Women at work: Commitment and behavior over the life course

Phyllis Moen, Ken R. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Women at every stage of the family cycle are increasing their labor force participation but few maintain the continuous, full-time attachment characteristic of employed men. What does this mean in terms of women's subjective work commitment? Using data from six waves of the Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics this study investigates the relationship between the pattern of employment over a five-year period and employed women's psychological commitment to work; findings suggest congruence as well as incongruence between labor force attitudes and behavior at different stages of the life course. Commitment to work in 1976 is also incorporated in a model estimating 1977 employment status. Results reveal that the greatest congruence between subjective commitment and labor force attachment is found in young women who have not yet begun their child bearing. On the other hand, employed mothers of preschoolers emerge as the group most likely to evidence discrepancies between labor force behavior and psychological commitment to the work role. Subjective commitment to work is shown to have a slight positive effect in estimating labor force activity the subsequent year, but the greatest predictor is women's work pattern over the previous five years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-475
Number of pages26
JournalSociological Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 1986


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