Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Gender roles see a ‘conflict’ shift

Women in two-earner couples are contributing more to family income, but it’s the men who are feeling more conflicted over the work-life balance, according to a survey of 3,500 workers released today.

Asked how much jobs and family life interfere with each other, 59 percent of fathers in dual-income families reported conflict in 2008, while just 35 percent did in 1977. For mothers, reported conflict increased from 40 percent to 45 percent.

Findings from the telephone survey for the non-profit Families and Work Institute suggest what some experts say is a “tipping point” in attitudes about gender roles, work and family.

“It does signal more equality of expectations – that men are no longer let off the hook,” says Scott Coltrane, a sociologist at the University of Oregon.

Up until the past decade, “men weren’t doing enough to add stress to their lives,” he says.

Since then, men have been spending more time with their children and more time caretaking, which the survey finds has elevated the inner strife.

“What we see here is that the conflict for women hasn’t increased as fast because it was already so high,” says sociologist Kathleen Gerson of New York University. Other findings show:

• Annual income contributed by women in dual-income couples rose to 44 percent in 2008; 26 percent of such women earned at least 10 percent more than their partners.

• Traditional gender roles have lost favor among both sexes. About 60 percent of men and women say they disagree with the idea that men should earn the money and women should take care of the children.

• Women under age 29 are just as likely as men to want greater work responsibility, regardless of whether they have children.

“When you get men and women feeling the same, maybe it is a sea change,” says Ellen Galinsky, the institute’s president.

Sociologist Brian Powell of Indiana University, however, says even though “there probably has been real change, I have the sense there’s been more of a change in terms of people’s view that there should be equal division. That’s probably farther ahead of the actual behavior.”

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