Advertisement

Sex Roles

, Volume 76, Issue 5–6, pp 356–368 | Cite as

Gender Differences in Work-Family Guilt in Parents of Young Children

  • Jessica L. BorelliEmail author
  • S. Katherine Nelson
  • Laura M. River
  • Sarah A. Birken
  • Corinne Moss-Racusin
Original Article

Abstract

The transition to parenthood is a watershed moment for most parents, introducing the possibility of intra-individual and interpersonal growth or decline. Given the increasing number of dual-earner couples in the United States, new parents’ attitudes towards employment (as well as the ways in which they balance employment and personal demands) may have an impact on their overall well-being. Based on anecdotal accounts, guilt about the conflict between employment and family (termed work-family guilt) appears particularly pervasive among U.S. mothers of young children; specifically, mothers, but not fathers, express high levels of a subtype of work-family guilt, that pertains to the negative impact their work has on their families (termed work-interfering-with-family guilt). However, little research within psychology has explicitly examined this phenomenon, and to our knowledge, no quantitative study has investigated gender differences in work-family guilt among U.S. parents of young children. In a cross-sectional, correlational study involving 255 parents of toddlers from the greater Southern California area, we coded parents’ narrative responses to a series of open-ended questions regarding employment and family for the presence of work-family guilt and work-interfering-with-family guilt (in the form of guilt about the negative impact of employment on children). Mothers had significantly higher work-family guilt and work-interfering-with-family guilt relative to fathers. We discuss our findings in terms of theory on gender roles, as well as the questions they generate for future areas of investigation.

Keywords

Work-family guilt Gender differences Parenthood Family work relationship Employment status 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

No external funding was used to support this project. Internal grants from Pomona College (including the Hahn Teaching with Technology grant) funded the work. Prior to data collection, we obtained approval from the Institutional Review Board at Pomona College. All participants provided informed consent prior to participating in the study.

References

  1. Aycan, Z., & Eskin, M. (2000, July). A cultural perspective to work-family conflict in dual-career families with preschool children: The case of Turkey. Paper presented at the Meeting of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology, Pultusk, Poland.Google Scholar
  2. Aycan, Z., & Eskin, M. (2005). Relative contributions of childcare, spousal support, and organizational support in reducing work-family conflict for men and women: the case of Turkey. Sex Roles, 53, 453–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baumeister, R. F., Stillwell, A. M., & Heatherton, T. F. (1994). Guilt: An interpersonal approach. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 243–267.Google Scholar
  4. Beadel, J. R., Green, J. S., Hosseinbor, S., & Teachman, B. A. (2013). Influence of age, thought content, and anxiety on suppression of intrusive thoughts. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 27, 598–607.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Benetti-McQuoid, J., & Bursik, K. (2005). Individual differences in experiences of and responses to guilt and shame: examining the lenses of gender and gender role. Sex Roles, 53, 133–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bianchi, S. M., Robinson, J. P., & Milkie, M. A. (2006). Changing rhythms of American family life. New York, NY: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  7. Borelli, J. L., Nelson, S. K., and River, L. R. (2014). Pomona work and family assessment. Unpublished document. Pomona College, Claremont, CA.Google Scholar
  8. Boris, E. (2014). Mothers, household managers, and productive workers: The international labor organization and women in development. Global Social Policy, 14, 189–208.Google Scholar
  9. Cohen, T. R., Wolf, S. T., Panter, A. T., & Insko, C. A. (2011). Introducing the GASP scale: A new measure of guilt and shame proneness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 947–966.Google Scholar
  10. Covert, B. (2014, June 23). No, working moms are not ruining their children. Think Progress. Retrieved from http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/06/23/3451313/working-mothers- children/.
  11. Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (2000). When partners become parents: The big life change for couples. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.Google Scholar
  12. Cuddy, A. J. C., Fiske, S. T., & Glick, P. (2004). When professionals become mothers, warmth doesn’t cut the ice. Journal of Social Issues, 60, 701–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cutrona, C. E. (1984). Social support and stress in the transition to parenthood. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93, 378–390.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Dietz, P. M., Williams, S. B., Callaghan, W. M., Bachman, D. J., Whitlock, E. P., & Hornbrook, M. C. (2007). Clinically identified maternal depression before, during, and after pregnancies ending in live births. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 164, 1515–1520.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Don, B. P., Chong, A., Biehle, S. N., Gordon, A., & Mickelson, K. D. (2014). Anxiety across the transition to parenthood: Change trajectories among low-risk parents. Anxiety, Stress and Coping: An International Journal, 27, 633–649.Google Scholar
  16. Duxbury, L. E., & Higgins, C. A. (1991). Gender differences in work-family conflict. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 60–74.Google Scholar
  17. Eagly, A. H., Wood, W., & Diekman, A. B. (2000). Social role theory of sex differences and similarities: A current appraisal. In T. Eckes & H. M. Trautner (Eds.), The developmental social psychology of gender (pp. 123–174). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.Google Scholar
  18. Eby, L. T., Maher, C. P., & Butts, M. M. (2010). The intersection of work and family life: The role of affect. Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 599–622.Google Scholar
  19. Ernst Kossek, E., & Ozeki, C. (1998). Work-family conflict, policies, and the job-life satisfaction relationship: A review and directions for organizational behavior-human resources research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 139–149.Google Scholar
  20. Etaugh, C., & Folger, D. (1998). Perceptions of parents whose work and parenting behaviors deviate from role expectations. Sex Roles, 39, 215–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Etaugh, C., & Nekolny, K. (1990). Effects of employment status and marital status on perceptions of mothers. Sex Roles, 23, 273–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fayard, J. V., Roberts, B. W., Robins, R. W., & Watson, D. (2012). Uncovering the affective core of conscientiousness: The role of self-conscious emotions. Journal of Personality, 80, 1–32.Google Scholar
  23. Fraley, R. C., Waller, N. G., & Brennan, K. A. (2000). An item response theory analysis of self-report measures of adult attachment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 350–365.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Frone, M. R., Yardley, J. K., & Markel, K. S. (1997). Developing and testing an integrative model of the work-family interface. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 50, 145–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fuegen, K., Biernat, M., Haines, E., & Deaux, K. (2004). Mothers and fathers in the workplace: How gender and parental status influence judgments of job-related competence. Journal of Social Issues, 60, 737–754.Google Scholar
  26. Gaderman, A. M., Guhn, M., & Zumbo, B. D. (2012). Estimating ordinal reliability for likert-type and ordinal item response data: A conceptual, empirical, and practical guide. Practical Assessment, Research, and Evaluation, 17, 1–13. Retrieved from http://pareonline.net/getvn.asp?v=17&n=3.
  27. Gay, C. L., Lee, K. A., & Lee, S. Y. (2004). Sleep patterns and fatigue in new mothers and fathers. Biological Research for Nursing, 5, 311–318.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. Geurts, S. A. E., Kompier, M. A. J., Roxburgh, S., & Houtman, I. L. D. (2003). Does work-home interference mediate the relationship between workload and well-being? Journal of Vocational Behavior, 63, 532–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ghatavi, K., Nicolson, R., MacDonald, C., Osher, S., & Levitt, A. (2002). Defining guilt in depression: a comparison of subjects with major depression, chronic medical illness and healthy controls. Journal of Affective Disorders, 68, 307–315.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Glavin, P., Schieman, S., & Reid, S. (2011). Boundary-spanning work demands and their consequences for guilt and psychological distress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 52, 43–57.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Good, J. J., & Sanchez, D. T. (2010). Doing gender for different reasons: Why gender norm conformity positively and negatively predicts self-esteem. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34, 203–214.Google Scholar
  32. Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review, 10, 76–88.Google Scholar
  33. Guerrero-Witt, M., & Wood, W. (2010). Self-regulation of gendered behavior in everyday life. Sex Roles, 62, 635–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Harder, D. W., Cutler, L., & Rockart, L. (1992). Assessment of shame and guilt and their relationships to psychopathology. Journal of Personality Assessment, 59, 584–604.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Hayghe, H. (1990). Family members in the work force. Monthly Labor Review, 113(3), 14–19.Google Scholar
  36. Hays, S. (1996). The cultural contradictions of motherhood. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Hendrick, V., Altshuler, L. L., & Suri, R. (1998). Hormonal changes in the postpartum and implications for postpartum depression. Psychosomatics: Journal of Consultation and Liaison Psychiatry, 39, 93–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hobfoll, S. E. (2001). The influence of culture, community, and the nested-self in the stress process: Advancing conservation of resources theory. International Review of Applied Psychology, 50, 337–370.Google Scholar
  39. Hochschild, A. R., & Machung, A. (1989). The second shift: Working parents and the revolution at home. New York, NY: Viking.Google Scholar
  40. Hochwarter, W. A., Perrewe, P. L., Meurs, J. A., & Kacmar, C. (2007). The interactive effect of work-induced guilt and ability to manage resources on job and life satisfaction. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12, 125–135.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Hoffman, M. L. (1982). Development of prosocial motivation: Empathy and guilt. In N. Eisenberg (Ed.), The development of prosocial behavior (pp. 281–313). New York, NY: Academic.Google Scholar
  42. Jacobvitz, D., Curran, M., & Moller, N. (2002). Measurement of adult attachment: the place of self-report and interview methodologies. Attachment & Human Development, 4, 207–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Jones, I., Chandra, P. S., Dazzan, P., & Howard, L. M. (2014). Bipolar disorder, affective psychosis, and schizophrenia in pregnancy and the post-partum period. The Lancet, 384(9956), 1789–1799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Jones, W. H., & Kugler, K. (1993). Interpersonal outcomes of the guilt inventory. Journal of Personality Assessment, 61, 246–258.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Klass, E. T. (1987). Situational approach to assessment of guilt: Development and validation of a self-report measure. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 9, 35–48.Google Scholar
  46. Knudson-Martin, C. (2011). Changing gender norms in families and society: Toward equality amidst complexities and contradictions. In F. Walsh (Ed.), Normal family processes (4th ed., pp. 324–346). New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
  47. Kochanska, G., Gross, J. N., Lin, M.-H., & Nichols, K. E. (2002). Guilt in young children: Development, determinants, and relations with a broader system of standards. Child Development, 73, 461–482.Google Scholar
  48. Korabik, K. (2015). The intersection of gender and work-family guilt. In M. J. Mills (Ed.), Gender and the work-family experience (pp. 141–157). Switzerland: Springer International.Google Scholar
  49. Kroenke, K., & Spitzer, R. L. (2002). The PHQ-9: A new depression diagnostic and severity measure. Psychiatric Annals, 32, 509–515.Google Scholar
  50. Leahey, T. M., Crowther, J. H., & Mickelson, K. D. (2007). The frequency, nature, and effects of naturally occurring appearance-focused social comparisons. Behavior Therapy, 38, 132–143.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Lilley, C. (2011, August 31). The ballad of a working mom: Guilt, anxiety, exhaustion and guilt. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/babyproject/2011/08/30/140068781/the-ballad-of-a-working-mom-guilt-anxiety-exhaustion-and-guilt.
  52. Livingston, B. A., & Judge, T. A. (2008). Emotional responses to work-family conflict: An examination of gender role orientation among working men and women. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 207–216.Google Scholar
  53. Lueptow, L. B., Garovich-Szabo, L., & Lueptow, M. B. (2001). Social change and the persistence of sex typing: 1974–1997. Social Forces, 80(1), 1–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Martínez, P., Carrasco, M. J., Aza, G., Blanco, A., & Espinar, I. (2011). Family gender role and guilt in spanish dual-earner families. Sex Roles, 65, 813–826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. May, R., Gilson, R. L., & Harter, L. M. (2004). The psychological conditions of meaningfulness, safety and availability and the engagement of the human spirit at work. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 77, 11–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Mickelson, K. D., Chong, A., & Don, B. (2013). To thine own self be true: Impact of gender role and attitude mismatch on new mothers’ mental health. In J. Marich (Ed.), Psychology of women: Diverse perspectives from the modern world (pp. 1–16). Hauppauge, NY: Nova.Google Scholar
  57. Milkie, M. A., Nomaguchi, K. M., & Denny, K. E. (2015). Does the amount of time mothers spend with children or adolescents matter? Journal of Marriage and Family, 77, 355–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Milkie, M. A., & Peltola, P. (1999). Playing all the roles: Gender and the work-family balancing act. Journal of Marriage and Family, 61, 476–490.Google Scholar
  59. Moss‐Racusin, C. A., & Rudman, L. A. (2010). Disruptions in women’s self‐promotion: The backlash avoidance model. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34, 186–202.Google Scholar
  60. Nelson, S. K., Kushlev, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). The pains and pleasures of parenting: When, why, and how is parenthood associated with more or less well-being? Psychological Bulletin, 140, 846–895.Google Scholar
  61. Nelson, S. K., Layous, K., Cole, S. W., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2015). Are fathers (but not mothers) happier than their childless peers? Gender moderates the association between parenthood, psychological need satisfaction, and stress. Manuscript under review.Google Scholar
  62. Nomaguchi, K. M., & Milkie, M. A. (2004). Costs and rewards of children: the effects of becoming a parent on adults’ lives. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 65, 356–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Nomaguchi, K. M., Milkie, M. A., & Bianchi, S. M. (2005). Time strains and psychological well-being: Do dual-earner mothers and fathers differ? Journal of Family Issues, 26, 756–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. O’Connor, L. E., Berry, J. W., & Weiss, J. (1999). Interpersonal guilt, shame, and psychological problems. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 18, 181–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Okimoto, T. G., & Brescoll, V. L. (2010). The price of power: Power seeking and backlash against female politicians. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 923–936.Google Scholar
  66. Ozer, E. M. (1995). The impact of childcare responsibility and self-efficacy on the psychological health of professional working mothers. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19, 315–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Parfitt, Y., & Ayers, S. (2014). Transition to parenthood and mental health in first-time parents. Infant Mental Health Journal, 35, 263–273.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Ridgeway, C. L., & Correll, S. J. (2004). Unpacking the gender system: A theoretical perspective on gender beliefs and social relations. Gender and Society, 18, 510–531.Google Scholar
  69. Rosenthal, H. E., & Crisp, R. J. (2006). Reducing stereotype threat by blurring intergroup boundaries. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 501–511.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Ross, L. E., & McLean, L. M. (2006). Anxiety disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period: A systematic review. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 67, 1285–1298.Google Scholar
  71. Rossi, A. S. (1968). Transition to parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 30, 26–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Rudman, L. A. (1998). Self-promotion as a risk factor for women: The costs and benefits of counterstereotypical impression management. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 629–645.Google Scholar
  73. Rudman, L. A., & Fairchild, K. (2004). Reactions to counterstereotypic behavior: The role of backlash in cultural stereotype maintenance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 157–176.Google Scholar
  74. Rudman, L. A., Moss-Racusin, C. A., Phelan, J. E., & Nauts, S. (2012). Status incongruity and backlash effects: Defending the gender hierarchy motivates prejudice against female leaders. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 165–179.Google Scholar
  75. Rudman, L. A., & Phelan, J. E. (2008). Backlash effects for counterstereotypical behavior in organizations. In A. Brief & B. M. Staw (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior (Vol. 28, pp. 61–79). New York, NY: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  76. Sasaki, T., Hazen, N. L., & Swann, W. J. (2010). The supermom trap: Do involved dads erode moms’ self-competence? Personal Relationships, 17, 71–79.Google Scholar
  77. Shapiro, L. J., & Stewart, S. E. (2011). Pathological guilt: A persistent yet overlooked treatment factor in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, 23, 63–70.Google Scholar
  78. Shaw, E., & Burns, A. (1993). Guilt and the working parent. Australian Journal of Marriage and Family, 14, 30–43.Google Scholar
  79. Shipley, P., & Coats, M. (1992). A community study of dual-role stress and coping in working mothers. Work and Stress, 6, 49–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Spence, J. T., & Buckner, C. E. (2000). Instrumental and expressive traits, trait stereotypes, and sexist attitudes: What do they signify? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 44–62.Google Scholar
  81. Spencer, S. J., Steele, C. M., & Quinn, D. M. (1999). Stereotype threat and women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35(1), 4–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Spitzer, R. L., Kroenke, K., Williams, J. B., & Löwe, B. (2006). A brief measure for assessing generalized anxiety disorder: The GAD-7. Archives of Internal Medicine, 166, 1092–1097.Google Scholar
  83. Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 797–811.Google Scholar
  84. Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 797–811.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  85. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  86. Tangney, J. P. (2003). Self-relevant emotions. In M. R. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (pp. 384–400). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  87. Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2011). A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes of minority students. Science, 331(6023), 1447–1451.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  88. Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1994). The PANAS-X: Manual for the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule-Expanded Form. Unpublished manuscript, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica L. Borelli
    • 1
    Email author
  • S. Katherine Nelson
    • 2
  • Laura M. River
    • 1
  • Sarah A. Birken
    • 3
  • Corinne Moss-Racusin
    • 4
  1. 1.Pomona CollegeClaremontUSA
  2. 2.Sewanee: The University of the SouthSewaneeUSA
  3. 3.University of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Skidmore CollegeSaratoga SpringsUSA

Personalised recommendations