Attitudes About the Work-Life Balance

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By: Marie Donlon

Attitudes about work-life balance are formed at an early age using our parents as examples and not through our own work–life experience, according to research from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Whether we prioritize work over family or family over work, researchers have determined that that is learned from our parents.

"We are not blank slates when we join the workforce—many of our attitudes are already deeply engrained from childhood," according to co-author Dr. Ioana Lupu.

Conducting 148 interviews with 78 male and female employees from legal and accounting firms, researchers found that men raised in "traditional" households (father is the breadwinner, mother is in charge of the household) did not have the feelings of guilt often associated with balancing a family life with work.

Conversely, women growing up in traditional households were more conflicted about the work-life balance. According to Dr. Lupu, these women "work like their fathers but want to parent like their mothers."

"We have found that the enduring influence of upbringing goes some way towards explaining why the careers of individuals, both male and female, are differentially affected following parenthood, even when those individuals possess broadly equivalent levels of cultural capital, such as levels of education, and have hitherto pursued very similar career paths," said Dr. Lupu.

"If individuals are to reach their full potential, they have to be aware of how the person that they are has been shaped through previous socialization and how their own work/family decisions further reproduce the structures constraining these decisions," said Dr. Lupu.

The study is published in the journal Human Relations.