Sex Roles

, Volume 72, Issue 11–12, pp 547–557 | Cite as

Planning to Have It All: Emerging Adults’ Expectations of Future Work-Family Conflict

  • Emily F. Coyle
  • Elizabeth Van Leer
  • Kingsley M. Schroeder
  • Megan Fulcher
Original Article


This study assessed college students’ anticipated work-family conflict (family-impacting-work and work-impacting-family), and the family-altering and work-altering strategies they plan to employ to relieve that conflict. Undergraduates (N = 121) from two universities in the southeastern U.S. were surveyed and differences between the genders were tested. There were no significant gender differences in total conflict, but women anticipated more family-impacting-work conflict, while men anticipated greater work-impacting family conflict. Women planned to employ conflict-relieving strategies more than men did, although the genders did not differ in the mean amount of conflict they anticipated. The type of conflict anticipated did not align with planning for the appropriate conflict-relieving strategy. Women varied in their employment plans while their children are too young for school, although most planned to have their first child by age 30, and to return to a highly prestigious career. Results indicate that emerging adults of both genders may not be realistically planning for their anticipated work-family conflict.


Gender Work-family conflict Work role Family role Emerging adulthood 



We would like to acknowledge the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship program, which supported the first author’s graduate study during manuscript preparation (Grant No. DGE1255832). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. We additionally gratefully acknowledge support from the Lenfest Grant, which supports the fourth author.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The research reported on in the manuscript, “Planning to Have It All: Emerging Adults’ Expectations of Future Work-Family Conflict” complies with ethical standards for research as directed by the American Psychological Association. The project was approved by the Institutional Review Board at Washington and Lee University. Participants gave written informed consent before participating in data collection.


  1. Alksnis, C., Desmarais, S., & Curtis, J. (2008). Workforce segregation and the gender wage gap: Is ‘women’s’ work valued as highly as ‘men’s’? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38, 1216–1441. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.2008.00354.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, T., Herst, D., Bruck, C., & Sutton, M. (2000). Consequences associated with work-to-family conflict: A review and agenda for future research. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 5, 278–308. doi: 10.1037/1076-8998.5.2.278.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55, 469–480. doi: 10.1037//0003-06X.55.5.469.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arthur, N., & Lee, C. (2008). Young Australian women’s aspirations for work, marriage, and family: I guess I’m just another person who wants it all. Journal of Health Psychology, 13, 589–596. doi: 10.1177/1359105308090931.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baber, K. M., & Monaghan, P. (1988). College women’s career and motherhood expectations: New options, old dilemmas. Sex Roles, 19, 189–203. doi: 10.1007/BF00290154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baltes, B., & Heydens-Gahir, H. (2003). Reduction of work-family conflict through the use of selection, optimization, and compensation behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 1005–1018. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.88.6.1005.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bedeian, A., Burke, B., & Moffett, R. (1988). Outcomes of work-family conflict among married male and female professionals. Journal of Management, 14, 475–491. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.88.6.1005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Budig, M. J., & Hodges, M. J. (2014). Statistical models and empirical evidence for differences in the motherhood penalty across the earnings distribution. American Sociological Review, 79, 358–364. doi: 10.1177/0003122414523616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014). Women in the labor force: A databook. BLS Reports, 1052. Retrieved from
  10. Burley, K. (1994). Gender differences and similarities in coping responses to anticipated work-family conflict. Psychological Reports, 74, 115–123. doi: 10.2466/pr0.1994.74.1.115.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carlson, D., Kacmar, K., & Williams, L. (2000). Construction and initial validation of a multidimensional measure of work-family conflict. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 56, 249–276. doi: 10.1006/jvbe.1999.1713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cinamon, R. G., & Rich, Y. (2002). Gender differences in the importance of work and family roles: Implications for work-family conflict. Sex Roles, 47, 531–541. doi: 10.1023/A:1022021804846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Connolly, S. & Gregory, M. (2005). Part-time work- A trap for women’s careers? An analysis of the roles of heterogeneity and state dependence. University of Oxford Department of Economics Discussion Paper Series, 1471–1498.Google Scholar
  14. DeMartino, R., & Barbato, R. (2003). Differences between women and men MBA entrepreneurs: Exploring family flexibility and wealth creation as career motivators. Journal of Business Venturing, 18, 815–832. doi: 10.1016/S0883-9026(03)00003-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dinella, L. M., Fulcher, M., & Weisgram, E. S. (2014). Sex-typed personality traits and gender identity as predictors of young adults’ career interests. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 493–504. doi: 10.1007/s10508-013-0234-6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Duncan, O. D. (1991). Socioeconomic Index. In D. C. Miller (Ed.), Handbook of research design and social measurement (5th ed.). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  17. Duxbury, L., Higgins, C., & Lee, C. (1994). Work-family conflict: A comparison by gender, family type, and perceived control. Journal of Family Issues, 15, 449–466. doi: 10.1177/019251394015003006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ex, C. T. G. M., Janssens, J. M. A. M., & Korzilius, H. P. L. M. (2002). Young females’ images of motherhood in relation to television viewing. Journal of Communication, 52, 955–971. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2002.tb02583.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fox, G. L., & Murry, V. M. (2000). Gender and families: Feminist perspectives and family research. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 1160–1172. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.01160.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fulcher, M., & Coyle, E. F. (2011). Breadwinner and caregiver: A cross-sectional analysis of children’s and emerging adults’ visions of their future family roles. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 29, 330–346. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-835X.2011.02026.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fulcher, M., Sutfin, E. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2008). Individual differences in gender development: Associations with parental sexual orientation, attitudes and division of labor. Sex Roles, 58, 330–341. doi: 10.1007/s11199-007-9348-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gaunt, R. (2005). The role of value priorities in maternal and paternal involvement in child care. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 643–655. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2005.00159.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gottfredson, L., & Lapan, R. (1997). Assessing gender-based circumscription of occupational aspirations. Journal of Career Assessment, 5, 419–441. doi: 10.1177/106907279700500404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Granrose, C. (1985). Plans for work careers among college women who expect to have families. Vocational Guidance Quarterly, 33, 284–295. doi: 10.1002/j.2164-585X.1985.tb01322.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Greenhaus, J., & Beutell, N. (1985). Sources and conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review, 10, 76–88. doi: 10.2307/258214.Google Scholar
  26. Helms-Erikson, H., Tanner, J. L., Crouter, A. C., & McHale, S. M. (2000). Do women’s provider-role attitudes moderate the links between work and family? Journal of Family Psychology, 14, 658–670. doi: 10.1031//0893-3200.14.4.658.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hodges, M. J., & Budig, M. J. (2010). Who gets the daddy bonus?: Organizational hegemonic masculinity and the impact of fatherhood on earnings. Gender and Society, 24, 717–745. doi: 10.1177/0891243210386729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hodges, A. J., & Park, B. (2013). Oppositional identities: Dissimilarities in how women and men experience parent versus professional roles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2, 193–216. doi: 10.1037/a0032681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hood, J. C. (1986). The provider role: Its meaning and measurement. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 48, 349–359. doi: 10.2307/352402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Izraeli, D. (1993). Work/family conflict among women and men managers in dual-career couples in Israel. Journal of Social Behavior & Personality, 8, 371–385.Google Scholar
  31. Kaufman, G. (2005). Gender role attitudes and college students’ work and family expectations. Gender Issues, 2, 58–71. doi: 10.1007/s12147-005-0015-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Livingston, M., Burley, K., & Springer, T. (1996). The importance of being feminine: Gender, sex role, occupational and marital role commitment, and their relationship to anticipated work-family conflict. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 11, 179–192.Google Scholar
  33. Mannino, C. A., & Deutsch, F. M. (2007). Changing the division of household labor: A negotiated process between partners. Sex Roles, 56, 309–324. doi: 10.1007/s11199-006-9181-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mason, M. A., & Goulden, M. (2004). Marriage and baby blues: Redefining gender equity in the academy. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 596, 86–104. doi: 10.1177/0002716204268744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Miller, A. (2011). The effects of motherhood timing on career path. Journal of Popular Economics, 24, 1071–1100. doi: 10.1007/s00148-009-0296-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Netemeyer, R., Boles, J., & McMurrian, R. (1996). Development and validation of work-family conflict and family-work conflict scales. Journal of Applied Psychology, 81, 400–410. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.81.4.400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Netemeyer, R., Brashear-Alejandro, T., & Boles, J. (2004). A cross-national model of job-related outcomes of work role and family role variables: A retail sales context. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 32, 49–60. doi: 10.1177/0092070303259128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Orrange, R. M. (2002). Aspiring law and business professionals’ orientations to work and family life. Journal of Family Issues, 23, 287–317. doi: 10.1177/0192513X02023002006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Parker, K., & Wang, W. (2013). Modern parenthood: Roles of moms and dads converge as they balance work and family. Pew Research Center: Social and Demographic Trends. Retrieved from
  40. Perkins, H. W., & DeMeis, D. K. (1996). Gender and family effects on the “second-shift” domestic activity of college-educated young adults. Gender and Society, 10, 78–93. doi: 10.1177/089124396010001006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schroeder, K., Blood, L., & Maluso, D. (1993). Gender differences and similarities between male and female undergraduate students regarding expectations for career and family roles. College Student Journal, 27, 237–249.Google Scholar
  42. Smith, S. L., Pieper, K. M., Granados, A., & Choeiti, M. (2010). Assessing gender-related portryals in top-grossing G-rated films. Sex Roles, 62, 774–786. doi: 10.1007/s11199-009-9736-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Smithson, J., Lewis, S., Cooper, C., & Dyer, J. (2004). Flexible working and the gender pay gap in the accountancy profession. Work, Employment and Society, 18, 115–135. doi: 10.1177/0950017004040765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Spade, J., & Reese, C. (1991). We’ve come a long way, maybe: College students’ plans for work and family. Sex Roles, 24, 309–321. doi: 10.1007/BF00288304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Stone, L., & McGee, N. P. (2000). Gendered futures: Student visions of career and family on a college campus. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 31, 67–89. doi: 10.1525/aeq.2000.31.1.67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. The Council of Economic Advisers (2014). Nine facts about American families and work. Retrieved from
  47. U. S. Department of Labor. (2012). Facts over time: Women in the labor force. Retrieved from
  48. Weer, C., Greenhaus, J., Colakoglu, S., & Foley, S. (2006). The role of maternal employment, role-altering strategies, and gender in college students’ expectations of work-family conflict. Sex Roles, 55, 535–544. doi: 10.1007/s11199-006-9107-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Weinshenker, M. N. (2006). Adolescents’ expectations about mothers’ employment: Life course patterns and parental influence. Sex Roles, 54, 845–857. doi: 10.1007/s11199-006-9052-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Weisgram, E. S., Bigler, R. S., & Liben, L. S. (2010). Gender, values, and occupational interests among children, adolescents, and adults. Child Development, 81, 778–796. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01433.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Weisgram, E. S., Dinella, L. M., & Fulcher, M. (2011). The role of masculinity/femininity, values, and occupational value affordances in shaping young men’s and women’s occupational choices. Sex Roles, 65, 243–258. doi: 10.1007/s11199-006-9107-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily F. Coyle
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Van Leer
    • 2
  • Kingsley M. Schroeder
    • 1
  • Megan Fulcher
    • 3
  1. 1.The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Washington and Lee UniversityLexingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations