–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Wiersma UJ. Gender differences in job attribute preferences: work-home role conflict and job level as mediating variables. J Occup Psychol. 1990;63:231–43.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Drucker DG. Research on women physicians with multiple roles: a feminist perspective. J AMWA. 1994;49:76–88.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Woodward CA, Cohen ML, Ferrier BM. Career interruptions and hours practiced: comparison between young men and women physicians. Can J Public Health. 1980;81:16–20.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Uhlenberg P, Cooney TM. Male and female physicians: family and career comparisons. Soc Sci Med. 1990;30:373–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Blackwell Science, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carole Warde
    • 1
  • Walter Allen
    • 2
  • Lillian Gelberg
    • 3
  1. 1.the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical CenterUSA
  2. 2.the UCLA Department of SociologyUSA
  3. 3.the UCLA Division of Family MedicineUSA

Personalised recommendations