Continuity and change in work–life balance choices




This paper explores the ways in which the work–life balance choices made by heterosexual couples differ in different generations, how such choices are gendered, and the extent to which ‘individualization’ provides an adequate conceptualization of the effects of social change on heterosexual couples. It argues that processes of individualization need to be seen in the context of changing social institutions, and that it is the de-institutionalization of ‘the family’ and the life course that is leading to a de-gendering of work–life balance choices. The paper draws on findings from a restudy of the family and social change and a study of the gender dimensions of job insecurity both of which were carried out in the same geographical location. The studies provide evidence of generational change in work–life balance choices and increasing occupational differentiation between heterosexual partners. This leads to a situation where increasingly choices are made which blur gendered boundaries and which has been made possible by a process of de-institutionalization of the male breadwinner family. Our findings support the contention that processes of individualization are more apparent amongst younger than older generations and that, because of changes external to the family, there is more negotiation and pragmatism amongst younger generations about work–life choices.