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Family Matters No. 64 - May 2003

Competing family models, competing social policies

Catherine Hakim

Abstract

Even in modern societies, women's views are often still overlooked. The author believes that policy makers and social scientists concerned with family and social policy need to take greater account of women's values, preferences and life goals. She outlines three lifestyle preference groups for women: work centred women; home centred women; and adaptive women. Work centred women are in a minority. Preference theory predicts that men will retain their dominance in the labour market, politics and other competitive activities, because only a minority of women are prepared to prioritise their jobs (or other activities in the public sphere) in the same way as men. Home centred women are also a minority group, and a relatively invisible one given the current political and media focus on working women and high achievers. Home centred women prefer to give priority to private life and family life after they marry. Adaptive women prefer to combine employment and family work without giving a fixed priority to either. The author states that preference theory exposes the bias against full time motherhood in current fiscal, social and family policies in many modern societies. She argues that there is a need to redress the current bias towards policies supporting working women exclusively, at the expense of policies supporting full time homemakers and full time parents.

Even in modern societies, women's views are often still overlooked. The author believes that policy makers and social scientists concerned with family and social policy need to take greater account of women's values, preferences and life goals. She outlines three lifestyle preference groups for women: work centred women; home centred women; and adaptive women. Work centred women are in a minority. Preference theory predicts that men will retain their dominance in the labour market, politics and other competitive activities, because only a minority of women are prepared to prioritise their jobs (or other activities in the public sphere) in the same way as men. Home centred women are also a minority group, and a relatively invisible one given the current political and media focus on working women and high achievers. Home centred women prefer to give priority to private life and family life after they marry. Adaptive women prefer to combine employment and family work without giving a fixed priority to either. The author states that preference theory exposes the bias against full time motherhood in current fiscal, social and family policies in many modern societies. She argues that there is a need to redress the current bias towards policies supporting working women exclusively, at the expense of policies supporting full time homemakers and full time parents.

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