Home Careers Do Dual Careers Help or Hinder Family Cohesion? (Part 1)
Do Dual Careers Help or Hinder Family Cohesion? (Part 1)

Do Dual Careers Help or Hinder Family Cohesion? (Part 1)


By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Dean, School of Business, American Public University

This is the first of two articles that examine the dynamics of a two-income family.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to be a consultant on a project that encouraged welfare recipients to obtain gainful employment. The project was funded by a grant that created a partnership between a large insurance company and a local community college.

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Both organizations agreed that the community college would teach the participants office skills as well as techniques on how to become qualified as insurance claim representatives. In addition, the insurance company would hire those participants who successfully completed the training.

Sounds like a good plan, right? It wasn’t. By the end of the program, there were few participants still employed at the insurance company. What happened?

Some of the Women Ran into Problems with Daycare and Transportation

There was one male participant. The other participants were women. Once they started their new positions, some of the women ran into problems with daycare and transportation.

Although they were given good starting salaries, no one checked to see if they had reliable transportation to get to work. In addition, some of them had problems getting to work on time because they had to take public transportation to drop their children off at daycare prior to going to work.

The salary was an incentive to get off the welfare rolls, but it wasn’t enough to cover additional expenses such as transportation and daycare. However, there was a third issue that neither the community college nor the insurance company anticipated in the planning process.

Some of the women resigned because the job created a hostile home environment. The program was focused on providing career development opportunities. No one considered that life skill training would also be critical to the success of the program.

Some of the Program Participants Encountered Family Problems at Home

Why was this type of training needed? Some of the program participants encountered family problems at home with their significant others. Instead of being happy about the new status of their loved ones, their partners resented their advancement. They saw it as a threat to their status in the household, which led to some of the participants eventually quitting their jobs.

This type of dilemma crosses economic boundaries. It can occur at every level of the career ladder, not just at entry-level positions. Even the executive level is not exempt!

A recent study by the Swedish Research Institute of Industrial Economics implies that when women become CEOs, they are twice as likely as men to get divorced within five years. Why? Many couples still hold a traditional view of marriage with various household duties still considered the responsibility of the wife. However, as the wife starts a more demanding job, some of those expectations may have to shift to the other party, fostering resentment by the men.

What is the moral of the story? While some couples support the notion of dual-career status, it may create problems in the marriage if (1) the new position takes the wife away from household duties that are considered her responsibility and (2) the wife earns more than the husband, especially if she is younger than he is.

Although the dual-career concept sounds good in theory and can assist the family financially, one can never underestimate the role of ego and perception.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Dean of the School of Business at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.

Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and influential leader, manifesting people skills, a systematic approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.



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