Balancing Work and Family; Men: The Scientific Truth; Scientific American Presents; by Pleck; 6 Page(s)
Stories in the media often portray contemporary men balancing an active family role with the breadwinning responsibilities of a career. At the same time, commonly held wisdom suggests that yesterday's men-even those from just a few decades ago-often failed at that juggling act, serving primarily as full-time workers and participating in few, if any, family activities. These images of present and past men, however, might arise more from folklore than fact. By studying exactly what activities American men do now, and have done in the past, social scientists find an interrelated web of trends that are changing men's roles.
In 1956 Swedish sociologist Alva Myrdal and British historian Viola Klein published Women's Two Roles: Home and Work. Their title introduced what became the leading understanding of the change in adult women's lives in industrial societies over the first half of the 20th century. In addition to their traditional child-rearing and homemaking role within the family, women were increasingly engaging in a second role: paid employment outside the family. In the decades subsequent to Women's Two Roles, Myrdal and other sociologists have tentatively suggested that in the long run, women could not succeed at both roles unless men also took on more family responsibilities. Our society is still just beginning to recognize that men, too, face the challenge of dual roles.