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Gender role differences in reactions to unemployment: Exploring psychological mobility and boundaryless careers



Using Sullivan and Arthur's (Sullivan & Arthur, 2006) refinement of the boundaryless career concept, this study examines whether there are gender role differences in psychological mobility (i.e., the career actor's capacity to envision a variety of career options) in response to the same physical transition of unemployment. We surveyed 1095 individuals across numerous organizations and industries, and analyzed our data by generational cohort in light of evolving societal attitudes toward child rearing and breadwinning responsibilities. We found that for both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, men with children were more likely to perceive unemployment as a defeat than women with children; and women with children were more likely to perceive unemployment as an opportunity than men with children. Despite the many historical, economic, social, and cultural changes in the environment over the past decades, traditional gender roles remain pervasive in response to unemployment. Based on the study's empirical findings, we suggest critical issues for the future study of gender role differences and psychological mobility. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.