This study focuses on the importance of considering the interaction between gender and family life stages to properly understand gender similarities and differences in the work and family interface. Data for this study come from the IBM 2004 Global Work and Life Issues Survey representing 79 countries (N=41,813). This study is a first step toward a better understanding of similarities and differences among male and female workers across the life course and it shows that work, family and life outcomes are similar across groups, independent of life stages or gender. Six family life stage groups were created: no children and workers age 35 or less, transition to parenthood, preschool children, elementary children, teenagers, and empty nest (workers age 50 years or older and no children dependent). The findings indicate that gender differences increase when young children are present. Parenthood creates or maintains a more gendered family and work life. A key characteristic of the first stage is that gender differences are smaller than in later stages. In the transition to parenthood stage, gender differences increase substantially. For example, the difference in work hours increases four times from the previous life stage and males experience substantially more work-to-family conflict than females. The preschool stage is the stage in which gender differences in work hours and work-to-family conflict reach their highest point. In the elementary children stage, gender differences in work hours and work-to-family conflict decrease to a level very similar to the transition to parenthood stage. In the teenager children stage, differences in work-to-family conflict decrease to levels similar to the first life stage and differences in access-use of work-family programs decrease to levels similar to the transition to parenthood stages. Finally, in the empty nest stage gender differences are small and some are unique to this stage. Future research could benefit from exploring how the fit of the model may change with the addition of other important work-family variables that were not adequately measured in this study because the data were collected in a corporate setting. Employers could benefit from applying these research findings to the development of work policies and programs attentive to shifts in work-family linkages over the life course.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage, Family, and Human Development



Date Submitted


Document Type





work-family, work-family interface, life stages, gender and life stages, life cycles, life course