Strategizing About Work-Family Integration During the Transition to Parenthood: Longitudinal Processes and Ideological Influences

  • Author / Creator
    Sakaluk, Laurel Kristine
  • The transition to parenthood is often associated with shifts towards traditional gender roles in families related to women’s and men’s participation in paid work and caring for children. Mothers maintain more responsibility than fathers for the day-to-day care of children and breadwinning remains a central task of fathering. The persistence of gendered parenting roles in contemporary families is somewhat perplexing given the apparent cultural dominance of co-parenting and involved father ideologies. Still more research is required to understand the individual level processes that shape mothers’ and fathers’ strategies for integration of paid work and child care in relation to their sociocultural and institutional context, processes that often lead to adoption of traditional gender roles. I conducted a longitudinal, qualitative investigation of men’s and women’s strategizing about work-family integration over a five-year period during their transitions to parenthood. My longitudinal study used selected key principles of the methodological approach of institutional ethnography (IE), developed by Dorothy Smith (1987), that is focused on elucidating the coordination of individual behaviors by dominant institutions and their ideological discourses. The first paper in this dissertation, It All Comes Out in the Wash, is an investigation of alternative trajectories of strategizing about work-family integration by first-time mothers as shaped by their institutional and ideological context. Two trajectories of strategizing were delineated. The first trajectory, the washing machine trajectory, was characterized by a cyclical process of strategizing and by considerable change in mothers’ work-family integration approaches over time. In addition, the work-family integration approaches of mothers who followed this trajectory became increasingly similar despite marked early variation in their work-family integration preferences. In contrast, mothers who followed the second trajectory, the career maintenance trajectory, followed a linear process of strategizing and their work-family integration trajectory was characterized by stability of work-family integration arrangements over time. The two trajectories were shaped by different orientations to dominant ideologies and by different interpretations of and responses to work-family integration challenges. The second paper, The Pathway to the Practice of Contemporary Fathering and the Slowly Evolving Gender Order, focuses on the process of development of a practice of contemporary fathering and the influences of ideological and relational context on the process. The findings demonstrated that first-time fathers were committed to the ideology of involved fatherhood but that beliefs about gender shaped their early work-family integration choices. They consequently moved into a role of secondary parent, relative to mothers, and into a role of main earner for their families. Established as secondary parents, fathers demonstrated their commitment to involved fatherhood ideology through performance of a “fathers’ child care shift” around the boundaries of their paid work commitments. In the fathers’ child care shift, fathers prioritized caring for children over all other activities. Fathers’ intrinsic commitment to performance of their child care shift seemed to be the measure by which both fathers and mothers judged successful fulfillment of the ideology of involved fatherhood. The final paper, Making the Invisible Visible, outlines an analytical strategy for elucidating the process of development of new social relations during life course transitions, such as the transition to parenthood. This paper builds on analytical principles of IE and of qualitative longitudinal research. Analytical principles from these two bodies of literature informed an analytical strategy that consists of an integrated recurrent cross-sectional thematic analysis and a trajectory analysis. Through integration of the cross-sectional and trajectory analyses, I illuminated the temporal nature of two key concepts from IE, an expanded concept of work, and the coordinating power of discourse. This paper contributes to the scant literature about data analysis in IE. Using data from my study about women’s trajectories of work-family integration strategizing during the transition to parenthood, I demonstrated the utility of the analytical strategy.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Karen Hughes, Alberta School of Business
    • Amber Gazso, Department of Sociology, York University
    • Pushpanjali Dashora, Human Ecology
    • Kaysi Eastlick Kushner, Faculty of Nursing