Role appraisal and social support influences on stress and life satisfaction of women in graduate and professional training


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Role appraisal and social support influences on stress and life satisfaction of women in graduate and professional training
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viii, 215 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Scherer, Coralie R
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Women graduate students -- California   ( lcsh )
Sex role   ( lcsh )
Stress (Psychology)   ( lcsh )
Quality of life   ( lcsh )
Counselor Education thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Counselor Education -- UF
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1991.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 185-198).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Coralie R. Scherer.
General Note:
General Note:

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University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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aleph - 001678767
oclc - 24915810
notis - AHZ0679
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Copyright 1991


Coralie R. Scherer

Dedicated to my husband, Michael Quigley, my daughter,
Rachel Glickman, my son, Daniel Quigley, and my stepson,
Shen Hunt, with love and appreciation for schooling me in
commitment, endurance, and limits.

And to Norman Rosenkrantz for being more than a friend. This
surely would not have happened without his support.


I wish to thank the following people for their help in

completing the dissertation.

Very special thanks are extended to Dr. Ellen Amatea,

my chairperson, for nurturing my interest in the area, her

guidance, patience, optimism, and unflagging belief that I

was on the right track and that I would, of course, get it


I wish to thank the members of my supervisory

committee, Dr. Harry Grater, Dr. Greg Neimeyer, and Dr. Jim

Morgan, for their encouragement, careful readings and

suggestions. I also want to thank Dr. Peggy Fong, former

member of my committee, for her recommendations on the

proposal and her tangible support.

I want to thank Dr. Jane Moorman, Director of

Counseling and Psychological Services, and Dr. Jennifer

Anderson, Staff Psychologist at the Counseling Center at

the University of California at Berkeley, for sponsoring me

and the study on the University of California at Berkeley


I wish to thank Dr. Richard Lazarus, Professor of

Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, for

his comments and suggestions on the design during the early


stages of development. My thanks go to Karen Garrett of

the Survey Research Center at the University of California

at Berkeley for her invaluable suggestions on format and

survey design. I also wish to thank Andrea Parecki for

her class notes and theoretical discussions.

My sincere appreciation goes to Emilie Osbourn, Dean

of Student Affairs for the School of Medicine at the

University of California at San Francisco, and her

administrative assistant, Julianne Munroe; William Hoskins,

Dean of Student Affairs for the School of Dentistry at the

University of California at San Francisco, and his

assistant, Sabrina Magobet; Leslie Oster, Dean of Student

Affairs, Reva Siegal, Professor, and Margarita Martinez,

Registrar at the Boalt School of Law at the University of

California at Berkeley, for smoothing the way for data

collection at the professional schools.

I want to thank Rudy Taay, Senior Administrative

Analyst in the Office of Academic Records, for his willing

support and suggestions for helpful persons to contact. I

wish to thank Helen Lee and Russell Low from the Office of

Academic Records at the University of California at

Berkeley for their programming assistance and willingness

to squeeze my work into their "off" moments.

I want to thank the staff at the College of San Mateo

Central Duplicating Service, especially Ray and Cory, for

their patience, skill, and speed in the reproduction of the

study materials.

I want to thank my daughter, Rachel Glickman, and her

friend, Aki Bando, for their indispensable assistance in

collating and bundling the surveys for mailing--even into

the wee hours. I also wish to thank Sheron McCartha for

labeling and helping with other odd jobs at odd moments.

My gratitude is unending to Jim Christopoulos and

Joanne Jensen for their insightful suggestions and help in

learning to use the mainframe, running and interpreting the

analyses, their good humor, kindness, and friendship.

I am especially grateful to Nory Ison for stepping in

at the eleventh hour to make my programs error free, giving

up his lunches to discuss strategies and interpretations of

the analyses, and for making it all seem clear.

Finally, my appreciation is extended to Michael Acree

for his invaluable and constructive critiques, suggestions

for further analyses, encouragement, and for making


I want to thank members of my family, Samuel and

Jeannette Scherer, Marlene and Lenny Riba, Wendy Smith,

Esther and Walter Rosen, Roberta and Sheldon Scott, Edith

Glickman, and special friends Sharon Key, Louis Wallace,

Judy and Jimmy Davison for letting me know through this

extended process that I was loved, was cared for, and



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ...............................................iv

ABSTRACT....................................... ................. ix


I INTRODUCTION ......................................... 1

Scope of the Problem..................................3
Need for the Study ...................................14
Purpose ..............................................16
Research Questions..................................17
Significance of the Study ...........................18
Definition of Terms ..................................20
Organization of the Study............................25

II LITERATURE REVIEW ....................................26

Women in Graduate and Professional Training..........31
Historical Context..............................33
Barriers to Women in Professional Graduate.
Education........................... ........ 36
Institutional factors......................37
Psycho-social constraints..................43
Women's Training and Advancement Patterns.......54
Choice of field............................57
Career patterns............................60
Perspectives on Multiple Role Research............... 65
Health Benefits of the Work Role.................65
Core Gender Assumptions .........................67
The Deviance Model..............................69
Scarcity Models.................................74
Expansion Models................................81
Stress Theories......................................93
Life events model concerns......................95
Transactional Stress Model......................97
Role of Social Support in Women's Stress............104
Social Support Findings........................104
Social Support Conceptual issues...............110
Social Support Methodological Concerns..........112
Transactional Formulations for Social Support..113
Convergence of Research ........................115
Variables in the Study.........................121

III METHODOLOGY ......................................... 123

Research Design..................................... 124
Life role variables............................ 124
Moderator variable .............................125
Criterion variables.............................126
Sampling Procedures .................................129
Measures of demographic information............135
Perceived quality of experience................136
Social support..................................139
Life satisfaction ..............................144
Data Collection.....................................146
Research Questions..................................146
Data Analyses.......................................147

IV RESULTS............................................. 149
Research Questions.................................. 149
Question One.................................... 149
Question Two.....................................152
Question Three.................................. 155
Question Four ..................................160
Summary .............................................166

V DISCUSSION...........................................168
Question One: What the Sample Reports...............168
Question Two: Role Combination Occupancy............171
Question Three: Perceptions of Role Quality.........173
Question Four: Perceptions of Social Support........175
Limitations of the Study............................178
Implications ........................................ 180
Summary .............................................184

REFERENCES ...............................................185

A COVER LETTER....................................200
QUESTIONNAIRE .................................. 202
C MEMO TO MEDICAL STUDENTS .......................211
D MEMO TO LAW STUDENTS ...........................213

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH... ..................................215


More American women are seeking advanced professional

training than ever before (Gappa & Uehling, 1979; McMillen,

1986; National Research Council, 1987; Ottinger, 1987). As

increasing numbers of women enter professional training,

questions are being raised as to how such training affects

women's psychological and physical well-being. Admittedly,

training for a profession is an arduous process (Astin,

1973; Poloma, 1972) requiring extensive commitments of

time (Patterson & Sells, 1973), energy, and money (Butler &

Marzone, 1980; Feldman, 1974; Patterson & Sells, 1973). In

addition, women in academic training settings continue to

report facing social and institutional barriers such as

having few or no female role models or mentors (Feldman,

1974; Gibbs, 1984; Hall & Sandler, 1982). Moreover, women

students indicate that they are often perceived by male

faculty and male students to be less competent and/or less

committed to training and to their field (Feldman, 1974;

Mellow & Goldsmith, 1988; Sandler & Hall, 1986; Schwartz &

Lever, 1973). Finally, women students have reported

experiencing discomfort with the sexualization of

faculty-student interactions, including sexual harassment

(Hall & Sandler, 1982; Sandler & Hall, 1986).

Is involvement in advanced professional training

beneficial or hazardous to women's mental health? Do women

engaged in a number of other life roles in addition to

graduate professional training place themselves at greater

risk for developing stress symptoms than do their female

colleagues who are not so involved? Although an

accumulating body of research (Barnett & Baruch, 1985;

Barnett & Baruch, 1987b; Crosby, 1987; Hoffman, 1973;

Thoits, 1983b; Verbrugge, 1983a; 1983b) suggests that

women's involvement in paid work in addition to the roles

of wife and mother has a positive effect on women's

physical and mental well-being, there has been only limited

attention given to examining the effects of women's

involvement in and appraisal of professional training along

with other significant life roles.

Previous studies have shown that women tend to have a

much lower rate of completion of professional training than

do men (Butler & Marzone, 1980; Feldman, 1974; Patterson &

Sells, 1973). Moreover, those women who do complete

professional training report career patterns which differ

markedly from their male counterparts (Astin, 1973;

Cartwright, 1978; 1979; 1987; Gallesse, 1985; Graham, 1972;

McMillen, 1986; Schwartz, 1989; J. White, 1972). Little

information is available, however, concerning how the

quality of women's experience in these various roles may

lead to these outcomes. Is the reported quality of the

training role, for example, strongly associated with

certain stress outcomes? Do certain role involvements

have a detrimental effect on women students' well-being

while others have a beneficial one?

Despite the increased attention given to examining the

effects of involvement in paid work for women, little is

known about the experience of women involved in

professional training. A number of studies suggest that

women's expectations of work (Holahan & Gilbert, 1979a;

Sekaran, 1985), their perceptions of work environment

quality (Barnett & Baruch, 1985; Baruch & Barnett, 1986;

Holahan & Gilbert, 1979b; Stewart & Malley, 1987), and the

nature of their role burdens outside the domain of their

occupation (Barnett, 1982; Baruch & Barnett, 1986; Gilbert

& Hanson, 1983; Nevill, 1984; Verbrugge, 1987) can

influence their health risk. Their resources for coping

with these situations (Amatea & Cross, 1981; Amatea & Fong,

1987; Gibbs, 1984; Gilbert, Holahan & Manning, 1981; Hall,

1972; Harrison & Minor, 1982; Pearlin & Schooler, 1978;

Skinner, 1980) can also influence health indicators. Few

efforts have been made to apply these work role models to

the study of women in professional training.

Scope of the Problem
Research examining the relationship between the role

involvements and stress of women in professional training

is quite limited. However, a significant body of research

has developed in which the relationship between women's

employment status and stress outcomes are explored. This

literature yields two types of information useful to the

researcher interested in examining women in professional

training contexts: research findings concerning the

effects of multiple role involvements on women's mental and

physical well-being, and a number of useful conceptual and

methodological research tools.

An examination of the research literature shows

several marked shifts in conceptualizations of and

methodologies used in the study of women's roles. There

have been a number of studies exploring the impact of

multiple roles and particular role combinations on well-

being indices such as self esteem, happiness, and

satisfaction (Beckman, 1978; Gilbert, Holahan & Manning,

1981; Holahan & Gilbert, 1979a; 1979b; Sekaran, 1985); on

stress reaction indices such as anxiety or depression

(Barnett & Baruch, 1985; Baruch, Biener & Barnett, 1987a;

1987b; Kandel, Davies & Raveis, 1985; Keith & Schafer,

1980); and psycho-physiological symptoms (Cleary, 1987;

Cooke & Rousseau, 1984; Verbrugge, 1983a).

Much of this well-being and health outcome research is

based on core gender assumptions regarding male and female

roles. Among those scrutinized are assumptions regarding

whether women are innately (e.g. biologically) suited for

and protected by (or subjugated to) domestic and nurturing

roles (Baruch, Biener & Barnett, 1987a; Crosby, 1987;

Poloma & Garland, 1971) of homemaker, wife, and mother and

their outside-the-home corollaries of secretary, nurse, or

teacher. In the earliest studies of women's role stress

the endorsement of "true womanhood" (Fowlkes, 1987) was

clear. If a woman aspired to "male" fields or the

professions, she was viewed as deviant (Almquist & Angrist,

1970; Levitt, 1971; Marshall & Witjing, 1980; Yogev,

1983). Support for these core gender assumptions was less

blatant but nonetheless apparent in the research derived

from later theories, like the scarcity hypothesis that

was first proposed by Goode (1960) and supported by other

theorists. "Scarcity" in this model referred to a

sparsity of emotional and physical energy, that results

from the draining efforts expended in engaging in numerous

roles. According to this view, engaging in multiple roles

inevitably results in role conflict and stress, especially

for women.

Such theories conceptualize a linear and additive

relationship among roles assuming that more roles result

in greater demands for performance and less energy

available to meet these proliferating obligations. Hence,

the more roles a person occupies the less energy he or she

would have, the more conflict would be experienced, and the

more likely that well-being would be jeopardized.

Interestingly, the roles assumed to conflict were different

for men and women: family and work role conflicts were

scrutinized closely for women and rarely even considered

for men (Barnett & Baruch, 1987b; Coser & Rokoff, 1971;

Crosby, 1987; Fowlkes, 1987). The assumption was that

when a woman worked outside the home she took on an

overload because her primary responsibility was to take

care of her home and her family's physical and emotional

needs. She felt guilty if work and domestic spheres

clashed. In contrast, a man's involvement in the family

was believed to be less direct and onerous. He

demonstrated his engagement in the family's operation and

well-being by his breadwinning efforts. His work and

family roles converged rather than conflicted and no

negative emotional or physical outcomes were expected from

dual role membership.

The typical research design based on this model has

been that of comparing roles occupied two at a time and

taking measures of role conflict (Beckman, 1978; Holahan &

Gilbert, 1979a; 1979b; Johnson & Johnson, 1976; Mead,

1972; Poloma & Garland, 1971; Staines, Pleck, Shepard, &

O'Connor, 1978; Van Meter & Agronow, 1982). Such a

seemingly simple approach carried inherent flaws. By

assuming and limiting their studies to examinations of

conflict, investigators overlooked the possibility that

there could be positive outcomes for multiple role

membership. Also, the relationship between conflict and

well-being was not clearly demonstrated but implied:

persons reporting high conflict were presumed to experience

negative health consequences. Not surprisingly, results of

studies following this research design were ambiguous.

Some women reported role conflict or strain; whereas,

others with similar seeming role involvements did not

(Barnett, 1982; Barnett & Baruch, 1985; Holahan & Gilbert,

1979b; Skinner, 1980). In addition, more recent large

scale epidemiological studies have failed to report a

significant compromise in mental or physical health

(Verbrugge, 1983a; 1983b) for women who combine work and

family roles.

At about the same time, Coser & Rokoff (1971)

elucidated a position that ran counter to the prevailing

notions of gender norms. These theorists argued that any

incompatibility between work and family roles might be a

cultural rather than a biological artifact. Hitting a

responsive chord among other thinkers in the field (Thoits,

1983b; 1987), this perspective significantly shifted the

course of research efforts on women's multiple roles.

In the mid 1970s the expansion hypothesis proposed by

Marks (1977) and Sieber (1974) countered the scarcity model

and supported a cultural explanation for gender differences

in role strain. This theory emphasized the privileges

rather than the obligations that accrue to multiple role

bearers. Roles certainly carried demands and expectations

but they could also carry with them the possibility for

status, prestige, and other social resources for meeting

these demands. They argued that the rewards of occupying

several roles offset the costs. Recent research by Barnett

& Baruch (1987b), Cartwright (1987), Coleman, Antonucci &

Adelmann (1987), Crosby (1987), Gove & Zeiss (1987),

Stewart & Malley (1987), Thoits (1983b), and Verbrugge

(1987) supported this expansion hypothesis. In an

analysis of within sex differences in women's physical

health, Verbrugge (1983b) concluded that multiple role

involvements for women sampled were associated with better


If, as research seemed to indicate, occupying multiple

roles generally had beneficial health outcomes for both men

and women, then what would account for particular roles and

role combinations having varying effects? One perspective

conceived of roles as external sets of expectations to be

assumed by an individual. Another perspective considered

social roles as psychological constructions wherein each

demand or expectation was mediated by cognitive appraisals

as to its relevance and fit for a particular individual and

her resources. Multiple role research has been evolving

toward this latter, more psychological, conceptualization.

More emphasis is being placed on the personal meanings

subjects attribute to their roles along with other possible

mediating circumstances, such as the giving and receiving

of social support, in an effort to explain the differences

in well-being outcomes among women. One model that has

emphasized the role of cognitive mediational processes in

health outcome research is the transactional model of


An application of a transactional model of stress to

the stress experience of women is based on a dynamic

conceptualization of the individual and her environment.

According to this theory stress occurs when the

environment is appraised by individuals as taxing or

exceeding the resources available to meet them. When this

state occurs negative consequences follow and one's well-

being is threatened. Demands are seen as emanating from

the environment in the form of discrete life events which

may be either acute, major life events, or chronic,

low-level life strains and daily hassles. A key feature of

this model is the role that cognitions (called appraisals)

played in mediating reactions to those events. Primary

appraisals describe the individual's assessment of what is

at stake for her: how the demands might affect her well-

being. Secondary appraisals involve the individual's

assessment of the emotional, physical, and social resources

available to her to meet these demands. These combined

appraisals result in her labeling the situation as a

harm-loss, a threat (of harm or loss), or a challenge; and

guide her plan of action (coping strategy) (Lazarus &

Folkman, 1984; Lazarus & Launier, 1978; Pearlin, 1983;

Pearlin, Menaghan, Lieberman, & Mullan, 1981; Schaefer,

Coyne, & Lazarus, 1981). Through a reappraisal process

individuals monitor person-environment transactions and

make adjustments in their coping efforts.

Social support is seen as one social resource for

coping with and meeting such demands (Lazarus & Folkman,

1984; Lazarus & Launier, 1978; Pearlin, 1983; Pearlin et

al., 1981; Schaefer et al., 1981). Like the event

itself, potential resources for coping are appraised and

marshalled into the coping response.

Social support as a personal resource would seem to be

of key interest to multiple role researchers since both

areas of inquiry are concerned with personal functioning as

a result of social ties. Indeed, much has been written

about the stress moderating effects of social support

inherent in multiple roles. Belle (1987) argued that

members of social networks help prevent demoralization in

times of distress and increase options in confronting

change and loss. Involvement in supportive relationships

has been correlated with lowered stress in individuals

experiencing a variety of problems including: job loss

(Gore, 1978), complications in childbirth (Nuckolls,

Cassel, & Kaplan, 1972), adaptation to the mothering role,

maladaptive parenting, adult onset of hearing loss (Turner,

1981; Turner, Frankel, & Levin, 1983), psychosis (Eaton,

1978, Lin, Dean, & Ensel, 1981; Turner, 1981), physical

illness (Sarason, Sarason, Potter, & Antoni, 1985),

occupational stress (LaRocco, House, & French, 1980),

single parenting (Brown & Gary, 1985), and engagement in

nursing training (Norbeck, Lindsey & Carrieri, 1981).

Although difficulties in conceptualizing and

operationalizing social support have resulted in

ambiguities about whether it functions as a main or

moderating effect, empirical studies tend to show positive

though moderate support for this contention, especially

when subjects' perceptions of the quality of support were

considered (Turner, 1981).

Life stress and social support investigators have gone

to great lengths to describe in detail the origins,

mediators, and manifestations of stress. Yet Pearlin

(1983) argued that in their preoccupation with life changes

these researchers have created an imbalance in the

understanding of the causes of stress. He gave three

reasons why role involvement is relevant in the

investigation of the stress-health connection. First,

social scientists are concerned with repeated and

patterned behavior and experiences as well as "ephemeral,

once-in-a lifetime episodes" (p. 5). Second, people are

socialized to invest themselves in their institutional

roles. Finally, because an array of social forces converge

in one's roles they can become a potent source of stress.

Thus, Pearlin concluded that roles, especially their

perceived quality, as well as life events can be a

profitable area in which to seek the antecedents to stress.

"What is becoming evident is a growing body literature

pointing to the quality of the event as the determinant of

whether or not it will result in stress, not the occurrence

of the event per se" (Pearlin, 1983, p. 4).

Thus, most recent researchers have attempted to

clarify the circumstances under which women's involvement

in multiple roles may or may not result in psychological

and physical distress. These research efforts have

resulted in several advances in current methodology: the

development of more rigorous ways of describing the nature

of role conditions women experience, the identification of

significant moderating variables, and more complex


While early researchers relied on gross measures of

mere role occupancy, changes in the conceptualization of

women's experience have moved from counting the number of

roles to analyzing the effects of combinations of roles,

and finally to more sensitive measurements of women's

perceptions of the quality of their roles (Barnett &

Baruch, 1987a; 1987b; Baruch & Barnett, 1986; Thoits, 1987;

Verbrugge, 1987). Recent studies of women engaging in

multiple roles more precisely suggest that not all roles or

role combinations have a positive effect on women. The

perceived quality of one's roles could reverberate through

the entire role constellation and effect one's

well-being. Researchers report, for example, that a

husband's perceived support, or lack thereof, influences

the degree of role conflict or strain experienced (Beutell

& Greenhaus, 1982; Hall & Hall, 1979). Other researchers

suggest that being a mother, especially of children under

age six, is often associated with psychological distress

(Barnett & Baruch, 1985c Cook & Rousseau, 1984; Keith &

Schafer, 1980; Staines et al., 1978) and physical disorder

(Verbrugge, 1983a; 1983b)--whether the woman works outside

the home or not. Furthermore, studies indicate that women

with large families that include children under age six are

at greater risk for depression. The role of mother was

consistently related to role overload and conflict (Barnett

& Baruch, 1985).

A second advance in current multiple role research

efforts has been to consider individual factors that may

have a mediating effect on the relationship between

potential role stressors and psychological and physical

distress outcomes. Some studies have focused on

identifying personality variables that operated as

"personal resources" during stressful times (Kobasa, 1979;

Kobasa, Maddi & Couringtion, 1981; Kobasa, Maddi, & Kahn,

1982; Kobasa & Pucetti, 1983). Others surmise that

various coping strategies have an intervening influence

(Amatea & Cross, 1981; Beutell & Greenhaus, 1982; Pearlin &

Schooler, 1978). Still other researchers have noted that

social support influences reported levels of stress (Amatea

& Fong, 1989; Brown & Gary, 1985; Turner, 1983).

A third advance in these research efforts has involved

adopting more sophisticated data analyses to predict

outcomes. Such analyses provide a more detailed look at

the varying contributions of potential antecedents.

Finally, while earlier researchers of women's multiple

role experience studied roles and assumed distress, more

recent researchers often utilized a transactional model of

stress and assume that individuals' cognitive appraisals

mediate between events in the environment and responses in

the organism. Thus, outcomes of women's role involvement

are not predetermined; they can be either positive or

negative. By using both models to examine the stress

experience of professional level women graduate students,

established constructs in each tradition can be evaluated

in new ways. Such a hybrid model incorporates contextual

demands as well as intraindividual responses (life events

construed through one's role expectations). In so doing

the appraisal of roles occupied can legitimately be

considered an antecedent to the stress response (Pearlin,

1983). Thus, life events can take on different meanings

when viewed in the context of a particular role, and the

investigator can leave open the direction of outcome.

A synthesis like this allows one to consider such

questions as Do women who train for highly competitive,

typically male-dominated professions report high levels of

stress? Does the evaluation of the quality of experience

in one's life roles influence the levels of stress and

satisfaction reported? Do particular combinations of life

roles and/or social ties exacerbate or alleviate the duress

experienced during professional training?

Need for the Study
To date, researchers interested in the role of stress

in women have explored the impact of the professional

training context in limited ways (Astin, 1973; Butler &

Marzone, 1980; Cartwright, 1987; Feldman, 1974; Hall &

Sandler, 1982; Sandier & Hall, 1986). While much

attention has been given to looking at women involved in

employment along with their other life role combinations,

little empirical evidence is available on the effects of

professional training on women's life satisfaction and

stress. One might expect that the student role, especially

in combination with other roles, might result in some

distress. In addition, although the mediating effects of

an optimistic appraisal of a stressful situation and

personal resources for coping have been documented in male

and mixed sex populations, they have not been examined for

their relative impact on the female professional-in-


Second, whereas the transactional model of stress
provides a useful framework, few efforts had been made to

utilize this model in examining women students' role

experience. The features of a transactional model of

stress focus on those cognitive mediators which women

might use in constructing personal meaning for the various

aspects of their major life roles. Thus, the researchers

examined the perceptions of students holding varying role

combinations, especially individual differences in meaning

and personal importance attributed to various features of

the roles occupied (appraisal).

Finally, it may be useful to look at women's multiple

roles in terms of benefits as well as demands. Social

support may be one of the benefits derived from engaging in

multiple roles. Whereas social support is clearly not a

comprehensive measure of coping resources nor an

explanation for how roles are experienced psychologically,

it is one facet of role experience that had some potential

predictive power (Amatea & Fong, 1989). Appraisal of

coping resources can be considered part of the stress

perception process and thereby has the potential to affect

subjective perceptions of well-being. Thus, research is

needed to describe the levels of stress and life

satisfaction experienced by women involved in professional

training, and to determine how perceived role quality and

social support affect the levels of stress and life

satisfaction in this population.

The purpose of this study was three-fold. First, the

physical and psychological well-being of women engaged in

professional graduate education was examined. Two indices

of physical and psychological well-being were considered:

(a) reported levels of stress symptoms and (b) degree of

reported life satisfaction. Second, relationships between

women's physical and psychological well-being and their

role involvements were explored. Two aspects of women's

role involvement were assessed: (a) the particular

combination of roles occupied and (b) the quality of the

experience within each role. Third, using a transactional

stress model, the mediating influence of social support on

women's physical and psychological well-being was explored.

Research Questions
In this study, the levels of physical and

psychological well-being experienced by women students and

the relationships between these levels of physical and

psychological well-being and their role involvements and

social support were described. The specific questions

were as follows:

1. How can women engaged in professional graduate

education be described in terms of (a) the intensity of

stress they experience? (b) the strength of life

satisfaction they express? (c) the combination of roles in

which they engage? (d) the degree of life role quality

they report? (e) the level of social support they


2. Do women involved in different life role

combinations differ regarding their reported levels of

stress and life satisfaction?

3. How do women's appraisal of their role experiences

relate to their levels of stress and life satisfaction?

4. How do women's role appraisal and social support

relate to the level of stress and life satisfaction they


Significance of the Study
Examining the influence of the perceived quality of

experience in varying life roles in moderating the

reported levels of stress and life satisfaction in women

professional level graduate students may contribute to the

ongoing refinement of theories of vocational development

for women. Moreover, such results may be helpful in

shaping institutional policies to meet the needs of women

thus engaged. Finally, the results of this study may be

useful to counselors and other helping professionals in

assisting women in planning their work and family life

roles, in developing relevant and responsive programs, and

in providing optimal treatments.

Until recently women's mental and physical health

concerns have been considered within the framework of male

models. Griffith (1983b) noted that "studies of women

are needed to identify their stressors, symptoms, and

coping patterns as they change during the adult years.

With this information, health professionals can assist

women with their health-related problems, support

appropriate coping patterns, and promote healthier

life-styles" (p. 311). This is particularly true of the

growing numbers of highly educated women.

Women's career development, to a greater extent than

men's, appears to revolve around family considerations. If

the influence of life role stressors and the impact of

family roles on the well-being of women preparing for

professions could be tested more directly and be more

clearly understood, a contribution could be made to the

ongoing formulation and refinement of theories of gender

differentiated vocational development for women. In

addition, the results of this study may have implications

for family planning by providing useful information for

decision-making about the timing of child-bearing and

career preparation. Similarly, such information may be

helpful in shaping curricula and institutional policy to

meet educational needs unique to women graduate students

who concurrently engage in family roles. Key areas of

concern for counselors in college settings are optimal

career development as well as individual and family

adjustment. Other health professionals on campuses are

perhaps more concerned with forms of physical and

psychosomatic complaints that appear to be stress-related.

By increasing the understanding of the combined influences

of life role involvements, student and other role demands,

and social support on the felt stress and satisfactions of

women engaged in professional graduate studies this study

may help sensitize counselors and other health

professionals in training and in the field to relevant

areas of concern.

Definitions of Terms

A number of terms are used throughout this paper, and

are further defined and elaborated here.

Appraisals (cognitive) consist of a continuously changing

set of judgments about the significance of the flow of

events for the person's well-being (Lazarus & Launier,

1978, p. 302).

Coming consists of efforts, both action-oriented and

intrapsychic, to manage (i.e. master, tolerate,

reduce, minimize) environmental and internal demands,

and conflicts among them, which tax or exceed a

person's resources (Lazarus & Launier, 1978, p. 311).

CoDina competence includes a set of social skills a person

learns and draws upon in stressful encounters with the

environment (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p. 250).

Demands are pressures from the environment that if not met

and neutralized somehow, will result in harmful

consequences to a person (Lazarus & Launier, 1978, p.


Demands (external) are events occurring outside a person

that impose adaptive requirements that, in the event

of failure of suitable action, will lead to negative

consequences (Lazarus & Launier, 1978, p. 296).

Demands (internal) refer to goals values, commitments,

programs, or tasks acquired by an individual (or

social system or tissue system) whose thwarting or

postponement would have negative consequences or

implications (Lazarus & Launier, 1978, p. 296-7).

Life roles are patterns of expectations which apply to

particular social positions and which normally

persist independently of the person occupying the

position (Merton, 1957).

Life role appraisals are cognitive perceptions and

judgments about the quality of experience (rewards and

concerns) arising from patterns of expectations which

apply to particular social positions and the

significance that they have for the person's well-


Life role involvements are the number and combination of

major life roles in which one is currently engaged.

Life satisfaction is an individual's assessment of the

nature and quality of his or her life experience.

Multiple role persons are those who simultaneously engage

in one or more of the major life roles of student,

employee, spouse, and/or parent.

Perceived social support refers to the nature of the

interactions occurring in social relationships,

especially how these are evaluated by the person as to

their supportiveness (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p.

249). Social support is one element in an

individual's appraisal of and subsequent coping with

stress. Support seeking results from appraisals

indicating that there is a threat to which one must

respond, that information or help is needed to deal

adequately with the threat, and that aid is perceived

to be available within one's support network

(Procidano & Heller, 1983, p. 2). Social support is

also the extent to which an individual believes that

his or her needs for support, information, and

feedback are fulfilled (Procidano & Heller, 1983, p.


Resources (adaptive) consist of any properties of the

system that have the potential capacity to help meet

demands and hence to prevent the negative consequences

that failure of suitable action would entail (Lazarus

& Launier, 1978, p. 297).

Roles (social) consist of the systems of expectations which

exist in the social world surrounding the occupant of

a position. Prescribed roles are expectations

regarding a person's behavior toward occupants of some

other position; Subiective roles consist of those

specific expectations occupants of certain positions

perceive as applicable to their own behavior when they

interact with the occupants of some other position.

Enacted roles consist of the specific overt behaviors

of occupants of certain positions when they interact

with the occupants of some other position (Deutsch &

Krauss, 1965, p. 175).
Role ambiguity occurs when a person is unclear as to what

is expected and it thereby unable to plan effectively

or to behave in a direct manner (Lazarus & Folkman,

1984, p. 239).

Role conflict occurs when an otherwise benign social

demand causes stress if satisfying it violates a

strongly held value; can also arise when, in order to

satisfy the demands of one role, the requirements of

another must suffer (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, 238-


Role demands are normative patterns of expectations about

behavior. They can be important in shaping a

person's thoughts, feelings, and actions while

not necessarily being a source of stress (Lazarus

& Folkman, 1984, p. 238).

Role overload occurs when social demands exceed a person's

resources (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p. 239).

Role proliferation is a situation in which the individual

encounters and seeks to fulfill several disparate

and disassociated roles. It requires deep

commitment to two or more roles. These roles are

synchronous and continuous and constantly pose

competitive concerns and demands (Gilbert et al.,


Role strains are the hardship, challenges, and conflicts or

other problems that people come to experience as they

engage over time in normal social roles (Pearlin,

1983, p.8).

Social support has three types of functions: (a) emotional,

including attachment, reassurance, being able to rely

on and confide in a person; (b) tangible, involving

direct aid such as loans and gifts, and services such

as taking care of someone who is ill, doing a job or

chore, etc.; (c) informational, providing information

or advice, and giving feedback about how a person is

doing (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p. 250).

Stress is indicated by signs and intensity of physical,

behavioral, and psychological symptoms

(somatization, obsessive-compulsive, interpersonal

sensitivity, anxiety and depression) (Derogatis et.

al., 1974).

A transactional stress model is a cognitive-phenomenolo-

gical analysis of psychological stress wherein several

varieties of relationships that are said to occur between

the personal and the environment are being mediated by

cognitive appraisal processes. The three key stress-

relevant relationships are harm-loss, threat, and

challenge. They describe a balance of forces such that

environmental demands tax or exceed the resources of the

person. It is a model that seeks merely to describe the

stress process, rather than predict or explain it (Lazarus

& Launier, 1978, p. 288).

Women enguaed in professional graduate education are women

who are currently preparing for professional careers

and are actively pursuing a doctoral degree, or a

professional degree in dentistry, law, medicine.

Organization of the Study

The remainder of the study is presented in four

chapters. Chapter II consists of a review and analysis of

the relevant literature. Chapter III presents the

methodology of the study including a discussion of the

design, the population and sample, the sampling procedure,

instrumentation and variables, the data collection

procedures, data analysis, and the limitations of the

study. The results of the study are presented in Chapter

IV. The final chapter is devoted to a discussion and

interpretation of the results, the limitations of the

study, and consequent recommendations.


The purpose of this chapter is to review and analyze

the theoretical and research literature concerning

professional women's role stress. Three major areas were

addressed in this review: the status of women in graduate

and professional training, theoretical perspectives on

professional women's role stress, and the role of social

support in the study of women's stress.

In the first section the marked increase in the number

of women entering graduate training in male-dominated

professions in the last decade is discussed along with

literature describing the concomitant institutional and

social pressures which women in these contexts may face.

The second section provides an historical overview of the

various theoretical and research perspectives used in

studying women in the professions. This is followed by a

review of the stress and social support research

literature. In addition to describing pertinent research,

each of these sections includes a discussion of the

conceptual and methodological issues and problems relevant

to that body of research. The fifth section details the

most recent studies that represent a crossover of research


traditions. The chapter concludes with a summary

highlighting and integrating the concepts reviewed.

The controversy about the effects of women working,

especially in highly competitive, male dominated

professions, has continued unabated over the last twenty

years. The trends and conclusions about the effects of

women working keep shifting, but at the heart of the matter

lie gnawing questions about the costs incurred in terms of

women's productivity and longevity in the workplace

(Schwartz, 1989), the effects of women working on the

health and quality of life for their families, and the

effects on the working professionals themselves who are

wives and mothers. As prevalent as these concerns may be,

very little is known about women's stress experience during

the time they are involved in graduate and professional

training. How complex are their role involvements? What

are the costs and benefits of their roles during this

period of their lives? Do they actually experience and

exhibit the signs and symptoms of distress? Do they

express satisfaction with their lives?

Although there is some research on this population, it

is limited and rarely inquires about life roles as a

source of distress or satisfaction. There are, however,

two separate but parallel bodies of literature that yielded

important parallels and suggested variables and methods for

study: multiple role research and life stress research


Although paid employment is an economic necessity for

many women, becoming a highly educated, high achieving

professional is a challenging lifestyle choice open to

only a select few. Training for a profession is a long

and arduous process. Advanced professional training

typically involves a multi-year commitment to advanced

postgraduate education (which can be unevenly funded) with

progressively increasing demands for responsibility-taking

and high level performance. Basic law, dental and medical

education usually lasts three to four years. Depending on

areas of interest and type of specialty, internships and

residencies can add years. Doctoral education also spans

many years: two to four years of coursework plus clinical

training, teaching and/or research and dissertation

writing. Patterson and Sells (1973) reported the finding

from their national study of doctoral training found that

the mean time for completing the doctorate was 11.7 years

in the humanities and 7.3 years in the physical sciences.

The possibility of postdoctoral training can stretch that

time commitment even further.

Aside from a considerable time commitment, the

professional training process itself is quite rigorous.

Voluminous amounts of reading, extensive writing and high

performance on exams are de ricueur (Cartwright, 1979;

Poloma, 1972; Roby, 1972). In addition to coursework,

students are expected to demonstrate clinical, teaching

and/or research competence. Thus, not surprisingly,

admission to professional graduate programs is limited to a

select group of persons with strong academic promise.

Although the percentages vary by campus and program women

who are admitted and those who complete graduate degrees

comprise only a fraction of the general population.

According to Astin (1973),

Women doctorates constitute a unique group in
that they are a small minority among the female
population as a whole. Less than half of all
female high school graduates enroll in college,
about half of this number graduate from college,
and of those who graduate one in a hundred go on
to obtain the Ph.D. (p. 139)

Though her statement was based on sixteen-year-old figures

and limited to doctorates, the numbers of highly educated

women professionals (doctorates, lawyers, physicians and

dentists) completing their training as of 1987 were still

quite small in number when compared to the general

population (National Research Council, 1987).

Studies have shown that women typically enter graduate

school with exceptionally strong academic and intellectual

credentials (Butler & Marzone, 1980). A higher proportion

of women than men, for example, have very high aptitude

scores (Astin, 1973) and grade point averages (GPA) at the

time of graduate school entry, and while GPA's for graduate

students were not consistently reported there were data

indicating the women have higher GPA's [than men] when

entering graduate school (Butler & Marzone, 1980, p. 38)."

In this regard, Butler and Marzone (1980) found that over

the span of their undergraduate years 25% of women earned

GPA's in the A to A- range compared to 17% of men, that the

ratios were similar for the B+ GPA's, while grades of B or

lower are earned by 63% of men (compared to 49% of women).

Moreover, women were usually rated as capable students

while in graduate school. For example, among the select

recipients of Woodrow Wilson Fellowships faculty more often

ranked women as "excellent" and "very good" (76%) than they

did men (66%) (Patterson & Sells, 1973).

Despite the evidence of women's strong academic

promise, they formed a distinct minority in graduate


When we examine overall enrollment in graduate
education, we can see that women constitute a
minority of graduate students in all types of
institutions. They are more likely to be
found in medium- or low-quality colleges
than in universities. Graduate education at
medium- or low-quality colleges is often
oriented toward a master's degree in education,
and we would thus expect higher female enrollment
at such institutions. There is no relationship
between the quality of a university and female
representation. Women constitute about a
quarter of the enrollment at high-, medium-, and
low-quality universities. (Feldman, 1974, p. 15)

Men and women appeared to have equal access to high quality

institutions with "approximately 29 percent of each

receiving their training at 'top ten' universities (i.e.

Columbia, University of California at Berkeley, Yale,

Cornell, University of Illinois, Stanford, University of

Michigan, Chicago, Harvard and U.C.L.A.)" (Feldman, 1974,

p. 15). In spite of this minority status, a growing

number of women appeared to be well qualified and

motivated to undertake the commitments of time and energy

required for professional training.

Women in Graduate and Professional Training

That women are entering graduate programs and

receiving professional degrees in increasing numbers is

substantially documented. A cover story in the Chronicle

of Higher Education proclaimed, "women are flocking to

graduate school in record numbers, and many are

specializing in fields that were dominated by men a dozen

years ago. Today, women are earning one-third of all the

doctoral degrees awarded" (McMillen, 1986, p.1).

The American Council on Education Division of Policy

Analysis and Research reported that during the decade from

1973-74 to 1983-84 the total number of first professional

degrees increased 39 percent (from 53,816 to 74,900).

However, in the same decade the number of first

professional degrees awarded to women increased an

astounding 340% (from 5,286 to 23,256). This was a period

in which women made significant gains in all professions,

among them law (26%), dentistry (18%), and medicine (17%).

(Ottinger, 1987).

The Fall 1985 issue of the Civil Rights Forum was

devoted to detailing this phenomenon in four professional

fields. It stated,

More women are entering traditionally male
dominated professional fields in recent years
than they did twenty, or even ten, years ago.
Statistics on degrees awarded to men and women
for dentistry, medicine, law, and engineering
reveal a steady progress of females into each of
these fields. In the academic year 1982-83
colleges awarded professional degrees in
dentistry to 954 women, in medicine to 4,134
women, in law to 13,303 women, and, in
engineering doctor's degree to 124 women.
(Statistics reveal, 1985)
The figures for 1987, the most recent data available,

indicated that women law graduates numbered about 13,000;

new women doctorates were over 11,000; those who recently

became physicians were 4,500; and new women dentists

constituted about 1,000 (National Research Council, 1987).

First time professional degrees were defined as the
"completion of the academic requirements for beginning

practice in a given profession" (Butler & Marzone, 1980, p.

52). Trends for awarding first time professional degrees

to women between 1949-50 and 1982-83 were summarized in the

following way. In the field of dentistry women were

regularly awarded 1% of degrees from 1949-50 until 1972-73.

The academic year 1973-74 marked the beginning of a steady

annual increase varying between 1% and 4% such that by the

1982-83 academic year 17% of dental degrees were awarded to

women and in 1983-4 their numbers rose to 20% (Ottinger,

1987). This trend shows no sign of leveling off. It was

predicted that by 1991-92 26% of dental degrees will be

awarded to women.

Medicine awarded 10% of its degrees to women in 1949-

50 but by 1951-52 this proportion dropped to below 5

percent. Women medical school graduates remained below 5%

for the next 20 years. Between 1963-64 and 1969-70 the

medical degrees awarded to women inched up to between 6%

and 8%. Beginning with the 1973-74 academic year

proportional increases of 2% to 3% each successive year has

raised the percentage of women receiving medical degrees

to 27% by the 1982-83 academic year. In the 1983-4

academic year their ranks rose to 28%. It was predicted

that by the academic year 1991-92 the proportion of women

receiving medical degrees would rise to 36% if their

numbers increased by only 1% annually.

Although no comparable statistics were found for women

law graduates in the early 1950's, from 1955-56 until 1963-

64 approximately 3% of law degrees were awarded to women.

The year 1965-66 heralded a slow growth in women jurists,

edging from 4% in that year to 7% by 1971-72. A period of

rapid advance commenced in 1973-74 which saw the percentage

of women law graduates rise to 36% by 1982-83, and to 37%

in 1983-4. As in the health fields this trend also shows

no sign of abatement. Civil Rights Forum statisticians

predicted 45% of law school graduates in 1991-92 would be

female if annual enrollments increased each year by 1%

(Statistics reveal, 1985).

Historical Context

The growth of the last decade can be even more greatly

appreciated when placed in the historical context. Butler

and Marzone (1980) examined trends for women receiving

doctorate as well as professional degrees during the last

100 years and found that

the percentage of doctor's degrees awarded to
women has grown from 6% to 26%. (Table 61) In
1879 women received 6% of the doctorates.
Although this declined to 1% in 1889, it
increased to 15% by 1919, remaining steady over
the next ten years. Then it began a decline that
lasted through the next two decades. After 1959
the percentage of women began to increase so that
by 1969 women were 13% of those earning the
doctorate. In the last 10 year period, the
percentage of women increased rapidly although
they still receive only about a quarter of the
degrees. (p. 49)

Latest data available indicated that 1987 was the first

year in which a slowing of this phenomenon was seen. While

the numbers of women doctorates peaked at 11,370, the

proportion of women remained at 35 percent of the cohort.

Among U.S. citizens a similar stall at 41%. (National

Research Council, 1987).

Although women are earning more doctorates and

professional degrees than ever before, this growth is not

as pervasive as it seems at first blush. Women are

concentrated in fewer fields. Gappa and Uehling (1979)

stated, "the data show that women are moving into

nontraditional disciplines at all levels. Yet the

preponderance of degrees awarded to women remains in

traditionally female fields" (p.16). For instance, in

1977-78 women received 71% of the doctorates in home

economics, 55% in foreign languages, and 39% in letters and

in education. However, in the traditionally male dominated

fields they earned less than 10% of the doctorates awarded

(i.e. engineering, 2%; computer and information sciences,

8%; and in business management, 8%). In the seven year

period from 1970-71 to 1977-78 women in all fields were

awarded a higher percentage of doctorates.

But because the overall percentage awarded to
women increased from 14% to 26% over the seven
years, women end up even more underrepresented
in some fields than they were previously. For
example, women were underrepresented by 14
percentage points in engineering in 1970-71.
By 1977-78 this had increased to 24 percentage
points. (Butler & Marzone, 1980, p. 51)

Even in 1987 the conclusion drawn by the National Research

Council was that in spite "of gains in certain fields,

women remain seriously underrepresented" (1987, p.1).

Similar findings were apparent among other highly

educated professionals. Women recipients of first-

professional degrees were also becoming concentrated in

fewer fields, primarily law and medicine.

Thus, in 1977-78, while the largest percentage of
women were found in pharmacology (30%), law (26%),
veterinary medicine (24%), and medicine (22%). .
.[calculations of] over-and underrepresentation
indicate that women have actually fallen farther
behind in podiatry, chiropractic medicine, dentistry,
theological professions, osteopathic medicine and
optometry over the seven year period. (Butler &
Marzone, 1980, pp. 52-3)

In summary, while there has been a virtual explosion

of women entering training for the professions since the

1970's, there is still evidence of sex segregation by

field. Furthermore, numbers alone told little about how

women experience training for a profession nor what effect

such training had on their physical and mental health.

Not many investigators who study women graduate

students inquired about their nonstudent roles. The

findings of those studies that do examine the reported

quality of the woman graduate student role, tended to be

somewhat bleak. These studies were dominated by recurring

themes of institutional and social barriers that created an

uninviting environment for women in academe.

Barriers to Women in Professional Graduate Education

Research conducted by Hall & Sandler (1982) and

Sandler and Hall (1986) suggested that women in higher

education, especially those in graduate programs,

experienced a less hospitable climate than did men. These

claims resulted from examining certain institutional

factors (e.g., as admissions policies, financial support,

ratios of male to female faculty, lack of female

representation in course content and on faculties), and

psycho-social factors (e.g. perceptions of women by

faculty, male students, and themselves, self esteem,

marriage and family role conflicts) inherent in the

academic setting.

Roby (1972) defined structural barriers as

those organizational patterns and practices in
higher education which hinder female students in
their efforts to obtain college or university

educations. These organizational barriers
include practices pertaining to student admission
and the granting of financial aid, to rules
governing life on campus, to residency and full-
time-study requirements, to the sexist character
of much subject matter taught within universities
today, to the composition of faculties, and to
maternity and paternity leaves and married
students' domestic responsibilities. (p. 122)

Given the number of factors that can potentially

operate as barriers, those deemed most salient to this

study are discussed. Studies conducted nationally and on

single campuses shed some light on institutional and

social factors contributing to women's experience of

graduate education. Much of the data on which these claims

were based came largely from anecdotal reports and

interviews of women students, their male classmates, and

graduate faculty. Structured surveys (Feld, 1974) and

meta-analyses (Hall & Sandler, 1982; Sandler & Hall, 1986)

were utilized as well.

Institutional factors

Admissions. Previous studies on women in

professional training reported quota systems and other

discriminatory admissions policies and actions that favored

men entering professional training programs (Roby, 1972).

Prior to the mid-1970's it was not unusual for women to be

questioned about their marital and childbearing intentions,

to have their commitment to study and the profession

challenged, to be "counseled out" of certain fields, and

told that the schools did not want to discriminate against

men who had wives and families to support. Such overt

practices seemed less likely today given Title IX

protections (Sandler & Hall, 1986) and the potential for

litigation. If a single campus could serve as an example

then the exploratory investigation regarding the

achievement of gender equity among full time graduate

students conducted at the University of Connecticut (Mellow

& Goldsmith, 1988) might well illustrate the changes in

graduate admission processes that have and are continuing

to occur on many of the nation's campuses. As a measure

of quantitative gender equity, Mellow & Goldsmith (1988)

examined enrollment in graduate study within the School of

Liberal Arts on the Storrs campus. These measures revealed

that within the School of Liberal Arts seven of fifteen

departments were gender balanced (60%-40% gender split) and

an even number of male and female dominated disciplines

remained, four of each. Furthermore, as another

quantitative measure, these researchers looked at financial

support, and found that teaching and research

assistantships were in balance with the proportion of male

and female graduate students by discipline. This was

applauded as "a significant beginning for gender equity in

graduate education" (p.12) for their campus. While Mellow

and Goldsmith (1988) and Sandler & Hall (1986) conceded

that "numerous anti-discrimination laws have been passed,

and many policies and practices that once limited women's

access to academe have been eliminated" (Sandler & Hall,

1986, p. 1), they pointed to a number of subtler indices

of slights to women. These inequities shed some light on

the enigmatic statistics which showed that, although women

earn "approximately half of the degrees at the

undergraduate and master's levels, they earn only 32

percent of the doctorate degrees" (p. 2).

Financial support. Once admitted to graduate and

professional programs, students faced the question of how

they were to pay for their education (Roby, 1972). The

period of professional graduate education could be a period

of financial uncertainty for many. The demands of

professional graduate education often meant postponing or

leaving fulltime employment, extending dependency or

becoming dependent upon others (usually spouse or other

relatives) for support, and/or assuming large debts in the

form of student loans. Some might experience reductions in

their standards of living or restrictions in lifestyle

choices. Ironically, such constraints in fiscal autonomy

often coincide with shouldering greater professional

decision-making and responsibility. At certain points of

the training program students could be functioning at near

professional capacities but not have rewards of a

professional salary to counterbalance the pressures of high

performance demands.

Many upper-middle-income parents considered financing

their sons' and daughters' undergraduate education part of

their parental responsibility. However, this often does not

extend to graduate training, especially for women. More

traditionally minded families may consider education beyond

a B.A. or M.A. a disservice, for "doing so might make

catching the right man difficult" (Roby, 1972, p. 123).

For many working class families financing education was

simply not a possibility (Roby, 1972). Thus, institutional

support of graduate students became a critical issue,

especially in times of diminishing resources.

Evidence suggested that gender differences in the

distribution of financial support exist. For one, sources

of support varied for men and women. Butler and Marzone

(1980) noted,

Although about the same percentage of both sexes
received Federal support [22-24%], the sources
within the government varied. Fourteen percent
of the women and only 7% of the men received
financial assistance from the Department of
Health, Education, and Welfare. Men received
more of their support from the Department of
Defense and from the National Science Foundation.

Educational institutions provided support for about 37-39%

of men and women. However, women and men were not equally

represented in the various fields and "some differences in

financial support might be caused by the kinds and amount

of support generated by the programs. The sciences, for

example, received more scholarships and fellowships than do

home economics and other female-oriented fields" (Butler &

Marzone, 1980). Also, programs that had rules stating

that aid be distributed in proportion to the ratio of men

and women in the department disregarded the previously

noted tendency for women to have better grades.

Consequently, "men who have lower qualifications are given

aid" (Roby, 1972) while more qualified women go unfunded.

There might be hidden sources support that

favor men. Some corporations (usually engineering firms)

paid the graduate tuition of their employees. This

practice would be of little concern if men and women were

equally distributed across occupations. "But since men are

more likely to be engineers. and women are more likely

to be [educators], some men have access to financial aid

that some women do not" (Butler & Marzone, 1980, p. 44).

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, more women (35%)

than men (27%) indicated self-support as their means of

financing their educations. That is, they are using their

savings, taking loans and working in order to get the

training they want. Self-support may be the only option

for women who are combining family and/or work

responsibilities with part-time studies because, as Roby

(1972) pointed out, they are "excluded from competing for

practically all federal scholarship and loan aid as well as

many university scholarships by the limitation of these

prizes to students engaging in full-time study .. (p.


There was a general agreement that the awarding of

fellowships can have a significant impact on women in

professional training (Butler & Marzone, 1980; Hall &

Sandler, 1982; Patterson & Sells, 1973; Sandler & Hall,


Nomination for fellowships can be especially
important for graduate women. Researchers have
found that while all students who receive
fellowships have a lower drop-out rate than non-
recipients, the difference in retention rate is
far greater for women than for men. Some suggest
that receiving a fellowship confirms for women
that they are taken seriously as graduate
students. (Hall & Sandler, 1982, note 91, p. 17)

Studies on financial aid suggested that women who receive

financial assistance are more likely to complete their

graduate studies (Butler & Marzone, 1980). Among

recipients of Woodrow Wilson Fellowships, receiving a

second year of support proved crucial for completing the

degree among women (Patterson & Sells, 1973).

The picture is not complete regarding the differences

in financial support for men and women. According to

Butler and Marzone (1980),

We know something about specific awards (e.g.
Woodrow Wilson Fellowships), something about the
types of support (e.g. scholarship, research
assistantship), and something about the sources
of support (e.g., Federal agencies). But we do
not have data on dollar value of stipends, on
types of courses for male and female teaching
assistantships, or on differential effects of
types of financial assistance on women and men.
(p. 44)

Research vs teaching. In American society teaching is

seen as an extension of the female role (Epstein, 1970;

Feldman, 1974). Women in graduate education have described

barriers in the distribution and organization of teaching

and research assignments. They reported that women are

more likely to receive teaching than research

assistantships. In addition, they often find these

assignments to be organized so that women have less

responsible roles and men have greater opportunity to

pursue their own research. Women were more likely to

serve as assistants to professors in their teaching and

research while men were more likely to work independently.

This not only puts a damper on autonomy but sends a subtler

message that a woman's research interests are deemed of

lesser value than a man's (Hall & Sandler, 1982).

Psycho-social constraints

Women graduate and professional students are in a time

of transition between being a student and becoming a


--a time when close, informal work with advisors
and peers, access to scarce resources (such as
fellowships, assistantships, lab assignments, and
special project funds), and learning about one's
profession are critical, and when family
pressures may be severe. (Sandler & Hall, 1986,
p. 16)

It is in the realm of socialization into the profession

that women are more likely to report problems of being a


The study of gender equity on the Storrs campus of the

University of Connecticut cited earlier is a good example

of looking beyond the external, quantitative aspects to

gender equity in process: "the quality of the lived

experience of graduate students as reflected in the formal

and informal interactions that constitute the daily

academic life of graduate education" (Mellow & Goldsmith,

1988). They argued that despite the very positive and

often dramatic changes during the last 15 to 20 years in

which women have become a significantly increased presence

in most disciplines as students and faculty, women

still face a host of subtle personal and social
barriers that limit their full participation in
the academy. Laws and University policies cannot
adequately address these barriers, since they
stem from our usual ways of relating to one
another as women and men. (Mellow & Goldsmith,
1988, p. 4)

Thus, the qualitative section of their study was designed

to surface the kinds of issues women and men face from

peers and faculty as they pursue their graduate degrees.

Students were asked about their feelings of self-esteem,

their confidence in themselves as scholars and future

professionals, their formal and informal relationships with

faculty, and their perceptions of opportunity within their

programs. They were asked gender-related questions

regarding concerns about women's appearance, perceptions of

women in social situations, and hospitality of climate in

their programs relative to men and women. They found that

Males and females present different images of
themselves. Male graduate students report closer
relationships with other graduate students and
particularly with faculty. They see themselves
and believe they are seen by other faculty as
being professionally committed to their studies
and future careers. And none of the male
graduate students reported being concerned with
personal appearances nor the interpretation of
interpersonal interactions. The felt world of
the female graduate students interviewed in this
study is quite distinctively different. They
have lower self esteem, even when they have
highly evaluated "outcome" measures of their
performance, such as research assistantships or
high grade point averages. They do not feel as
encouraged by faculty as male students report,

and they worry about the overly personal comments
made to them, and about the atmosphere that
focuses on their status as women instead of
their status as scholars and future
professionals. (Mellow and Goldsmith, 1988, pp.

Self esteem. It is interesting to note that while
both men and women are reported to suffer a decline in self

esteem when they begin graduate study, there are consistent

findings to indicate that across fields, class years and

colleges women continue to feel less confident about their

ability and preparation to do competent graduate work (Hall

& Sandler, 1982). For example, despite evidence (such as

high GPA's and high productivity) that women are capable of

graduate level performance (Feldman, 1974; Hall & Sandler,

1982; Mellow & Goldsmith, 1988), a significant portion of

women reported feelings of inadequacy that are so

persistent that they drop out of their graduate studies.

In considering these findings, Hall and Sandler (1982)

proposed that low self esteem among women is so rampant

because "women students are more likely to encounter and to

be vulnerable to behaviors that are subtly or overtly

discouraging, that single them out because of their sex, or

that communicate lower expectations for them than for

equally competent men students" (p. 8).

Perceptions of women. Traditional perceptions of


give rise to beliefs among male faculty and
students that women are not as serious
professionally, nor as capable as their male
peers, nor are they expected to be forceful

leaders, to achieve at the same level or
participate in formal and informal professional
activities as fully, as actively, or as
successfully. (Sandler & Hall, 1986, p.2)

Such perceptions might lead to insidious effects,

especially in male dominated fields. These potential

effects include patronizing attitudes ("Don't worry your

little head about it") and disparagement of women's

abilities ("Women are not good in spatial ability") and

research interests, especially if their topic is "women"

("Not a serious area of study"). The effects of such

attitudes are particularly pervasive in formal and

informal student-faculty interactions. These perceptions

often get played out in classroom interactions wherein

women are called upon less or not at all by faculty on one

hand. On the other, women are sometimes viewed as

frivolous or overly aggression by male peers. On research

projects women reported not being invited into projects or

being given less responsible roles. Faculty committees

may exclude women for consideration for presentation of

papers, assistantships, fellowships, awards, and other

prizes (Feldman, 1974; Hall & Sandler, 1982; Mellow &

Goldsmith, 1988; Sandler & Hall, 1986; Schwartz & Lever,


Feldman (1974) challenged these perceptions in a

comprehensive study he conducted on the attitudes of

faculty and graduate students. He drew on the responses of

32,963 graduate students from 158 institutions and

responses of 60,028 faculty from 303 colleges and

universities. On the issue of women's dedication to study

he found that male faculty and students perceived women as

less dedicated than did women themselves. He concluded

that women did not lack motivation or the ability to do

high level graduate work but that they did lack self

confidence and generally had a less positive self image

than did men.

Lack of women faculty. A recurring concern for women

in advanced graduate education has been the lack of female

faculty to serve as mentors and role models. Women

comprise from 10% to over 40% of most graduate and

professional programs yet the hiring of women faculty is

not in any way proportional to their numbers (Roby, 1972;

White, 1972). M. White (1972) described becoming a

professional as a socialization process which "consists of

learning the roles, the informal values and attitudes, and

the expectations which are an important part of real

professional life. During this stage of a career, the

person not only learns occupational roles and skills, but

gains a firmer image of himself as a competent and

adequate" (p. 301). Sponsorship or the "protege system" is

an important device "for influencing commitment and

affecting self-image" (p. 302). Many men are reluctant to

sponsor women in this way for various reasons and there

are so few women faculty that women often voiced feelings

of isolation and professional identity confusion that were

well expressed by the following remarks of anonymous women

graduate students.

I had a man advisor. .. there was only one
woman who taught in the graduate school .
[T]he whole time I never did work with any women
professors. .And I began to think, "Where do
I fit in the system if there are no women in it,
or very few ? (Sandler & Hall, 1986, p. 16)

[T]his [lack of senior women faculty to serve as
professors or advisors] has been the single most
important deficit of the Ph. D. "experience." I
have no sense that my advisor and/or department
supports my professional efforts, believes in my
ability or cares whether or not I succeed. I
would say this feeling is pervasive with female
students. (Hall & Sandler, 1982, p. 8)

Relationships. Except for a few fields in which they
are in the majority (i.e., Home economics), women

typically compete in male-dominated arenas and may

experience the negative effects of being a minority (Mellow

& Goldsmith, 1988). Minority status may have implications

for the nature and quality of relationships women establish

with faculty and how they are viewed in their departments.

These factors, in turn, may affect professional activities

and opportunities during training and in the future. Women

may feel pressures around creating images and maintaining

relationships that are different for men. For instance,

some male faculty are uncomfortable around women because

they have difficulty viewing them as potential colleagues,

especially those men who come from cultures where women

have very circumscribed roles. Others have wives who

object to their spending time with women students. In any

event, same sex relationships tend to be more comfortable

for either gender. Because women faculty still tend to be

scarce or nonexistent in many departments, the effect is

that men are more likely to become involved in mentor-

protege relationships. Men are more likely to be invited

to share authorships and to accompany faculty on

professional trips. They are also more likely to be

introduced to professionals outside the department and to

infiltrate professional networks. Men are more likely to

go out to lunch and dinner, have informal or personal

conversations and attend parties with their advisors.

Women may receive formal feedback on their academic and

research progress but very little of the informal

encouragement that flows naturally from more collegial

relationships. They reported feeling left out, isolated

and discouraged (Feldman, 1974; Hall & Sandler, 1982;

Mellow & Goldsmith, 1988; Sandler & Hall, 1986; Schwartz &

Lever, 1973; M. White, 1972). According to Hall & Sandler

(1982) "women graduate students are more likely to miss out

on this crucial kind of encouragement and support, and thus

may feel increasingly doubtful about their academic ability

and professional potential" (p. 9).

Sexualization of relationships. While some women may

feel left out of informal and social relationships with

male faculty and peers they may also worry about how such

behavior might be perceived within the department. They

have recognized that some male faculty and peers see women

graduate students as "fair game" sexually and have not

wanted their interactions to be misconstrued or interpreted

in a romantic context (Mellow & Goldsmith, 1988). Thus,

women often reported feeling self-conscious: friendly

behavior was monitored so as not to seem to be flirtatious

and there was often concern with physical appearances. If

they were to be taken seriously in their departments, women

felt they could not afford to look too "nerdy" nor too

sexy. Therefore, they were more likely to wear some makeup

but take care not to dress in ways that might be considered


Even with their expressed caution, some women received

unwanted sexual attention from their male faculty and

colleagues. This may take the form of sexual comments and

jokes, unwanted invitations to socialize, and undesired

touching to outright sexual harassment (leers, sexual

innuendos, bribes and threats for sexual activity) and

(Hall & Sandler, 1982; Roby, 1972; Sandler & Hall, 1986).

Unwanted sexual attention has a chilling effect
on the learning and working climate. Even
women who are not harassed may avoid certain
classes or interaction with professors who have a
reputation of sexual harassers. refusing
sexual demands. may jeopardize a women's
academic career or employment. She cannot freely
choose to say "yes" or "no" because of unfair
evaluations (or grades in the case of graduate
students) may be given, and other perquisites
withheld. She may feel uncomfortable,
embarrassed, and ashamed. yet she may also be
fearful of being seen as a "troublemaker" or as
"unprofessional" if she reports it. (Sandler &
Hall, 1986, p. 10)

Friendships. Women are concerned with personal as

well as professional relationships while involved in

professional training. The period of professional graduate

education can often be marked by relationship fluctuations.

Students may be losing, adding, or modifying relationships

in their social networks. They may experience adjustments

in existing relationships. A geographic change in order to

attend professional school often means leaving friends

and/or loved ones behind. Whether graduate training

involves relocation or not, students' loyalties may be

called into conflict between longer standing peer groups

and the newer ones of classmates and other members of their

program. Such changes typically necessitate realignments

in existing affiliations. Involvement in student life

often carries with it challenges in meeting prescriptions

of different norm groups, including competition. This in

turn may give rise to concerns about limited time for

building and cultivating new social relationships,

especially when pulled by the demands of other roles.

Feldman (1974) noted that researchers have "emphasized the

importance of informal interaction among graduate students.

Those who see their fellow students informally often help

one another in the learning process and tend to be more

professionalized" (p. 132).

Marriage and family role conflicts. Concerns in the

personal realm may also include concerns about lifestage

issues. It would be expected that the greater proportion

of women would be in their childbearing years and would

therefore have the potential to experience conflicts

regarding dating, marriage, childbearing, and childrearing

decisions. These decisions might directly impact on

decisions about whether, when and at what pace to engage in

professional training.

Marriage is viewed differently for men and women

graduate students. Marriage and family for a man

is seen as an advantage--a stabilizing factor and
a symbol of maturity; in the case of women
graduate students, however, marriage (or even the
possibility of marriage) is often seen as a
disability. If women are already married,
faculty may assume they will have children and
then drop out of school or leave their
profession. If they have young children, faculty
may feel that women students should be at home
caring for them, and may advise them that a woman
cannot properly combine school and a demanding
professional career with a family. (Hall &
Sandler, 1982, p. 8)

Marriage seemed to exert differential effects for men

and women graduate students. Feldman stated that "for

women, marriage has a deleterious effect on the role of

student and that the least successful female students are

those who attempt to combine the student and spouse role"

(p. 125). He saw marriage as complementary to men

students because they have someone to care for their needs

from domestic to emotional to sexual. Whereas women were

more constrained by the spouse role; that is, they perform

more domestic (and childcare) tasks (Feldman, 1974;

Patterson & Sells, 1973) and were more likely to feel

conflicted between devotion to spouse and children and

loyalty to friends and the demands of the program. Many

women expressed self-conscious gratitude when their

husbands were supportive of their academic efforts.

Feldman further suggested that divorced women performed

best in their graduate studies because they have abandoned

the spouse role. Divorced men's performance suffered most

because of withdrawal of wifely support. He stated, "While

marriage reduces conflicts for men, it increases them for

women" (Feldman, 1974, p. 136).

Patterson & Sells' (1973) study on Woodrow Wilson

Fellows indicated that marriage affected attrition rate


The data show that marriage has no effect on male
graduate students: the dropout rate is 45
percent for single men and 44 percent for those
married before they received fellowships.
Marriage is not so neutral in its impact on
women: the attrition rate for married women is 9
percent higher than that for single women. Two
may be able to live as cheaply as one, but being
the student half of a married couple is worse
than being single for the female graduate
student. (p. 87)

Marriage might be helpful to women in certain respects.

Husbands often contributed to or entirely provided their

financial support and, when they supported their wives'

educational activities, could alleviate some of the

household and/or childcare responsibilities (Feldman, 1974;

Schwartz & Lever, 1973). Women with children face not only

conflicts between children and schooling (i.e. finding time

to study, caring for sick children versus missing classes)

but also experience ongoing concerns about childcare

arrangements (Roby, 1972; Feldman, 1974; Mellow &

Goldsmith, 1988).

Women's training and advancement patterns

Given the barriers that women graduate students report

it may not be too surprising to find that as women progress

through their professional training programs certain

patterns emerge that appear to be gender related: slower

rates of completion of their studies, higher rates of

attrition, and markedly different training/specialty fields

and career paths than their male classmates.

Discontinuity. Gender differences are apparent in the

length of time it takes to earn a doctorate. Women are

more likely to take longer to complete their degrees. They

may "stop out" or attend on a part-time basis for periods,

either to work, marry, have children, care for sick family

members, etc.

For example, women generally had longer time
lapses [in completing the degree] than men, but
the gap in registered time was closed when
examined field by field. Although the gap also
narrowed in total time-to-degree, gender
differences remained, possibly influenced by
sources of support. (National Research Council,
1987, p.4)

Attrition. In his report to the Carnegie Commission

on Higher Education, Feldman wrote that "among students

enrolled in doctoral degree programs, sex has been found to

be a strong predictor of attainment of this degree. .

Women admitted to Ph. D. programs were much less likely

than their male counterparts to eventually obtain the

doctorate" (Feldman, 1974, p. 9). Feldman (1974) looked at

patterns of representation of educated women by degree

earned. Out of 33 fields surveyed in 1970-71 he found that

at the bachelor's level women received the majority of

degrees in 15 of them. At the master's level this had

dwindled to 9 and by the doctoral level in no field had

women received the bulk of degrees. Even among the highly

select recipients of Woodrow Wilson Fellowships who receive

financial aid for doctoral studies fewer women than men

obtained the doctorate after eight years. Women who

received one year of support "had an attrition rate 20

percentage points greater than the men, while women

receiving the fellowship for two years had an attrition

rate that was 11 percentage points greater than the

men" (Butler & Marzone, 1980 p. 44).

Attrition rates have been calculated in different

ways. Feldman (1974) computed two attrition ratios: by

dividing the percentage of women receiving a bachelor's

degree in a field by the women receiving a doctorate and by

dividing the percentage of women receiving a master's

degree in a field by the percentage of women receiving a

doctorate. He found that although the percentages of women

receiving bachelor's and master's degrees remained fairly

consistent there were marked differences between bachelor's

to doctorate and master's to doctorate attrition rates. In

the fields of mathematics, computer science, and business

women were four times more likely to receive a bachelor's

than a doctorate. Even more pronounced was the master's to

doctorate attrition ratio. "Every field showed female

attrition from the master's to the doctoral level, with

the highest attrition ratios in computer science and

business" (Feldman, 1974, p. 9). Butler and Marzone

(1980), unable to find data that followed a class from the

first year to graduation, opted instead for a single year

estimate of attrition. Using combined master's and

doctoral data from the Department of Health, Education and

Welfare for 1977 they found that women comprised 49% of

first year students but only 40% of students enrolled

beyond the first year. They assumed that if men and women

had a somewhat consistent pattern, the 9 percentage point

difference would be the same as an 18% decline for total

numbers of women. They noted though that the declines are

more acute in the male-dominated fields of agriculture

(-38%), mathematics (-36%), theology (-35%), and physical

sciences (-32%). Butler and Marzone did a similar

calculation for those awarded first-professional degrees

and found a 17% attrition rate for women, ranging from the

high of a 54% decline in podiatric medicine and a low of 5%

in pharmacology (Butler and Marzone, 1980). Whichever way

the rates were calculated the message was the same: there

were proportionately fewer women in most doctoral and

professional programs, especially those that were

traditionally male-dominated, and they left these programs

without degrees in greater proportions than their male


Choice of field. Highly educated women's career

choices and patterns look different from men's. Astin

(1973), drawing on the survey responses of over 13,000

doctorates, more than 3,000 of whom were women, from three

national studies, observed differing career patterns among

men and women both prior to and following receipt of the

doctoral degree. She looked at choice of field of study,

determinants of career choice, types of institutions, and

financial support while studying, and types of employment

attained (including post doctoral studies), job function,

and rewards in terms of status and salary following

graduation. Traditionally, women and men have differed in

level of educational attainment and in the fields they.

choose. As undergraduates, about a quarter of women expect

to go into teaching while a similar proportion of men

expect to go into business or engineering. At the doctoral

level these patterns in choice of field were even more

pronounced. Astin (1973) collapsed twenty six different

fields into four major categories: natural sciences

(biological and physical sciences), social sciences

(including psychology), arts and humanities, and education.

She found that women tended to be somewhat equally

distributed among the four but that more the half of men

were in the natural sciences and a mere 12% were in the

arts and humanities. Applying Astin's same four categories

to 1987 data revealed that, though there have been certain

shifts, the overall pattern was much the same some

seventeen years later. Fifty one percent of men were still

receiving doctorates in the natural sciences, but there had

been an increase in the number of the women to 34% (up from

24% in 1970); 16% of men (down from 18%) and 20% of women

(down from 23%) were earning social science doctorates; 18%

of men (up from 12%) and 17% (down from 21%) of women were

getting doctorates in the humanities; and 14% of men (down

from 19%) and 29% of women (down from 31%) were acquiring

education doctorates (Astin, 1973; adapted from National

Research Council, 1987). Even with more women gravitating

to the natural sciences and some filtering of men into the

social sciences and humanities, there is still a clear

demarcation in choice of field by gender: men still

cluster in the natural sciences and women still aggregate

in education and the social sciences. Women physicians

have tended to specialize in psychiatry, pediatrics, and

anesthesiology and "have in the past avoided others, such

as surgery and radiology" (Cartwright, 1979, p. 441). It

is unclear whether these "differences in choice of field

are attributable to differences in women's aptitudes and

interests or societal expectations that constitute

educational and occupational barriers against women, and

the psychological consequences of these expectations"

(Astin, 1973, p. 143). The case may be that societal

expectations differentially influence "aptitudes and

interests" by gender.

Although most of the studies cited focus on the

negative aspects, one might speculate that engaging in the

professional level graduate student role carries benefits

as well as costs. The stage of preparation and training

prior to entering the professions might provide many

opportunities for women to experience opportunities for

life enrichment, achievement, and fulfillment. For

instance, acceptance into a graduate program or

professional school might bestow status and high esteem on

women entrants as well as the pride of excelling as a

minority. They may find the graduate training experience

financially freeing in that it excuses them from the

structure of the workaday world entirely or, for those with

teaching or research assistantships, it might provide some

flexibility in structured work hours while gaining

professional experience. If they are the recipients of

fellowships or grants they may even experience complete

freedom from work and financial worry. Women might find

mentors who endorse them and claim them (in the

anthropological sense) into the program and the profession.

The training years might provide many with the opportunity

to make new and enduring personal and professional

friendships with peers who share similar goals and

experiences. Similarly, women students who fall in love,

marry, and/or have children might find a welcome

restructuring of their priorities as well as sources of

joy, security, and support.

Career patterns. Whether more women experience

professional training as primarily "strive" or "thrive" is

as yet unknown. What is known is that after training women

professionals often express satisfaction with their lives,

even though their career paths are very different from

their male colleagues and despite their reported conflicts

and pressures.

Employment. Female and male Ph.D.'s are most

frequently hired by educational institutions, but a higher

percentage of women than men enter educational settings.

The second largest category of employers of men is

industry/business but "all other" and "unknown" are the

second highest category for women (Butler and Marzone,

1980, pp. 56-7). Women are more likely than men to be in

teaching positions, they are equally likely to be employed

in research and scholarly writing, but are less likely to

hold administrative or management positions. An equal but

small percentage (3% to 4%) of both men and women are

employed in the nonprofit sector (Astin, 1973). Not

surprisingly, the pattern of differences in choice of

specialty field observed between men and women during

training is in evidence upon leaving school.

Women physicians and dentists practice in various

locations and settings: hospitals, universities, or

private practice and face an additional issue of the

organization of practice--solo, group or prepaid

(Cartwright, 1979). Cartwright (1978) noted that women

physicians follow "distinctively female lines--more

part-time workers, more salaried workers, greater

discontinuity in career, preferences for specific

specialties, and less professional achievements in general"

(p. 185).

Practice patterns among men and women lawyers also

show gender differences. Women and men lawyers tend to be

equally distributed in the first positions they take

whether in small (under four practitioners) or larger (more

than fifteen practitioners) firms and the federal

government. "However, men far exceeded women in obtaining

jobs with firms in the 5 to 30-man category, and women had

a substantial edge over men in state and local government"

(J. White, 1972, p. 279). As they become established in

their careers job migrations are noted in which women

gravitate into government positions, while men move out.

Men are increasingly represented in medium-sized firms,

while there is virtually no change in the proportion of

women in that size firm. J. White (1972) held that these

"statistics are consistent with two commonly held notions:

(1) men often use the government as a stepping-stone to

private practice; and (2) a large part of all women lawyers

(about one third) find long-term employment in government

(p. 279)." Although both men and women reported performing

a variety of work the proportion of females engaged in

trusts and estates (60%), real estate (51%), and domestic

relations (50%) exceeds males. Women were least likely to

be found practicing labor (7%), criminal (28%), and tax law

(31%). Women did indicate active trial practices, though

to a somewhat lesser extent than men (46% for women versus

58% for men) (J. White, 1972). Women in all professions

are more likely than men to work on a part-time basis.

Salary. Women with advanced degrees earn less money

than men with similar educational attainments (Butler &

Marzone, 1980). Although new degree holders receive

comparable pay upon entering the profession, men soon earn

significantly more (Butler & Marzone, 1980; Gallesse, 1985;

Simon, Clark & Galway, 1975). Astin (1973) observed,

Women are more often in academic careers than
nonacademic ones, and they are more likely to be
in teaching than administration or research.
Women also constitute a very small proportion of
physical scientists, who have the best-paid
careers, and a disproportionately large number of
those in the humanities and the arts, which are
the lowest paying fields. (p. 152)

Indeed, when differentials between men and women

doctorates have been calculated it has been found that

though parity is greatest in education, women still earn

only 83% of what men in education do. Women in the

physical sciences fare the worst, earning 75% of what men

in the same fields do. Income differentials among lawyers

are in evidence along job type and gender lines. J. White

(1972) stated,

Our data show that the income differential
between the men and the women indeed varied from
job to job. Yet they also show that the average
present income of the men exceeded that of the
women by substantial margins in almost all of the
possible combinations of year of graduation and

job type. If the women in the government
jobs are removed from the sample, the aggregate
female income decreases and the differential
between [the females] and the males grows larger.
(p. 288)

No current data were found comparing men and women

physicians' and dentists' incomes.

Unemployment. Women have higher rates of unemployment

than men in all professional fields. While less than 1% of

women doctorates in the physical sciences do not work, the

situation is less sanguine for other women professionals.

Between 8% and 10% of women doctorates in the humanities

reported not working, a figure which is shared by women

physicians. An even larger percentage of women lawyers,

about 13%, were not employed. (Butler & Marzone, 1980;

Cartwright, 1970; J. White, 1972). These statistics become

more meaningful in light of other figures showing that on

the average less than 1% of men in each of these

professions are not working. Though very few of the

professional women who are not working reported dropping

out because of marriage, up to 25% reported not working due

to having children. Most of these intended to return to


The preceding discussions suggest that men and women

have qualitatively different professional training

experiences and markedly different career paths. Despite

these differences most women professionals expressed

satisfaction with their careers and their lives (Amatea &

Fong, 1989; Cartwright, 1978; 1979;1987; Gilbert, et. al.,

1981; Poloma, 1972; Poloma & Garland, 1971), even when role

conflict was in evidence. However, it is not known whether

professionals in training experience similar role

satisfactions or not. The roles of spouse and, to a lesser

degree, parent have been examined for their effect on

performance and continuity in the student role, but not

much emphasis has been given to the student role as a

social role that impacts other life roles and general well-


Although the student role and the work role are

clearly not one and the same, they do bear some

similarities. The student role is preparatory to the

professional work role and some of the knowledge and

practical application in the field will overlap.

Therefore, an examination of the extensive literature on

women's work and family roles may yield some insights as

well as conceptualizations and methodologies that may be

applicable in attempting to understand how the student

role, alone and combination with other life roles, affects

women's well-being.

Perspectives on Multiple Role Research

The literature on women's work and family roles

suggests that expectation of work (Holahan & Gilbert,

1979a; Sekaran, 1985), perceived work environment quality

(Barnett & Baruch, 1985; Baruch ans Barnwtt, 1986; Holahan

& Gilbert, 1979b; Stewart & Malley, 1987), nature of non-

work role burdens (Barnett, 1982; Gilbert & Hanson, 1983;

Nevill, 1984; Verbrugge, 1987), and resources for coping

(Amatea & Cross, 1981; Amatea & Fong, 1987; Gibbs, 1984;

Gilbert, Holahan & Manning, 1981; Hall, 1972; Harrison &

Minor, 1982; Pearlin & Schooler, 1978; Skinner, 1980)

impact on a person's health risk. However, it is unclear

whether these factors are in operation for student and

family roles, because they have not been applied to women

in advanced professional training.

Health Benefits of the Work Role

A significant proportion of the findings from multiple
role research studies indicate that women who work may have

no worse and perhaps even better physical and mental health

than those who do not (Coleman et al., 1987; Cooke &

Rousseau, 1984; Thoits, 1987; Verbrugge, 1983a; 1983b;

1987). Verbrugge (1983a), for example, investigated the

relationship between multiple role holders and physical

health status in a large scale epidemiological study of

adults in Detroit. She found that employment, marriage and

parenthood were associated with good health for both men

and women, "with employment having the strongest and

parenthood the weakest effects" (p. 16). She further found

that "each role (employment, marriage, parenthood)

contributes to good health, but combining them has no

particularly pernicious or salutary effects" (p. 26). In

another research effort, Thoits (1987) analyzed the results

of twelve studies which compared working wives with

housewives on measures of depression and distress and found


five report greater distress among housewives
than among employed wives. ., but seven studies
report no differences between these two groups of
women. When the presence, number, and/or ages of
children are controlled, again mixed findings are
obtained. Four studies report greater distress
among housewives compared to employed wives,
while three report no differences between these
two groups. (p. 15)

Coleman and associates (1987) also investigated the

relationship between role occupancy and well-being among

mid-life men and women. They examined the responses of 389

women and 293 men aged 40 to 59 from a national sample of

2,264 health survey respondents and concluded that

well-being was closely associated, among our
national probability sample, with participation
in the paid labor market. Physical health
differed by role configurations for both women
and men. Women who were single nonworking
parents were in the poorest health, while working
women without children and the women involved in
three roles were in better physical health.
Psychological anxiety also varied by role
configuration. Single nonworking mothers
had the most anxiety and the married working
women without children had the least. (p. 148)

Verbrugge (1987) summed up research in this area by

stating, that "in general, the more life roles one

occupies, the better one's health is (p. 154)."

Although generally optimistic, the findings of

multiple role and health and well-being studies were

varied. Sometimes multiple role holders looked more,

equally or less vulnerable than their nonworking women or

working male comparison groups. The reason for some of

these varied results were methodological: different

questions were asked, different populations queried, and

different instruments were employed. However, some of the

inconsistency was historical, an artifact of changing

conceptualizations of core gender assumptions regarding the

nature of sex roles. In the following section these

changing theoretical perspectives are reviewed.

Core Gender Assumptions

As economic and social trends have shifted so have

conceptualizations of role appropriate behavior for men and

women. Early conceptualizations were derived from

biologically-based models that emphatically delineated the

proper domains for men and women. Research based on such

models viewed working women, whether married or not, as

deviant and their findings supported that view. As

economic conditions dictated the necessity for more and

more women to enter the workforce, the focus of research

shifted. Working women were seen less as "biological"

deviants and more as victims of culture. Since women had

to enter "a man's world," concerns arose that they would be

depleted by burdensome role demands: their natural and

primary roles of wife, mother, and nurturer and their

assumed, "unnaturally" acquired role of wage earner in

combination would overwhelm them. A spate of studies found

women overloaded, conflicted, and strained by their

proliferating roles. Barnett and Baruch (1987b) observed,

in contrast to other stress-related research
areas, most literature on negative effects of
multiple role involvement such as role strain and
role conflict, has centered on women. How can we
account for this phenomenon? Theoretical
formulations regarding men's lives assume the
centrality of the paid employee role and relegate
non-workplace roles to positions of minor
importance. Because the roles of husband and
father are viewed as subordinate to the employee
role and traditionally have involved few
obligations, issues of conflict and strain are
rarely addressed. Theories of women's lives, in
contrast, have assumed both the primacy of and
major commitment to non-workplace roles.
Involvement in the paid employee role, which
also requires commitment, is assumed to entail
strain and conflict. [W]ith the rapid
entrance into the paid labor force of women who
already occupied their primary roles, that is,
women who were married and had children,
researchers sought to examine the presumed
deleterious effects of women's multiple role
involvement. Thus expectation about core roles
have generated strikingly different expectations
about the effects of role occupancy for men and
women. (pp. 124-125)

Multiple role research changed direction when

theorists proposed that sex roles were culturally mandated

rather than biologically-based. Studies were then designed

which conceded that combining work and family roles might

be draining but not inevitably so; they could be enriching

as well. Studies based on these later expansion models

predicted individual differences in personal functioning as

a result of role involvement and found it. The acceptance

of the notion of individual differences in how combinations

of roles were experienced led to an era which favored a

stress-health outcome model in which individual

psychological constructions of the quality of one's roles

had explanatory power. The following discussion more fully

traces the evolution of multiple role research noting the

shifts in conceptualization and methodology that

accompanied the re-thinking of core gender assumptions.

The Deviance Model

In her review of the literature on the vocational

development of professional women, Levitt (1971) reported

that the research findings of the 1960's discussed women as

either "career-oriented" or "marriage-oriented." In that

review only one investigator used a third label,

"compromise-orientation." It is unclear whether this tag

was intended to describe those women who were neither

committed to marriage nor career, or were clearly

committed to both. Levitt cited as a problem in the study

of career orientations of college women the "not uncommon

practice of eliminating from samples young women who

expressed a strong interest in both marriage and a career"

(p. 381). An examination of the literature prior to the

late 70's and 80's revealed that college women who chose to

be in any kind of career, especially an atypical or pioneer

one (i.e. male dominated), were thought to exhibit

deviant social and psychological profiles (Almquist &

Angrist, 1970; Marshall & Witjing, 1980; Yogev, 1983).

They were thought to violate sex stereotypes, lack

femininity, and exhibit more masculine traits. Regarding

the latter, these women were viewed as were more aggressive

and achievement-oriented. They were seen as having more

persistence and drive and were more dominant. They were

thought to have personality disturbances because they

experienced more psychological role conflict and seemed

more dissatisfied with their lives. It was assumed that

they were be less likely to enjoy child care or domestic

activities. Within this early perspective "women had only

two options: either to have a family and be feminine or to

have a career and be sexless" (Yogev, 1983, p. 220).

During the transitional decade of the seventies,

however, such social phenomena as the human potential

movement and the women's movement reshaped notions of sex

roles such that perceptions about women and behaviors in

the career arena altered dramatically. In analyzing the

employment and educational histories of 498 women in the

ten year period following college graduation in 1968, for

example, Betz (1984) found that only 1.4% were fulltime

homemakers and an overwhelming 79% combined both careers

and families. Of these, some 28.5% were employed in

nontraditional or "pioneer" occupations. Thus, a life role

combination that was once considered deviant became the

norm and the "deviance hypothesis" to describe

college-educated career women became obsolete and

inappropriate. Researchers began seeking alternative

hypotheses to explain the growing phenomenon of women

choosing to work, often in male-dominated fields, while

also participating in family roles.

Before new hypotheses could be formulated, however,

investigators of the 70s and 80s first found it necessary

to dismantle the deviance model itself. Yogev (1983),

noted many conceptual and methodological problems with

earlier "deviance" modeled research. She suggested that

research showing career women in a favorable light was in

conflict with the dominant thinking of the times. Such

studies may have either received little attention or simply

never have gotten published. She pointed to difficulties

in overdependence on populations of undergraduate women.

She noted inconsistent types of research measures,

particularly, difficulties with the dimensionality of sex

role scales. She drily observed the milieu in which

"feminine" attributes implied psychopathology while

"masculine" attributes were considered representative of

adult mental health. One attempt at rectifying these

problems was to continue to describe women in terms of sex

roles but to revise the measures from unidimensional to

multidimensional. Typical of this pursuit was a study done

by Marshal & Witjing (1980) who described some 405 upper

division undergraduate women at a large urban university

using the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) along with measures

of achievement motivation and career orientation to

determine their expected levels of career centeredness and

career commitment. Although their findings tended to

confirm the deviance model in that women who claimed

greatest satisfaction from career pursuits were those who

scored higher in masculinity on the BSRI and showed higher

need for achievement, this study did contribute a slight

methodological advance in instrumentation by using the

multidimensional BSRI.

Another direction was to study women actually

participating in rather than anticipating the roles being

studied. Birnbaum (1975) eschewed the typical

undergraduate sample when she described self esteem and

adult life patterns among a sample of gifted women fifteen

to twenty five years after college graduation. The sample

consisted of 29 homemaker (e.g. non-working, married with

children), 25 married professionals, and 27 single

professionals. She found that, as predicted, self-esteem

was higher among the homemakers in their younger years but

as the women reached midlife the career-oriented women had

higher self esteem and generally felt more satisfied with

their lives. Birnbaum's work suggested that, in

contradistinction to earlier stereotypes, professional

women, whether married or single, found a "vital source of

personal identity and satisfaction" (p. 418) in their work

that enhanced their self worth and which could be a

significant factor in maintaining self-esteem later in


The possibility that choosing a career role might

actually enhance women's lives began to replace the

deviance explanation for women's participation in the

professions. Hoffman (1973) admitted that her seminal

research on working mothers was initiated "in the hope of

documenting the ill effects of maternal employment" (p.

212). Instead, she found no significant differences

between the children of working and non-working mothers.

In fact, very few negative effects were found and many

positive effects were found, especially on the self-esteem,

academic and career achievements of daughters (pp.

211-212). She found, contrary to the deviance hypothesis,

that "balancing a career commitment with family and

affective concerns has resulted for many [women] in a

richer and more fulfilling life" (p. 216) and she predicted

that combining family and career roles would continue to

gain acceptance. Almquist & Angrist (1970) put forth the

possibility that the "unconventional chooser is not so much

a renegade as she is the product of additional enriching

experiences which lead to a less stereotyped and broader

conception of the female role (243)." Thus, research that

at first seemed designed to castigate and brand as deviant

those highly educated women who chose to enter male

dominated fields softened when empirical evidence was too

mixed to support the view.

Scarcity Models

As changes in economic and social realities converged,

and the trend for women to combine career and family

commitments continued and strengthened; the speculation

about career women's deviance became less pronounced.

Traditional gender assumptions still prevailed; like

manhood and work status, womanhood and motherhood were

still synonymous. Work was still essential to a man's

identity but was extraneous to a woman's. Her "real

calling," nurturing her husband and children. Now,

however, these assumptions were argued from sociological

and cultural rather than biological perspectives. A new

area of concern emerged: the difficulties women face in

managing all their multiple commitments with their

attendant conflicts, stresses and strains.

Many women did seem to get caught up in a "superwoman"

spiral, as Hoffman (1973) vividly described:

On the other hand we were harassed! Not content
with being professionals and mothers, we wanted
to be gourmet cooks, hostesses, supportive wives,
and femme fatales. The major problem reported by
the professional woman in several studies has
been the management of the household. The
difficulty of finding a housekeeper really was
the single most predominant complaint of the
women Ph. D.'s studied by Astin And our
husbands may have helped more than the husbands
of the nonworking women, but by no means was
there equal responsibility for housework and
childcare (p. 215)

Researchers then began to focus their attention on the cost

of "doing it all." They presumed that women experiencing

role conflicts were stressed and that stress inevitably led

to negative consequences. These studies were based on a

model of role theory suggested by Goode (1960), and others

(Coser, 1974; Slater, 1963), which proposed that

individuals have a finite amount of energy with which to

meet the cumulative demands that each additional role

carries. These theorists concluded that when an

individual's total number of role obligations were overly

demanding, he or she would not have enough energy to

adequately fulfill them all, and uncomfortable compromises

would necessarily follow. The more roles one accumulated

the greater the possibility of confronting conflicting

obligations and exhausting one's supply of energy.

Thereby working women were more likely to experience role

strain and psychological distress. One approach to the

study of employed women was to emphasize the negative

aspects of combining roles and the inevitability of

overload, conflict, and stress in so doing. Studies done

in this vein sought first to establish that multiple role

women inevitably experienced conflict which, in turn,

implied stress. They went on to "suggest" causality by

enumerating antecedent stressors correlated with those

negative outcomes. Possible causal variables examined were

marital status (Nevill & Damico, 1975), marital

satisfaction/adjustment (Staines et al., 1978), husband's

support of work/career (Beutell & Greenhaus, 1982; Holahan

& Gilbert, 1979a; Keith & Schafer, 1980; Poloma, 1972; Van

Meter & Agronow, 1982), parental status (Gilbert et al.,

1981; Holahan & Gilbert, 1979a; Keith & Schafer, 1980; Van

Meter & Agronow, 1982), number and ages of children in the

home (Gilbert & Hanson, 1983; Staines et al., 1978),

parental responsibilities (Gilbert & Hanson, 1983; Nevill &

Damico, 1975), role satisfaction (Holahan & Gilbert, 1979a)

life stage (Keith & Schafer, 1980; Staines, et al., 1978),

educational level (Staines, et. al., 1978; Yorburg &

Arafat, 1975), professional versus job status in women

(Holahan & Gilbert, 1979b; Nevill, 1984; Nevill & Damico,

1975), career commitment (Amatea, Cross, Clark, & Bobby,

1986) time demands at work and at home (Keith & Schafer,

1980; Nevill & Damico, 1975), self esteem (Holahan &

Gilbert 1979a), and mutuality in role definitions and

expectations (Yorburg & Arafat, 1975). The typical design

was to select antecedent stressors, comparing two at a time

so that indices of role strain or conflict could be

determined. Often helpful solutions or strategies for

coping with role-related stress were suggested for those

attempting to assist the beleaguered.

Typical of this early problem-focused orientation was

Johnson & Johnson's (1976) treatise on role strain and

career women. They argued that the "relatively small, but

important contingent of contemporary American women--those

who are married and simultaneously aspire toward or occupy

high-commitment career roles (p. 15), "face problems and

psychological conflicts inherent in role proliferation, the

"coterminous, continuous and additive combination of two

(or more) disparate high-commitment activities" (p. 16).

They traced sociological, psychological, and

psychoanalytical theories as well as research on sex and

gender differences that indicate that normative and

conventional expectations make women disproportionately

both more dependent and more responsible for caretaking and

housekeeping in their family roles. These pressures can

cause such women to feel "inexorable simultaneous concern

about performance both at home and on the job" (p. 21).

They concluded that high career committed women are

entrapped by the pressures of role proliferation which make

them psychologically vulnerable to the development of

strain. This pessimistic view even extended to their

proposed resolutions to the problem, some six methods of

coping, five of which were only effective for men (given

the differing socialization processes for the sexes). These

five include (a) establishment of a hierarchy of

importance, (b) insulation of some roles from

observability, (c) mutual support from status peers, (d)

compartmentalization of roles, and (e) delegation of some

roles. The sixth technique, elimination or reduction in

commitment to roles (i.e. work role) was, according to the

authors, the only technique which held promise of relief

for these harried women. Thus, it appears, in their view,

women could only win by losing.

Poloma (1972) shared Johnson & Johnson's sentiments.

She interviewed 53 couples in which the wives practiced law

or medicine or taught college. Her research focus assumed

role conflict and sought to answer how women managed

professional and family role conflicts. She defined role

conflict as "a logical outcome of a certain status

inconsistency in the position of a highly educated married

women in a male dominated society" (p. 187). That most of

the women in this sample had not internalized the

"inevitable" and "considerable" strain arising from the

intersection of "professional and home roles" was

conceived as the result of very intelligent women who

skillfully employed the one or more "tension management

techniques:" (a) favorable definition of the situation,

(b) establishment of a salient role in the particular role

constellation, (c) compartmentalization, and (d) compromise

(p. 198). The fourth technique appeared to be the most

frequently chosen, especially among mothers, to "create a

position for herself which is psychologically comfortable"

(p. 193). In this method "the wife makes] the necessary

adjustments to manage role strain" (p. 193). Some of the

reported adjustments included organizing situations so the

family's needs could be met, reducing earned income so as

not to surpass husband's breadwinning efforts, and

limiting career aspirations (i.e. working part-time;

leaving the career temporarily or permanently).

Other studies which seemed to support this perspective

focused on the complicated interaction of women's work and

marriage and its psychological implications, most notably,

depression. Nevill & Damico (1975) found that just being

married increased role strain for women and Staines and his

associates (1978) found that working wives had

significantly lower marital adjustment. The latter found,

however, that role load "as an intervening mechanism

linking wives' employment status and marital adjustment

[was] unsound only among wives who feel

overburdened by their responsibilities do those who work

report lower adjustment in their marriages" (p. 117).

Keith & Schafer (1980) investigated whether the amount of

time spent at work affected the reported levels of

depression of 135 two-job couples. Men and women who spent

more time at work had higher strain than expected and both

surprisingly reported low rates of feeling bothered by

family responsibilities intruding upon their work.

However, depression in men tended to be related to the

amount of time their wives worked outside the home and

husbands' involvement in "feminine" household tasks.

Women's depression was tied to their perceptions of their

financial situation relative to others and their

evaluations of their husbands' adequacy as a provider.

They suggested that allegiance to traditional views of sex

roles was costly for both genders.

Though researchers who conducted studies based on

scarcity models intended to sympathize with and promote

better methods of coping for women choosing to combine

professional careers with family roles they fell short of

their goals in several ways. First, their preoccupation

with negative outcomes precluded the possibility of finding

positive results. Women who maintained high levels of

involvements in their various roles or were not

pathologically depressed were shrugged off as skillful

copers. Secondly, the designs were usually simple

correlations that told little about the varying

contributions the identified stressor antecedents

provided. Third, except in a few cases (i.e. Staines et

al., 1978) role conflict (or strain or overload) was viewed

as an end result, leaving for the reader to infer the

mental and physical health consequences that might follow

from it. Finally, the findings of the studies were

ambiguous. Larger proportions of women reported

satisfactions with their role choices even when they also

reported conflicts and strains than did those who felt

overwhelmed and unhappy with their choices.

Expansion Models

With such contradictory results appearing in the

literature, the negative conceptualizations of such

theorists as Goode and Johnson & Johnson did not long go

unchallenged. Coser and Rokoff (1971) were among the first

to challenge them. They articulated the idea of socio-

cultural factors that maintained normative cultural

mandates. These mandated limit women's opportunities and

entry into high prestige careers. First, they discussed in

detail the cultural mandate that decrees that women and men

are expected to maintain total allegiance to their separate

role domains of wife and mother or breadwinner and status

provider. They cited examples from movies, magazines, and

television that reinforce these stereotypes. "Career and

family life are presented as mutually exclusive

alternatives for women. It would seem as if modern women

are not capable, as modern men are, to segment their

various roles and statuses" (p. 542). Yet, women with

families do work. Women represent about half of the

college educated people, but they are usually employed in

the lower status occupations in this country. Higher

prestige professional positions actually offer more

scheduling flexibility that would help women to dovetail

their work and family responsibilities. "Yet women are more

likely to be found in occupations that demand a full day's

involvement and where there is little flexibility for the

manipulation of time, and are less likely to be in

occupations in which they could follow a flexible schedule"

(p. 543). The reason the authors pointed to was the

meaningfulness of the work--

it is not that women are not expected to
work; it is only that they are not expected to be
committed to their work through their individual
control over it; if they did, they would then
subvert the cultural mandate, thereby allegedly
causing disruption in the family system, and
would risk disrupting the occupational system as
well. (p. 545)

The maintenance of power and legitimacy of status were the

issues behind the concern of total allegiance to prescribed

roles. They operated in subtle and not so subtle attitudes

and policies in the workplace. The result was that

"opportunities are. structured [so] that women will be

less likely to be trained, and if trained, less likely to

be employed in high-status positions, than men with equal

potentialities for achievement" (p. 551).

This groundbreaking treatise resulted in new

directions in theory and research. Theorists moved away

from the "greedy institutions" model of the scarcity

hypothesis to more expansive views of social role

interaction. Such theorists as Sieber (1974) and then

Marks (1977) offered more optimistic interpretations of

multiple role involvements and numerous studies were

formulated to examine possible benefits that might be

derived from them.

Sieber (1974) argued for a more balanced view of

multiple role participation. While not denying that role

conflict, overload, and stress do occur, he maintained that

seeking only the dysfunctional aspects of multiple roles

could result in the failure to acknowledge and seek the

gratifying benefits that therein lie. He cited and

described four positive outcomes or rewards of role

accumulation: (a) role privileges, (b) overall status

security by means of buffer roles against failure in

instrumental or expressive roles, (c) resources for status

enhancement and role performance, and (d) enrichment of the

personality and ego gratification. He proposed that role

accumulation could actually be more gratifying than

distressful, and that role participation is sociologically

normal and psychologically desirable (p. 577). He even

suggested that individual stress and social unrest might be

due to blocked opportunities for participation in a variety

of roles for certain status groups, such as blacks and

women. He proposed that the pursuit of a full range of

roles might facilitate mental health, social stability, and

orderly social change. Specifically in regard to working

mothers, he suggested that despite the likelihood of role

conflict, women who seek wider role repertoires stand to

increase their resources, privileges, and sense of personal


Marks (1977) challenged the negativity of Goode's

formulation regarding the inevitability of role strain

among persons with multiple role involvements by disputing

the concept of energy as being finite and consumable. He

noted that for every empirical study there

is evidence of a minority of each sample who do
not seem to be experiencing the effects of scarce
personal resources. .who do not appear to be
struggling with role conflicts or suffering from
role strain or over load. In short, if energy
is seemingly abundant for some people, then we
can no longer appeal to some universally held
condition or natural fact to account for those
instances in which it is found to be scarce. (p.

He argued that physiology did not support the notion of

finite energy. He cited the adenosine triphosphate (ATP)

cycle to support his position. ATP is converted from

glucose and then consumed when muscle fibers contract. The

body stimulates the production of ATP from glucose only

through the consumption of ATP in activity. To Marks, the

"process of production of human energy is inseparably a

part of the consumption of energy" (pp.925-6). He applied

physiological concepts to social roles and theorized that

an expansion approach to human energy would allow for the

possibility that "some roles may be performed without any

net energy loss at all; they may even create energy for use

in that role or in other role performances" (p. 926). In

Marks' model humans have "abundant and perpetually renewing

resources" (p. 927) with which to carry out their

activities. Rather than mechanically releasing energy to

those who make demands upon them, humans construct their

response to others by deciding to give or withhold the flow

of energy in any particular role. Energy levels vary

according to the level of commitment to each role and the

tendency is for over-committed interests to begin to

encroach on the energy being produced for under-committed

interests. He suggested that the tendency in Western

society is to overperform in occupational roles and

underperform in all others. Thus, being too tired or too

busy becomes a socially sanctioned excuse for being under-

committed in non-work roles. For example, a physician at

the end of a long day rebounds with a burst of energy for

an emergency at the hospital. After a similar day this

same physician may be too exhausted to attend a family

function. "On the other hand, for the traditional

housewife, whose daily activities are not even reckoned

culturally as real work, there is little power of appeal to

any excuses (p. 933)." Thus, he argued that the expression

of lack of energy is not due to lack of physical energy

resulting from distribution of finite resources to greedy

role demands, but rather issues from a series of over- and

under-commitments to varying roles.

The works of Sieber and Marks were the impetus for an

explosion of research that challenged previous assumptions

about the difficulties involved in role combination. After

these theories appeared the effects of multiple role

involvements were viewed as less clear cut than previously

thought (Stewart & Malley, 1987). Studies began appearing

which seemed to contradict Goode's position on the

inevitability of role strain and to reinforce Sieber and

Marks' position that participating in multiple roles can be

rewarding as well as distressing. For instance, Verbrugge

(1983a) stated,

Multiple roles have no special effects on
health, either negative or positive. Thus,
people with both job and family roles enjoy the
health benefits of each role (main effects) and
incur no special health disadvantage or benefit
(interaction effect) for being so busy. (p. 16)

Barnett (1982) found in a study of mothers of preschool age

children that there were no differences in reported levels

of self esteem and satisfaction between those mothers of

preschool age children who were employed and those who were

nonemployed. Skinner (1980), in a study of dual career

couples, found that though dual career couples reported

stress they described their lifestyle in positive terms.

Similarly, Cartwright (1978; 1987) found that 88% of the

women physicians sampled in her study reported overall

satisfaction with their lives even when role conflict was

also reported. To further add to the puzzle, Thoits (1987)

analyzed twelve empirical studies which compared housewives

and employed wives. She found that

Five report greater distress among housewives
than among employed wives ., but seven
studies report no differences between these two
groups of women. When the presence, number,
and/or ages of children are controlled, again
mixed findings are obtained. Four studies report
greater distress among housewives compared to
employed wives, while three report no
differences between these two groups. (p. 15)

Some investigators have promoted the view that

multiple role involvements are not only not deleterious but

actually positive or even therapeutic in their effect.

Some researchers suggested that multiple roles mitigated

the stress of either full-time homemaking (Lewis & Cooper,

1983) or work. Stewart & Salt (1981) showed that young

women with multiple role involvements showed fewer physical

and psychological stress responses than their counterparts

did when faced with life change. Verbrugge (1983b) found

health benefits accrued to the married and the employed.

We found that marriage offers a very supportive
milieu in which young women can add other roles
and enjoy high rewards of happiness and good
health. By contrast, previously married and
never married women are more pressured and
dissatisfied, and they do not always benefit by
having job or children. Thus, the Detroit
data show that multiple roles are in fact
healthful in the context of marriage. (p. 3)

In a later study focusing on health and gender at midlife,

Verbrugge (1987) found that well-being for both men and

women was closely associated with participation in the paid

labor force as part of their multiple role configurations.

More specifically, she stated that "work in combination

with parenting and marriage add meaning to adulthood

and help promote physical and psychological well-being"

(p. 153). Holahan & Gilbert (1979b) found, contrary to

their own predictions, that higher levels of role conflict

were reported by employed women who were least committed to

their work. They saw themselves having lower levels of

commitment to work they viewed as a job than did those who

described their employment as a career. Thus, higher

career-committed women reported feeling better about their

lives. It became apparent through the work of later

investigators that certain roles in combination altered

predicted outcomes. Cooke & Rousseau (1984) observed that

family roles could serve as a source of distress while

simultaneously (and paradoxically) seeming also to reduce

the effects of work stressors. Kandel and her associates

(1985) further noted that "participation in multiple roles

modified] the impact on depression generated by particular

roles" (p. 129). Specifically, marital roles appeared to

buffer the effects of work while parenthood seemed to

exacerbate occupational stress.

Of particular concern is the issue of working mothers,

especially those of infants and preschool age children.

Studies which indicate that women with young children,

whether employed or not, tend to experience greater

distress than those without, have some qualified support.

These results are chiefly apparent when economic necessity

is the impetus for the decision to work and a high value is

placed on parenting (Gordon & Kammeyer, 1980). These

results were consistent in studies in which wives were

engaged in low parity work (Beckman, 1978). When families

were large and/or childcare demands were high (Nye, 1963;

Verbrugge, 1987) and when women were parenting alone

(Verbrugge, 1987) higher stress levels were noted. When

husbands did not support their wives' decision to work or

wives feel their husbands are dissatisfied with their

investment in childcaring duties (Barnett & Baruch, 1985)

higher levels of stress were apparent. On the other hand,

Barnett (1982) conducted a study of mothers of preschool

age children and found that "involvement in a variety of

roles does not necessarily diminish well-being. In fact,

the stronger the commitment to work among employed women,

the higher they were in well-being. the women in this

study were at the peak of involvement in childcare;

despite this, employment did not appear to reduce

satisfaction nor result in self-doubt" (p. 177). In a

later study investigating distribution of childcaring in

couples, Barnett & Baruch (1987a) found that both "the

employed and the nonemployed women carried the major

portion of childcare, yet neither seemed to experience the

situation as burdensome. Perhaps an expectation of

inequity means adaptation to it" (p. 101).

The controversy about the potential costs and rewards

of multiple role participation has continued unabated to

the present (Schwartz, 1989). These debates suggest that

both scarcity and expansion models, while reflecting gender

role assumptions of the time and channeling research

efforts in new directions, no longer offer an entirely

adequate focus for women's current role concerns.

In summary, studies done from the perspective of an

expansion model addressed many of the flaws of the scarcity

model. First, they opened the door for considering

positive as well as negative outcomes from one's multiple

role involvements. Second, they were more likely to employ

more sophisticated multiple regression techniques that

calculated the amount of variance antecedent stressors

contributed to outcomes. Third, outcomes were more likely

to be clearly health-related (e.g., depression, stress

symptoms, etc.) rather than role-based (e.g., role

conflict, role strain, and/or role overload). However, for

all the positives, the results were sometimes as difficult

to interpret as scarcity model studies.

Although expansion model researchers conducted studies

which showed that working women were no worse and sometimes

in seemingly better shape than their homemaker

counterparts, puzzles still remained. Some family

relationships seemed to buffer the stresses of work and

others to exacerbate them. Work seemed to relieve

depression for some (former) full-time homemakers while

heightening role conflict for others. Thoits (1987)

suggested that some of the discrepancies in the findings

might have been due to historical changes. For example,

the number of women in the workforce, significant changes

in gender-role attitudes, and differing marital patterns

(i.e. traditional, transitional, and parallel marriages)

would clearly change the direction of findings. In

addition, many of the same problems which plagued the

scarcity model were still in evidence: varying

conceptualizations, diverging populations, differing

research questions, and inconsistent measures. Another

obvious problem in these studies was that role occupancy

was too gross a measure for meaningful interpretation.

Motivations to work vary widely: it may an economic

necessity, an escape from drudgery, an expression of a

need for achievement, a source of identity, and a statement

of autonomy. Similarly, not all marriages are created

equal: some are sources of great solace and support filled

with love and stability; some are sources of turmoil,

confusion, and animosity; and, some are arrangements of

convenience, more form than substance. Similarly, spouses

can have significantly varying responses to each others'

work roles. Whether a woman sees her husband as an

adequate provider may influence whether she sees her own

work as a burden thrust upon her or an involvement that she

may modulate or rescind as she sees fit. A husband may

view his wife's work as a welcome sharing of economic

responsibility, a part of her need to grow and achieve, or

as a threat to his masculinity and thereby to their

relationship. Both may view work as a mutual commitment

necessary for personal identification and economic

survival. Redistribution of housework and childcare

responsibilities necessitated by.both parents working may

be viewed as a welcome circumstance, or a difficult

imposition by one or both partners. Thus, a construct

other than, or in addition to, role occupancy was needed to

more carefully examine the complexity of issues underlying

role constellations and their interactions.

Thoits (1987) shed some light on the matter when she

argued for the need to look beyond role occupancy to other

factors. She defined roles as relationships in which

patterned (normative) behavior is exchanged between at

least two people. Those persons must be able to anticipate

accurately and respond in advance to each others'

expectations in order for role relationships to proceed

smoothly. When role relationships are nonreciprocal and

there are incongruent expectations,

role conflict or role strain will remain high to
the extent that flexibility in bargaining is
constrained It is not, then, the number
of roles that causes problems, but rather the
degree to which interpersonal renegotiation of
rights and obligations is constrained when
partners' role expectations are incongruent.
(p. 17)

Role bargaining is further constrained by the resources of

money, education, and social networks role partners have in

relation to one another. Thus, while more recent research

tended to support the idea that both men and women benefit

from multiple role involvements, enough inconsistency in

findings existed to warrant looking beyond role occupancy

to alternative explanations for these results.

Research from the stress field indicated that

investigators were shifting from conceptualizations of

roles as external sets of expectations to be assumed, to a

psychological construction wherein role demands are

cognitively mediated. Multiple role researchers have

apparently considered this reformulation and are presently

evolving toward this later, more psychological

understanding. More emphasis is being placed on the

personal meanings subjects attribute to their roles along

with other possible moderating conditions, such as

perceptions of social support. An understanding of

variations in individual perceptions help to clarify and

interpret findings in which women with seemingly similar

role constellations have such different responses to them.

A transactional model of stress offers a framework for

conceptualizing the role of cognitive mediational processes

in health outcomes research.

Stress Theories
Different theories of stress have emerged from

psychology and physiology with differing emphases and

etiologies. What they each hold in common is an agreement

that "inadequately expressed emotions trigger tension and

anxiety which may produce physical and emotional symptoms.

These symptoms are the result of general or selective

alteration in the neurophysiologic neuroendocrine or

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