Die Bedeutung der Berufsrolle für Frauen in stabilen Partnerschaften

Ein Vergleich von Fallstudien

Publishing year: 2014
ISBN 978-3-7983-2717-7

This study contributes to the psychological understanding of female identity and its expression in individual biographies. Two important elements of identity were investigated: occupational and family role. The aim was to identify basic patterns in the negotiation between the role models of the relationship- and family-oriented versus the job-oriented woman and to derive assumptions about their development. In order to capture individual meanings and interpretations of occupational and family roles and their reflection in the actual life situation, unstructured interviews were carried out with fourteen women on the topics of occupation, relationship, and self-concept. The interviewees were between 30 and 43 years old, belonged to the middle class, had higher-education diplomas, and had lived in a stable relationship with a man for at least the last six years. Most women were married and had one to two children. Half of them stilled work in their learned occupation, the other half had given up their jobs, mostly in order to take care of their children. The interviews were analysed in terms of individual development paths for each woman and by coding the contents by means of dimensions derived from the literature and a review of the data contained in all interviews. The individual case studies were then compared with respect to a number of perspectives in order to identify general patterns. Specifically, comparisons were carried out between all individual cases, between employed and non-employed women, between job- and family-oriented women, and concerning the (mis)match between personal orientation and the current life situation. It was found that the decision in favour or against having a job was affected by other factors than the development of personal role concepts. The continuation of employment after having children was promoted by a suitable job situation (high qualification and high decision-latitude concerning working times) and by a relationship which permitted new role definitions departing from traditional patterns. These relationships were characterized by a definition of gender roles which stressed quality between partners, increasing intensity of the relationship, open and constructive handling of conflicts, equal distribution of power, high compatibility of role definitions between the partners, and equal sharing of home and family work. On the other hand, the individual significance of the occupational role increased in relationships which did not have these characteristics. Moreover, the occupational role was more important – independent of the particular job carried out – if the identification with the job had only begun during employment and personal values were closely aligned with societal significance. The self-concept of those women for whom their current life situation matched the relevance they gave to job and family roles, was marked by optimism, openness, self-worth, activity, assertiveness, and pronounced gender identity. The latter was also true for employed mothers who highly valued their occupation. Overall the study demonstrates the complex nature of the interaction between role identity and life situation and indicates the importance of relationship quality as particularly important in this interaction. Furthermore, the significance of matching personal orientations and life situation for the development of a positive self-concept is shown. These results can help to formulate specific hypotheses to test the assumed causal paths. The interaction between relationship structures on the one hand and valuing and having a job on the other could thus be investigated more systematically as could be the interaction between the self-concept and a congruent life situation.