When the past comes back to haunt you: The enduring influence of upbringing on the work–family decisions of professional parents

  • Ioana Lupu, Crawford Spence, Laura Empson
  • Human Relations, July 2017, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/0018726717708247

What is it about?

Individuals who enter organisations are not blank slates. They bring with them a set of dispositions and expectations formed largely as a result of family education and schooling. These dispositions orient how they act and what decisions they make in situations of work-family conflict. Moreover, they shape the expectations individuals have of themselves as parents and professionals and the extent to which for instance, they feel comfortable to externalise childcare in order to focus on their careers. This paper explores how upbringing/parental model has an enduring influence on professionals' career and family aspirations.

Why is it important?

We have found that the enduring influence of upbringing goes some way towards explaining why the careers of individuals, both male and female, are differentially affected following parenthood, even when those individuals possess broadly equivalent levels of cultural capital, such as levels of education, and have hitherto pursued very similar career paths. While current approaches to promoting equality and diversity in society are focused at the organisational level in the form of flexible working schemes or, more rarely, positive discrimination processes, the study’s findings show that some of the biggest obstacles to greater equality are in fact, more deeply rooted in the social fabric of professionals’ lives.

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