Home Careers Do Dual Careers Help or Hinder Family Cohesion? (Part 2)
Do Dual Careers Help or Hinder Family Cohesion? (Part 2)

Do Dual Careers Help or Hinder Family Cohesion? (Part 2)


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

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

When married women rise to CEO or other high-ranking corporate positions, they become twice as likely as men to be divorced within five years, a recent study by the Swedish Research Institute of Industrial Economics discovered.

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Why? Many couples still hold a traditional view of marriage with various household duties still considered the sole responsibility of the wife. However, as the wife starts a more demanding job, some of those household demands may have to be shifted to her partner, who may resent the extra work.

What is the moral of this story? While some couples support the notion of dual careers, the relationship may experience problems if (1) the new position takes the wife away from household duties that are traditionally considered her responsibility and (2) the wife earns more than the husband, especially if she is younger.

Dual Careers Not Always Supported in a Family

Writing in The Atlantic, Derek Thompson highlights some of the areas that contribute to this dilemma. For example:

  • Teenagers and young couples still favor the traditional role of marriage where the husband is the primary breadwinner with the wife playing a supporting role.
  • The modern world still is not ready for successful women.
  • Research shows evidence of the acceptance of women working, but not necessarily that a woman’s job to come first.
  • The support for dual-earning households correlates to economic and financial factors rather than to strong support for women to be progressive and have high-ranking careers.
  • When women establish a professional career of their own, particularly one that eclipses that of their husband, their success seems to threaten the implicit contract of the marriage and cause acrimony.

One Can Never Underestimate the Role that Ego and Perception Play in the Family Dynamic

Although the concept of dual careers in the household sounds good in theory – and might assist the family unit financially – we should never underestimate the role that ego and perception play in the family dynamic.

We have been blaming sexism, the old boys’ network and other external forces for holding back women’s career advancement. However, based on this type of research, we may want to search within the family unit as well to combat the forces that are keeping women from reaching their full potential.

The information seems as if we have taken two steps backward, but all is not lost. These negative circumstances tend to occur when there’s not been a conversation or partnership of duties established prior to the wife’s career advancement. The parameters must be set prior to the change occurring.

That’s another topic for couples to discuss before going down the aisle!

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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