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Job Change in Dual-Career Families: Danger or Opportunity? Author(s): Allie C. Kilpatrick Source: Family Relations, Vol. 31, No.

3 (Jul., 1982), pp. 363-368 Published by: National Council on Family Relations Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/584168 . Accessed: 29/06/2011 07:46
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Job Change in Dual-CareerFamilies: Danger or Opportunity?*

The phenomenon of dual-career families has emerged primarlyduring the last two decades. The opportunity for a job change for one spouse in a dual-careerfamily can precipitate a crisis for the family. This paper examines the potential crisisprecipitating event in terms of crisis theory with its inherent dangers and opportunities. Aspects of working with a dual-career family in job-changing crisis are explored from a practitioner's perspective. Norma, upon completion of her doctorate, was offered a top administrative position in a distant city. There was no job for her husband in that location; their two children were in high school and did not want to move. Norma really wanted to accept the position as it was her best offer, it was in her primaryarea of interest, and it paid extremely well. Ed, 36 years old, was offered the careerenhancing position he had wanted for some time. It meant moving to a distant state. His wife was established in her career and did not want to give it up to start over again in another state. Diane and David completed their graduate degrees at the same time. Each received fanin different cities. tastic job offers-but Nothing comparable to the offers they had were available to either spouse in the city of the other's choice.
Any of these real-life situations involving dual-career families could precipitate a crisis in that family. These are not unusual situations for dual-career families. As more and more women enter the labor force and pursue careers, the prevalence of potential crisisprecipitating events (i.e., attractive job offer for one spouse with resulting negative implications for the other spouse's career) is likely to continue to increase. According to the U. S. Bureau of the Census (1980), of 57,804,000 families, there were more than 46 million employed men and women who were part of dual-worker families, or 23 million families (400/o) as of March, 1979. Dual-career families are a special type of dual-workerfamily. The phenomenon of dual-careers has become apparent during the last two decades. Rapoport and Rapoport (1977) coined the term "dual-career" to designate the type of family structure where both husband and wife pursue careers (i.e., jobs which are highly salient personally, have an intrinsically demanding character, a developmental sequence and evolving expertise, and require a high degree of competence and commitment). They seek to maintain a family life where none of the usual family roles are completely delegated or abrogated. The published research on dualcareer families constitutes a relatively new body of literature as the first major works (that of the Rapoports in England) were not published until the early 1970s. This paper examines the potential crisisprovoking event of job change in dual-career familes in terms of crisis theory. Parad and Caplan's (1960) definition of a crisis as a period

*This paper was first presented to the Second Annual National Conference of the Alliance of Family Therapy and Family Research, The Florida State University, April, 1981. **Allie C. Kilpatrick is Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30601

KeyConcepts: Dual-career families, familycrisis, job change crisis, crisis intervention, commuting life style, career changes, future directions (FamilyRelations, 1982, 31, 363-368.)

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of disequilibrium overpowering the individual's homeostatic mechanisms is used. Hill's (1965) classic ABCX model is utilized as the over-all conceptual framework. This model consists of: A (the event) interacting with B (the family's resources) interacting with C crisis-meeting (the definition the family makes of the event) producing X (the crisis). Hill's (1965) rollercoaster profile of adjustment to crisis is also used. Incorporated throughout the paper is the notion that the family is viewed as a system in that all family members are interdependent, and change in one member affects the entire family (Calhoun, Selby, & King, 1976). Issues involved in the situational crisis of job change are considered from a practitioner's perspective. The Event: "That Offer You Can't Refuse" Job-changing challenges may occur at any point in any type of marriage, and they may occur more than once. One may arise very early in the marriage, midway, or later in the marriage, perhaps after the "empty-nest" stage has been a jobencountered, Whenever reached. changing challenge can be traumatic (Shaevitz, & Shaevitz, 1980). When one spouse has a career opportunity in another locale, new crises may arise in terms of the costs and benefits for both "his" and "her" careers. The traditional "solution" to the issue of mobility has been for the husband's career to be viewed as more important. The wife followed the husband from job to job and generally made the greater sacrifices in regard to her own career, for example, by not working, by taking a series of dead-end jobs, or starting over in every new location. The picture, however, is changing. A 1975 survey of 617 firms by Dun and Bradstreet showed that employees at 42% of the companies refused to relocate, an increase of 10% in one year. The survey report cited "personal preferences" or "family considerations" as the contributing factors, and noted the increase in conflicting career paths of spouses (Maynard, & Zawacki, 1979). In 1979 Merrill Lynch Relocation Management, Inc. estimated that 200,000 would be asked to to 300,000 employees transfer, and that one-third to one-half would object. Only a decade ago the refusal rate was 10% (Time, 1978). Gilbert Tweed Associates, a

New York firm, indicated that one in three executives would not relocate because it would interfere with the career or studies of a spouse (Hall & Hall, 1978). A personnel recruiter reported that more than 35O/% of male candidates who were finalists for executive positions would not negotiate further unless the proposed move also met the wife's needs (Foegan, 1977). Statistics such as these could challenge the 1975 finding by Rosen, Jerdee, and Prestwick that managers and execuitives did not expect that husbands would sacrifice for the sake of their wife's career. Wallston, Foster, and Berger (1978) asserted that it may be time to that professional abandon the assumption men will sacrifice the needs of other members of their family to the demands of their careers. The trend appears to be toward recognition of equal status dual linkages between the family and occupation systems where the wife's career is just as important as the husband's career. This is an important structural change with far-reaching consequences (SafiliosRothschild, 1977). These trends and changes can have a direct impact on the meaning this possible crisisprovoking event can have on the dual-career family. As the phenomena of the dual-career family structure and the egalitarian ethos are relatively new, there are few socially accepted precedents and norms related to them. Possible moves where each career is considered can be high stress events in that the dual-career family has usually had little or no prior preparation for dealing with such situations. Also, there are few existing social support systems for these families. Family Crisis-Meeting Resources Caplan (1964) stated that the essential factor influencing the occurrence of crisis is an imbalance between the difficulty and importance of the problem and the resources immediately available to deal with it. The factor of available resources is an important one for dual-career families when a job change for one partner is being considered. The practitioner can assess strengths or weaknesses in this area in terms of tangible and intangible resources. Tangible resources include economic resources and health. As there are dual incomes, more alterJuly 1982


natives are available to dual-career families such as commuter or week-end marriages. Adequate financial resources do not always mean a higher standard of living, but they can mean more options for both partners to pursue their careers. Intangible resources within the family social environment include adaptability or the family's capacity to meet obstacles and shift courses; family integration or the bonds of cohesion and unity, affection, and common interests (Hill, 1965);and family organization. Specific tools are available to the practithese intangible tioner for assessing resources. Olson, Sprenkle, and Russell (1979) have developed The Circumplex Model, a clinical rating scale with two primary dimensions: family cohesion and family adaptability. There are nine clinical concepts which can be used as indicators for family cohesion and six concepts as indicators for family adaptability. A second tool is the Family Grid developed by Bardill (1977). This Grid assesses two dimensions: the family boundary and the family organization. The boundary continuum goes from solid to amorphous and assesses family patterns along six dimensions. The organization continuum goes from rigid to loose and assesses family patterns along nine dimensions. Both of these models could be valuable tools for the practitioner in assessing a dualcareer family's crisis-meeting resources. Additional resources may be found outside the nuclear family's social environment. Kaplan (1979) discusses studies which examine how well personality assessments predicted outcome in two tests involving transitional experiences-one in a militarysetting and one in a Peace Corps setting. The results suggested that personality does not predict stable or unstable outcome in crises at all. The crucial factors in outcome were the existence of close support systems and a highly defined structure. For the dual-career family the support system could be the extended family and friends-but these two systems could also put the most pressure on the family to become more traditional. However, there is typically a noticeable lack of defined structure in regard to both societal precedent for their predicament and employers' provisions for the dualcareer person's partner.

Meaning Of The Move The definition or interpretation a family event inmakes of the crisis-precipitating fluences its vulnerability to stress, and hence the intensity of the crisis (Hansen & Johnson, 1979). The practitioner needs to be alert to the various unique meanings linked with the possible job change for each specific set of circumstances. Some possible areas to be considered follows. Values Each family has its own unique set of values which must be considered by the practitioner. For example, many times dual-career families hold as a value the idea of equity, or equality of opportunity plus a fair sharing of constraints. However, due to early socialization to the contrary, this value may break down in the throes of a crisis. There may then be a tendency for one or both partners to return to earlier traditional values rather than grapple with the dilemma and develop constructive, creative ways of dealing with them (Rapoport & Rapoport, 1977). This regression could be a "danger" to watch for in this dual-career crisis. Previous Experiences It is a characteristic finding that during and crises, memories of old problems unresolved conflicts which are in some way linked to the present one are stimulated and raise their ugly heads (Caplan, 1964). The practitioner could well ask the question, "Does the present situation symbolically link to any similar problems of the past, and, if so, how adequately were those problems previously solved?" A clue would be the presence of intensity of emotion unrealistic to the present situation. An example would be if the wife had agreed to put the husband's career first when a specific job opportunity came for him, assuming that the next time a change was made it would be her turn. Then, later, another opportunity came for the husband and the wife felt cheated and betrayed. The Marriage Contract-Hidden and Open

The expectations of each partner, whether hidden or open, implicit or explicit, define the meaning of a job opportunity for one partner in various ways. Here the basic ingredient of the hidden contract in conventional marriages can

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no longer be assumed. For instance, the husband may have been giving "lip-service" to an equalitarian style of marriage,but when his opportunity came, he just assumed, from his early socialization process, that his wife would go with him. Her expectations were quite different. The practitioner may need to enable each partner to verbalize his/her expectations in order to "get them out on the table" and deal with them. One of the reasons that the ground rules of dual-career couples need to be spelled out is because western ideologies and structures offer relatively little support for the dualcareer pattern (Gowler & Legge, 1978). Successful functioning of the dual-career pattern can be enhanced by making explicit many of the assumptions, expectations and commitments each partner holds. Therefore, when crises arise, the couple will not retreat into a more conventional marriage pattern on the one hand, or its dissolution on the other. Herein lies a "danger" that may come with possible job changes in dual-career families. Inaddition to the three areas above, the practitioner needs to consider the meaning the crisis event has for the family. Additional valuable information could be obtained by looking at the ways the family has previously tried to resolve the crisis (Dixon, 1979). These could give valuable clues about the couple's coping patterns. Problem-Solving and Adjustment The course of adjustment to crises varies from family to family. Hill (1965) found that the common denominator may be charted in the truncated form of a roller-coaster. The component parts of Hill's roller-coaster profile of adjustment are: crisis-disorganization-recovery-reorganization. Generally, the practitioner would come into contact with the dualcareer couple during the disorganization phase when they are in the decision-making process about the job offer. Although there are many models for crisis intervention, a common principle of intervention is immediate focus on the crisis situation (Dixon, 1979; Golan 1978; Puryear, 1979). A limited goal is to help mobilize the capabilities and social resources of the family for coping with the effects of stress adaptively (Golan, 1978). She outlined eight steps in her crisis intervention model

under the three main headings of formulation, implementation, and termination. Formula tion The beginning phase is usually completed in the first interview. The focus is on the crisis situation, evaluation of the current predicament of a job change for one partner, and development of a contract for further activity. At this time the practitioner would assess the family's perceptions of the situation and the meanings it makes of it, available situational supports or resources, and coping mechanpreviously. Aguilera and isms as discussed Messick (1974) call these the three balancing factors that may determine the state of equilibrium of the family. The use of action techniques by the practitioner could facilitate the assessment process during a crisis. One such technique is family sculpture. Family sculpture is an arrangement of people or objects, by one member of the family at a time, that expresses their family relationships to one another at a particular point in time (Simon, 1972). Sculpting has the advantage of cutting through excessive verbalization, bringing to life silent members, clarifying dynamic material, and tapping feelings. It can be a powerful tool which gets to underlying dynamics quickly. Implementation The focus in the second stage is on organizing and working over the data and bringing about behavior change. Here the practitioner would help the family explore options and alternatives. A possible problem-solving option for dual-career couples (Shaevitz & Shaevitz, 1980) is for the partner whose career is threatened to search for less obvious opportunities, to be less restricted, and to widen possible horizons. To illustrate, for a college professor with no University in the new city, there could exist many other opportunities he or she is open to it. other than teaching-if A second option could be commuting. For couples who are committed to equity and both careers as primary priorities, this could be a viable alternative. Areas for the practitioner to investigate with couples considering such a life-style include responsibility for children,



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financial costs of such an arrangement, the physical and psychic strain resulting from travel, work role flexibility, the emotional costs of being separated from spouse and/or children for periods of time, times couple can be together, problems inherent in maintaining two homes, philosophy about building social networks and legal ramifications (PriceBonham & Murphy, 1980). Although commuting is widely practiced in dual-career families, there are many inherent difficulties, especially when there are small children in the home. Shaevitz and Shaevitz (1980) advise couples to view this strategy as experimental before abandoning all the old conventional routes. The outcome could be disastrous if the commuting option is chosen because of anger or despair born of a couple's inability to work out rational, harmonious solutions to this problem-another "danger" that could come from a job change for dual-career families. Additional alternatives offered by some corporations include: 1) the sharing of a single job by a married couple so the couple can spend more time with their children; and, 2) new ways of handling an employee's relocation, including company programs to look fora job for the spouse in the new city (New York Times, 1980). The dual-career couple could be encouraged to explore the possibility of these options. Termination During the ending phase, the practitioner and family would arrive at the decision to terminate, review progress, and plan future activity. At this time the family would be in the recovery and reorganization stages of adjustment to the crisis. Hopefully, a decision would have been made about the job offer, and some understanding and consensus reached concerning changing roles, expectations and marital contract. Sharing information with the couple as to how other couples in their situation have resolved similar issues could be helpful. Especially useful could be the notions that they are not alone against the world in trying to make a two-career family work, and that it has been done by others-and very successfully. Herein lies the "opportunity" side of job changes for dual-career families. Many families go through the crisis and come out at
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a higher level of family organization than before the crisis. Many are enthusiastic about this option. Farris (1978) conducted a study of ten commuting dual-career couples of varied professional and family backgrounds. She found that over-all, the evaluation of the worth of commuting was definitely positive. The largest single gain was professional development, while some found the chance for personal growth and development rewarding. Several commuters reported deep satisfaction in having pursued the job opportunity, and others reported the side benefits of total segregation of work from home. There were no reported gross negative influences on either the development of children or of the marital relationship. Bibliotherapymight also be indicated. An excellent book to suggest to the family is Making It Together As A Two-CareerCouple (Shaevitz & Shaevitz, 1980). This book was written for two-career couples, not about them. The authors are co-directors of the Institute for Family and Work Relationships in La Jolla, California. They have worked extensively with career couples, and are themselves a dualcareer family. Farris' study emphasized the importance of supportive attitudes and behaviors on the part of the spouse. The active cooperation of both is important if the arrangement is to be viable for any length of time; therefore, strong commitment to the marriage, basic trust in the spouse, and openness and ability to communicate effectively seem to be prerequisites for sustaining this type of marital relationship with the frequent separations. Other crucial factors include a willingness to try, a determination to overcome difficulties, a large degree of resourcefulness and flexibility to adjust to new circumstances and an unwavering value commitment to both family and career (Farris, 1978). Farris concluded that the commuting lifestyle was a feasible way of living. The fact that at least some families with children have demonstrated that they were able to undertake it for two years or more without drastic damage to family functioning was tangible evidence of the possibility. This study, if shared with the dual-career couple, could provide a supportive element.


Summary A job-changing challenge for a dual-career couple, whenever it is encountered, can be traumatic. This paper has examined the potential crisis-precipitating event of a job change for one partner in a dual-career family in terms of crisis theory. As with any crisis, there can be either danger or opportunity inherent in the crisis situation. The specific dangers and opportunities which could be present in this crisis situation for dual-career couples were pointed out. Aspects of working with a dualcareer family in a job-changing crisis were explored from a practitioner's perspective.


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