Working Mothers in S. Korea, Israel and the US
One of the consequences of economic globalization has been that it is increasingly common for companies to employ workers in countries all around the globe. This situation provides new challenges and new opportunities for psychologists who are interested in questions that are related to the work place.
One issue that has been the focus of much attention is how dual roles in the family and on the job affect working mothers. Economic globalization provides a challenge to psychologists because most of the prior research on this issue has focused on American women and what may be characteristic of the working mother in the United States may not be common among working mothers in other cultures. However, economic globalization also provides the opportunity to expand our understanding of how work and family roles interact as cross-culture business interactions become more commonplace. The more closely we work together, the more opportunity we have to study how each of us works.
Research about working mothers has not only been dominated by studies that have focused on American women, it has typically been limited to a focus on the negative effects experienced by working mothers in both their family lives and their work place experiences. While anyone who has a job and is devoted to their family knows that the interaction between work and home can create problems, it may also be the case that these two areas of people’s lives can enhance and enrich each other. Moreover, examining the lives of working mothers in different cultures may provide valuable insights if it is discovered that work-family interactions that typically produce problems in one culture typically produce benefits in another.
Dr. Karen M. O’Brien and her colleagues Dr. Rachel Gali Cinamon at Tel Aviv University, Dr. Sung-Kyung Yoo at Ewha University and Heather Ganginis a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland have received a grant from the American Psychological Foundation to study work-family enrichment and work-family conflict in the United States, Israel and South Korea. Their work will examine how factors that are likely to be predictive of work-family conflict or enhancement such as the mother’s personality, coping resources and tangible assets are related to factors that can be affected by work and family interactions such as psychological well-being, depression and satisfaction with life, work and interpersonal relationships.
Dr. O’Brien and her colleagues will test two theoretical models of the roles work-family conflict and enhancement play in the relationship between predictor variables like personality and coping resources and outcome variables like depression and satisfaction with life. In the Direct Affect Model, which can be seen on the right (WFC = Work-Family Conflict and WFE = Work-Family Enrichment), work-family enrichment and work-family conflict are on a par with factors like personality, coping resources and tangible assets in that all of them directly affect outcome variables such as satisfaction with life.
The second model, called the Mediated Model and shown on the left, proposes that work-family enrichment and work-family conflict mediate the relationship between predictor variables and outcome variables. In this type of model predictor variables directly affect work-family enrichment and work-family conflict and the two work-family factors directly affect the outcome variables. For example, a woman’s coping resources or tangible assets may indirectly affect her degree of life satisfaction by directly affecting her work-family relationships.
The research funded by this grant has the potential to deepen our understanding of how work-family relationships can not only create problems for working mothers but can also enrich their lives. It also has the potential to provide new insights into how work and family interact by studying working mothers from different cultures.