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Emerging Adult Parents’ Coordination of Work and Family Commitments

Conference contribution
Authors Johanna Carlsson
Maria Wängqvist
Maria Hermansson
Ann Frisén
Published in Paper presented at the 7th Conference on Emerging Adulthood. October 14-16, 2015, Miami, FL, USA
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Subject categories Psychology


It has been proposed that the evaluation and coordination of commitments in different areas of life, such as work and family, becomes an important developmental task in late emerging adulthood (e.g., Pals, 1999). In the present study we explore how this coordination takes place by investigating how 33 (23 women) Swedish parents in late emerging adulthood reason around priorities between work and family. The participants took part in a semi-structured interview concerning their attitudes towards work/family priorities. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the material (Braun & Clarke, 2006). When describing their work/family priorities most parents talked about family as being more important than work, but many also talked about a strive for work/family balance. A small group said that work and family were equally important, but none of the participants said that they prioritized work over family. However, the results showed that wanting to prioritize family had different consequences for how different participants organized their work life. Most participants talked about how they were simply working their “regular hours”. Some, but not all, of these participants thought that working regular hours meant that their children had to spend too many hours in daycare, and some of them expressed a wish to work part time. A smaller group of participants (only women) work part time. These participants often talked about wanting to downshift and spend time with their children. In contrast, some participants talked about working long hours and putting in a lot of overtime. These participants often explained how this choice was a way for them to prioritize their family. For example, they talked about how working long hours would benefit their family financially or give them other advantages. Many participants said that their view of work/family priorities had changed when they became parents. Some of these participants said that before becoming parents they had thought that it would not be so difficult to combine work and family as it later turned out to be. Some also said that before becoming parents they had not thought much about work/family issues at all, or that their career had been more important to them before they became parents. A smaller group of participants also talked about how they expected, or had already experienced, that their view on work/family priorities would change during parenthood. For example, when their child got older and more independent they would be able to engage more in their work life. In conclusion, this study indicates that to prioritize family before work is normative among emerging adult Swedish parent, but that doing so can mean very different things to different people. Moreover, the results show that when emerging adults become parents work/family priorities is often a more pressing issue than it was before. This suggests that the transition to parenthood requires young people to negotiate their commitments in different life areas in relation to the new social realities of adult life.

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