Gender and Coping to Achieve Work-Life BalanceMen and women workers show similar and different ways of coping to achieve balance in life. The social context though affects how they cope.
All workers have work-life roles that carry a myriad of demands and issues. What intrigues gender researchers is how similar or how different men and women are when it comes to their coping styles. Though many point to similarities, there are those who notice other factors, particularly culture or the social context, that influence a person's manner of coping.
Gender Similarities and Differences in CopingIn Gender Differences in Coping: A Further Test of Socialization and Role Constraint Theories (1995), Sandra T. Sigmon, Annette L. Stanton, and C. R. Snyder support theories that explain how occupying common roles enables men and women to have similar coping strategies. They cite studies that contradict gender differences in coping skills. They further note how males and females use similar instrumental/problem-focused or expressive/emotion-focused coping strategies. Rosario, et al. (1988) further claim that previous studies on gender differences “reflect only small to moderate effect sizes and that they may result from different social role occupancy.”
To present a balanced view on how gender affects coping mechanisms, Sigmon, Stanton, and Snyder (1995) also mention researches on gender differences. These include:
- Pearlin and Schooler (1978) - “…women engaged in selective ignoring in parenting and marital domains more than men, and that this type of coping was associated with more negative outcomes and increased levels of stress.”
- Folkman and Lazarus community study (1980) - “…men reported using more problem-focused coping strategies at work, when they needed more information, or when they had to accept a situation.”
Billings and Moos (1981) - “…men used more problem-focused coping whereas women used more emotion-focused and avoidance coping.”
- Stone and Neale (1984) - “…reported that men engaged in direct action in coping with stressful events, whereas women were more likely to use relaxation techniques, religion, social support, catharsis, and distraction…”
- Rosario et al. study (1988) - “…women sought more social support when coping with stress, and in one study, men reported using more emotion-focused coping than women.”
With women portrayed as using passive or emotion-focused strategies compared to men’s active or problem-focused coping mechanisms, Sigmon, et al. (1995), however, emphasized “the need for a more integrated model to explain gender differences in coping.”
Impact of Social Context on CopingUnlike other studies that are slanted towards the “individualized male experience,” Stevan Hobfoll, et al.'s Gender and Coping: The Dual-Axis Model of Coping (1994) measures coping by looking into “both social behavior and individual activity.” It also features findings that echo the “problem versus emotion distinction.” These studies, they say, depict women as avoidant and more prone to depression than men because they would rather manage the negative emotions first before resolving the problem. Hobfoll, et al. also explain how the social context affects women’s coping more than it does men. They add that unlike men, women often get involved in situations where they have low sense of control.
Coping Strategies for Role Conflict of Selected Married Professional Women (1996) by Aurora Lobos illustrates such social context, wherein “women had more problems than men…experienced more work-oriented role strain…disturbed about their jobs interfering with their family…” Due to age-old notion that the household domain lies primarily on female hands, working women are advised to manage their time well and to assign tasks to other household members to lessen “domestic overload…which had been traditionally the wife’s concerns.” To cope with various demands, women often engage in prioritizing and compromising.
Written by Leann Zarah (email@example.com)
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