Late Midlife Employment, Gender Roles and Marital Quality: His and Her Perspectives

Heather Hofmeister, Phyllis Moen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Studies of work and family conflict often overlook the late midlife stage and often do not consider the relationship between past employment and the current marital strain of both spouses. In this paper, we employ a life course perspective to examine the conjoint influences of each spouse’s past and present work experiences on the marital quality of both spouses in late midlife, considering spouses’ gender role ideologies as possible moderators of the relationship between employment and marital quality. Interviews and life histories with a total sample of 456 retirees and their spouses, ages 50–72, conducted in 1994–95, reveal that husbands’ higher marital strain is predicted by current work conditions in the household: when either spouse is the only one employed in late midlife, husbands experience less marital strain, but when both are employed, husbands report higher marital strain. Husbands’ egalitarian gender role ideology, coupled with their having had a professional/managerial career, is also linked to higher marital strain. Husbands’ positive marital quality reflects a consistency between men’s own gender role attitudes and whether their wives had long employment careers: egalitarian husbands report high positive marital quality in proportion to the length of time their wives were in the labor force. Wives’ marital strain and positive marital quality are most directly linked to their husbands’ marital strain and feeling of positive marital quality, and not significantly predicted by the same predictors of their husbands' marital quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-337
Number of pages21
JournalSociological Focus
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1999


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