From 'work-family' to the 'gendered life course' and 'fit': Five challenges to the field

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This article introduces the concepts of the 'gendered life course' and 'life-course fit' in order to provide a broader, dynamic, and contextual perspective on the match or mismatch characterizing the social environments confronting workers, their families, and their communities. It summarizes five challenges confronting scholars of community, work, family, and policy: (1) updating outdated concepts and categories; (2) incorporating the gendered life course and family strategies to improve fit; (3) recognizing social change; (4) seeking work-time policy transformation, not simply assimilation or accommodation; and (5) focusing on prevention. In doing so, it provides a very brief history of the work-family intersection from a US vantage point, along with an overview of organizational response by employers to the 'work-family' conundrum. There is a growing recognition that a sense of fit or misfit in terms of rising temporal demands, limited temporal resources and outdated work-hour constraints on workers and families is increasingly a public health issue. The next step is for employers and policy-makers to break open the time clocks around paid work - the tacit, takenfor- granted beliefs, rules, and regulations about the time and timing of work days, work weeks, work years, and work lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-96
Number of pages16
JournalCommunity, Work and Family
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
April 2009, Utrecht, Netherlands and Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB), November 2009, Berlin, Germany. Thanks to Heike Solga, Chiara Saraceno, Alessandra Rusconi, Philip Wotscheck, and Jutta lmendinger, along with the junior researchers, for making my stay at WZB so intellectually rewarding. This research was conducted as part of the Work, Family and Health Network (www.WorkFamilyHealth, which is funded by a cooperative agreement through the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant # U01HD051217, U01HD051218, U01HD051256, U01HD051276), National Institute on Aging (Grant # U01AG027669), Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Grant # U010H008788). Grants from the William T. Grant Foundation and the Administration for Children and Families have provided additional funding. The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of these institutes and offices. Special acknowledgement goes to Extramural Staff Science Collaborator, Rosalind Berkowitz King, Ph.D. and Lynne Casper, Ph.D. for design of the original Workplace, Family, Health and Well-Being Network Initiative. We wish to express our gratitude to the worksites, employers, and employees who participated in this research and made this publication possible.


  • Fit
  • Gender
  • Life course
  • Organizational change
  • Work-family


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