Work, Family, and Their Intersection



In 1972, Leonard Pearlin fielded a study of adults living in the Chicago Urbanized Area. The interview booklet was titled, “Problems of Everyday Life,” and with this disarmingly simple title Pearlin helped to expand social understandings of the linkages between social experiences and emotional distress. In the design of that survey and of its follow-up in 1976, and in the many empirical analyses as well as conceptual developments that flowed from it and subsequent projects, Pearlin inspired a wide range of scholars across many fields to give more sustained and careful attention to the persistent rewards and strains that are embedded in ordinary lives, and in particular those embedded in ordinary and normatively expected adult social roles, including marriage, parenting, and employment. This body of work also drew new attention to the social-psychological resources that people may draw upon in managing those rewards and strains, such as their own sense of mastery and self-esteem, as well as their social supports and coping efforts.

In this essay, I first discuss key aspects of Pearlin’s stress process model, and then describe how some of my own research on work and family inter-connections draws on this framework. I then try to situate this work within a life course framework, which suggests that these connections may vary for different cohorts and at various points in the life course. Finally, I outline a future agenda that can further knowledge in this area.


Stress Process Married Mother Coping Effort Unmarried Mother Baby Boom Cohort 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Aneshensel, C. S., Pearlin, L. I., Mullan, J. T., Zarit, S. H., & Whitlatch, C. J. (1995). Profiles in caregiving: The unexpected career. San Diego CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  2. Avison, W. R. (2001). Unemployment and its consequences for mental health. In V. W. Marshall, W. R. Heinz, H. Kruger & A. Verma (Eds.), Restructuring work and the life course (pp. 177–200). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bierman, A., & Milkie, M. A. (2008). Intergenerational stress proliferation between adult children and parents: Contingencies by functional timing and parent’s gender. Advances in life course research, 13, 343–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bittman, M., England, P., Sayer, L., Folbre, N., & Matheson, G. (2003). When does gender trump money? Bargaining and time in household work. American Journal of Sociology, 109, 186–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Corcoran, M., Danziger, S. K., Kalil, A., & Seefeldt, K. S. (2000). How welfare reform is affecting women’s work. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 241–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cotter, D. A., Hermsen, J. M., & Vanneman, R. (2004). Gender inequality at work. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  7. Elder, G. H., Jr. (1974). Children of the Great Depression. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. George, L. K. (2007). Life course perspectives on social factors and mental illness. In W. R. Avison, J. D. McLeod & B. A. Pescosolido (Eds.), Mental Health, Social Mirror (pp. 191–218). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hamilton, B. E., Martin, J. A., & Ventura, S. J. (2009). Births: Preliminary data for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports, Web release, 57, no. 12, 1–23.Google Scholar
  10. Jacobs, J., & Gerson, K. (2004). The time divide. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Johnson, T. D. (2008). Maternity leave and employment patterns of first-time mothers: 1961–2003. Current Population Reports (P70–113). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.Google Scholar
  12. Kalleberg, A. L. (2000). Nonstandard employment relations: Part-time, temporary, and contract work. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 341–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kalleberg, A. L. (2008). Precarious work, insecure workers: Employment relations in transition. American Sociological Review, 74, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kalmijn, M. (1991). Status homogamy in the United States. American Journal of Sociology, 97, 496–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Klute, M. M., Crouter, A. C., Sayer, A. G., & McHale, S. M. (2002). Occupational self- direction, values, and egalitarian relationships: A study of dual-earner couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 139–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Martin, S. P. (2006). Trends in marital dissolution by women’s education in the United States. Demographic Research, 15, 537–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. McLanahan, S. (1994). Diverging destinies: How children are faring under the second demographic transition. Demography, 41, 607–627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Menaghan, E. G. (1989). Role changes and psychological well-being: Variations in effects by gender and role repertoire. Social Forces, 7, 693–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Menaghan, E. G. (1994). The daily grind: Work stressors, family patterns, and intergenerational outcomes. In W. Avison & I. Gotlib (Eds.), Stress and mental health: Contemporary issues and future prospects (pp. 115–147). NY: Plenum.Google Scholar
  20. Menaghan, E. G. (1997). Intergenerational consequences of social stressors: Effects of occupational and family conditions on young mothers and their children. In I. H. Gotlib & B. Wheaton (Eds.), Stress and adversity over the life course (pp. 114–132). NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Menaghan, E. G., & Cooksey, E. C. (2008). Well-being at mid-life: Family predictors of continuity and change. Advances in Life Course Research, 13, 257–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Menaghan, E. G., Kowaleski-Jones, L., & Mott, F. L. (1997). The intergenerational costs of parental social stressors: Academic and social difficulties in early adolescence for children of young mothers. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 38, 72–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Menaghan, E. G., & Parcel, T. L. (1991). Determining children’s home environments: The impact of maternal characteristics and current occupational and family conditions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 53, 417–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Menaghan, E. G., & Parcel, T. L. (1995). Social sources of change in children’s home environments: The effects of parental occupational experiences and family conditions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 57, 69–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Parcel, T. L., & Menaghan, E. G. (1994). Parents’ jobs and children’s lives. NY: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  26. Pearlin, L. I. (1983). Role strains and personal stress. In H. B. Kaplan (Ed.), Psychosocial Stress: Trends in Theory and Research (pp. 3–32). NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  27. Pearlin, L. I. (1999). The stress process revisited: Reflections on concepts and their interrelationships. In C. S. Aneshensel & J. C. Phelan (Eds.), Handbook of the sociology of mental health (pp. 395–415). NY: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  28. Pearlin, L. I., Aneshensel, C. S., & LeBlanc, A. J. (1997). The forms and mechanisms of stress proliferation: The case of AIDS caregivers. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 38, 223–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pearlin, L. I., & Lieberman, M. A. (1979). Social sources of emotional distress. In R. Simmons (Ed.), Research in Community and Mental Health, vol. 1 (pp. 217–248). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  30. Pearlin, L. I., Lieberman, M. A., Menaghan, E. G., & Mullan, J. T. (1981). The stress process. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 22, 337–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pearlin, L. I., Schieman, S., Fazio, E. M., & Meersman, S. C. (2005). Stress, health, and the life course: Some conceptual perspectives. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 46, 205–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Raley, R. K., & Bumpass, L. L. (2003). The topography of the divorce plateau: Levels and trends in union stability in the United States after 1980. Demographic Research, 8, 245–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sayer, L. C., Cohen, P. N., and Casper, L. M. (2004). Women, men, and work. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  34. Schwartz, C. R., & Mare, R. D. (2005). Trends in educational assortive marriage from 1940 to 2003. Demography, 42, 621–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Simon, R. W. (1995). Gender, multiple roles, role meaning, and mental health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 36, 182–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Thompson, L., & Walker, A. (1989). Gender in families: Women and men in marriage, work, and parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 51, 845–871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Turner, H. A., & Schieman, S. (Eds.). (2008). Advances in life course research, vol. 13 (Stress Processes across the Life Course). Elsevier JAI Press.Google Scholar
  38. Waite, L., & Gallagher, M. (2000). The case for marriage. NY: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  39. Wheaton, B. (1990). Life transitions, role histories, and mental health. American Sociological Review, 55, 209–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

Personalised recommendations