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Abstract

As more women enter the labor force, their roles proliferate. The purpose of this study was to determine whether proliferation of roles would have a deleterious effect on women's health. A group of 96 women completed a family health diary for 3 weeks which included an estimate of stress level typical of the family on each day, the measures taken by the family to maintain health, an estimate of how each family member felt, whether or not behavior restriction was necessary, and any symptoms or complaints. An illness episode was considered to be any continued sequence of days during which health complaints were recorded in the health diary. The mean number of illness episodes for the 3-week diary-keeping period was 3.23 (SD = 1.50). Role proliferation did not correlate with the number of illness episodes (Spearman's rho = -.115, p <.132). The variables that best explained the variance in the number of illness episodes were number of children and role reinforcement, both of which had modest negative effects on number of illness episodes; together they explained 11.3% of the variance. It was concluded that the number of episodes of illness women experience is a function of the compatibility of a woman's other roles with being ill and with the support available to her for performing her roles.