Role Stress in Working Mothers Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2421 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Psychology

Role Stress in Working Mothers

The "overall conclusion seems to be that what matters most is the quality of a working mother's experiences in her various roles"

Richard O. Straub (2006, p. 109).

Stress Components

Stress costs both males and females American workers an average total of approximately $7,500 per year through absenteeism, decreased productivity, and workers' compensation payments, according to Richard O. Straub (2006) in the book, Health psychology: A biopsychosocial approach. Women, however, particularly "working mothers," typically experience more stress than men. Ulf Lundberg of the University of Stockholm explains: "Women's stress is determined by the interaction of conditions at home and work, whereas man's stress is determined more by situations at work" (Lundberg, as cited in Straub, p. 109). As working women generally accept greater responsibility than working men to fulfill home and family related duties, the paper addresses the crucial research question: What components could contribute to help a working mother constructively cope with stress related to simultaneously caring for children and filling a role in the workplace? Stress-related considerations relating to the study include perceptions of stress, working mothers, work-related concerns, appraising stress and potential practical implications.

Perceptions of Stress

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No distinct universal definition of stress exists. In the study, "Positive and Negative Affective Outcomes of Occupational Stress," Jennifer McGowan, Dianne Gardner, and Richard Fletcher (2006) assert, however, that contemporary research defines it as a "relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing ... And endangering his or her well-being" (Lazarus & Folkman, as cited in Fletcher, ¶ 1). Occupational stress, according to Fletcher, follows demands one experiences in his/her work environment that concern the way he/she functions at work and/or away from the work environment.

Term Paper on Role Stress in Working Mothers Assignment

During the past 35 years as occupational stress has reportedly increased, the number of married women with young children doubled in the labor force. In the study, "Parental role perceptions and the well-being of married women professionals with preschool-aged children," Patricia Kowalski (2007), Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of San Diego, relates details of her investigation of the perceptions of 86 married mothers regarding their parental role and personal well-being. During her study, Kowalski analyzed complete data sets retrieved from 80 mothers to determine "whether women differing perceptions of parental concerns and parental rewards differed on measures of well-being-self-esteem, perceived parenting competence, life-satisfaction, and health" (Results Section, ¶ 1). Multiple-role involvement proves complex, albeit, Kowalski's study finds, and the stereotype of the woman filling multiple roles experience a miserable life may prove to be false as the quality of a mother's roles determines her experiences. Consequently, understanding the actual nature of multiple-role involvement proves critical to expose misconceptions as they may stimulate guilt and stress for working mothers.

Fletcher (2006) argues that stress comprises an element of life and that no individual can completely avoid stress. Stress does not always trigger negative outcomes but may at times also produce beneficial outcomes.

Past research has predominantly focused on the negative aspects of stress. This is not surprising given the documented impacts of stress on health, well-being and work-related performance. & #8230;[T]he positive psychology movement proposes that, instead of focusing on human pathology, research attention should also be directed towards positive health, growth and well-being…. If negotiated appropriately, stress can be energizing, stimulating and growth producing for the individual as abilities are extended and new accomplishments made…. [I]ncreasing interest [exists] in the potential for positive outcomes from the stress process including stress-related growth and positive personal changes. (Fletcher, 2006, ¶ 2)

Contrary to "distress" which represents the negative aspect of stress, the word "eustress" depicts the positive aspects. Although some researchers equate stress with negative connotations, some influential writers suggest that stress does not inherently prove to be maladaptive (Fletcher, 2006).

Working Mothers

Like men and women in general, working mothers routinely manage multiple roles. In the article, "Being a busy working mother is good for your health, claims study, Lyndsay Moss (2006), health correspondent, reports that a study reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health purports that the practice of "being" a busy working mother is good for the mother. Researchers "found that by the age of 54, women who had partners, were mothers, and had worked, were far less likely to report ill-health than women who didn't fulfill all three roles"(Moss, ¶ 11). Even though managing a number of roles may be stressful for a working mother at times, filling a combination of roles contributes to better long-term health.

To compute the number of competing demands in women's lives, Straub (2006) notes that Lundberg developed a "total workload scale," and discovered that age and occupational level do not dramatically impact a woman's entire workload. Children in the woman's life, nevertheless, significantly influence this aspect of a woman's life. "In families without children, men and women each average 60 hours of work a week. In a family with three or more children, women average 90" (Straub, p, 108). The working mother's psychological and physiological response directly relates to her work as well as to her family.

Work-related Concerns

Combining family and work constitutes a critical concern contemporary working mothers currently face. In the book, New Dimensions in Women's Health, Linda L. Alexander, Judith Larosa, and William James Alexander (2009) point out: "Women continually juggle many task in an effort to perform well at work, one and household, provide a loving home for their children, spend quality time with their partners, and provide care for their elders (p. 427). They also note that women who fill multiple roles like mother and provider experience fewer occurrences of depression and other problems relating to mental health issues than women who fill one role. Nevertheless, in some instances, filling a number of roles can contribute to negative stress and strain.

Working mothers often experience work stresses considerably more than working fathers. "Single mothers frequently carry the double burden, resulting in them being even more stress than married working women" (Alexander, Larosa, & Alexander, 2009, p. 428). The following figure depicts a number of percentages working mothers typically earn, compared to what men may earn for performing identical jobs. This difference in pay comprises a work-related concern that could conceivably contribute to increased stress for the working mother, particularly one filling the role of the family's sole provider.

Women's Earnings vs. Men's (Alexander, Larosa, & Alexander, 2009, p. 421).

Despite typically being paid less than men for identical work, many working mothers frequently have to manage multiple responsibilities; maintaining high job performance as well as serving as the primary caregiver for children (Alexander, Larosa, & Alexander, 2009). Straub (2006) stresses that researchers contend that although the challenge of juggling multiple roles has proved to adversely affect a working mother's health, simultaneously; in some instances, the testing enhances the working mother's well-being. "Research on the question of whether having a job as well as a home and family enhances or threatens a woman's health is sparse and contradictory" (Straub, p. 108). Two competing hypothesis, the scarcity hypothesis and the enhancement hypothesis assert:

1. Scarcity Hypothesis: This supposition maintains that as women only have a limited amount of energy and time, those who contend with competing demands may also experience from role overload in conflict.

2. Enhancement hypothesis: This theory contends that benefits accompanying meaningful work significantly enhance the worker's self-esteem and prevail over the worker's outlay (Straub, 2006).

Appraising Stress

Stress, according to the transactional model, comprises a process that includes a primary appraisal or evaluations of threat or challenge, a secondary appraisal or coping and reappraisal. McGowan, Gardner, and Fletcher (2006) explain the following:

Primary appraisal involves a decision as to whether a demand (potential stressor) is both relevant and stressful in that it is seen to represent a potential threat to the individual's goals, beliefs or expectations…. Demands can also be appraised as 'irrelevant' or 'relevant but benign'. A demand appraised as irrelevant or as benign (offering the chance to preserve or enhance well-being) does not initiate the stress process as there is no potential threat to overcome…. If a demand is appraised as relevant and stressful then further appraisal takes place. (McGowan, Gardner, & Fletcher, 2006, Antecedents to eustress Section, ¶ 2)

Stressful appraisals involve an appraisal of threat or loss. When the individual perceives the demand to exceed available coping resources, yet acknowledges that the demand simultaneously depicts a challenge, the potential exists for mastery and personal growth (McGowan, Gardner, & Fletcher, 2006).

Potential Practical Implications

Managing stresses related to multiple roles in depicts a major contemporary challenge for working mothers and includes significant implications for their health and well-being. Knowing how to best manage stresses, albeit, comprises yet another challenge as the "prescriptions" sometimes prove to be complicated which, according to McGowan, Gardner, and Fletcher (2006), may explain why researchers regularly document stress management interventions as ineffective.

To effectively manage the "stressors" at work, the working mother needs to first identify her work stressors. Afterwards, she must assess and control the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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