Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Katharine M. Donato


This dissertation focuses on how working families use flexible employment to manage multiple demands associated with combining work and family responsibilities. I argue that flexible employment outcomes are family adaptive strategies and decisions about these strategies are embedded in the household and occur in a context in which husbands and wives make joint decisions about their career trajectories, family obligations and community commitments. Therefore, I expect household models, rather than individual models, to provide a richer understanding of decisions about family and employment outcomes. These models explore more fully how couples may diversify employment participation. Furthermore, household level variables provide insights about exchange processes and trade-offs couples make with regard to the well-being of the family. Using data from the May 1997 Current Population Survey, I examine the relationship between family and flexible employment in individual level models and then in household-level models. Individual-level findings from analyses predicting flexible work outcomes support the more traditional view of work and family. For women, decisions about flexible employment are clearly influenced by their family obligations, but this is not the case for men. Household-level models reveal two key findings. First, dual earner couples are using flexible employment as an adaptive strategy to manage their families, but this depends on which and how many spouses are participating. This management strategy is especially important for wives. However, having children affects both husbands and wives decisions about participation in flexible employment strategies. This finding is unique to the household level analysis and suggest that couples, not just wives, are diversifying employment in a number of ways to accommodate the demands of child-rearing. Secondly, household models suggest that spousal characteristics are important for understanding the trade-offs couples accept when making decision about family and employment. The relative position of husbands and wives affect decisions couples make about the family economy. When wives have considerably higher occupational status than their husbands, households often opt for husbands to adjust their work schedule and to be flexible employed, suggesting that family decisions may reflect her larger income rather than her traditional role in domestic and child-rearing tasks.