Member Publication: Who to Blame and How to Solve It: Mothers’ Perceptions of Work–Family Conflict Across Western Policy Regimes

Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Caitlyn Collins. 2020. “Who to Blame and How to Solve It: Mothers’ Perceptions of Work–Family Conflict Across Western Policy Regimes.” Journal of Marriage and Family 82 (3): 849–74.

Abstract:

Objective

This study compares mothers’ perceptions of work–family conflict in four countries that exemplify different work–family policy approaches: Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the United States.

Background

Scholars have examined the impact of culture and work–family policy on mothers cross‐nationally, primarily using quantitative methods. Thus, sociologists have a good understanding of both work–family policy structures and outcomes, but the intervening processes that play out in working mothers’ daily lives are not well understood.

Method

This article begins to fill this gap, drawing on interviews with 109 middle‐class employed mothers in Stockholm, Berlin, Rome, and Washington, D.C. The author investigates how work–family conflict is mitigated—or not—in countries with policies that reflect different ideals of motherhood, employment, and gender equality.

Results

Interviews reveal confirming evidence of cross‐national variation in mothers’ levels or perceived scope of conflict. Mothers also (a) attribute blame for their work–family conflict to different sources and (b) employ different solutions to resolve it.

Conclusion

Work–family conflict is not an inevitable feature of contemporary life. Rather, it is the product of public policies and cultural attitudes that shape women’s desires, expectations, and behaviors regarding work and family. Elucidating the processes of perception, attribution, and resolution is crucial to understand the political and cultural conditions that facilitate the combination of motherhood and employment.

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