For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Women and Work: The Psychological Effects of Occupational Conditions"

by Miller, Joanne; Schooler, Carmi; Kohn, Melvin L; Miller, Karen A (1979)


For employed women, job conditions that encourage self-direction are related to effective intellectual functioning and an open, flexible orientation to others, while those tha constrain opportunities for self direction are related to ineffective intellectual functioning and a rigid social orientation. Moreover, several types of job pressures and uncertainties are related to less effective intellectual functioning, unfavorable evaluations of self, or a rigid social orientation. These relationships do not result from social selection, pay, status, or social circumstances and personal preferences, and they are of magnitudes similar to those for men. Causal analysis demonstrates that job conditions not only correlate with but actually affect psychological functioning. For women, as for men, occupational conditions have a decided psychological impact.

Key Passage

The evidence we have presented indicates that employed women's conditions of work are meaningfully and substantially related to their psycho- logical functioning. We believe that these relationships result not only from the selective processes by which women enter into jobs that meet their own and their employers' requirements but also from the powerful effect of women's work experience on their self-conceptions, social orientations, and even intellectual functioning. In support of this interpretation, we have shown that the relationships between occupational conditions and psycho- logical functioning do not simply reflect education or other social characteristics that influence the processes of job recruitment and selection. Nor are these relationships an artifact of such extrinsic aspects of the job as income and status. Moreover, these relationships between occupational conditions and psychological functioning are much the same, whatever the social circumstances or personal preferences of the women. Finally, we have been able to demonstrate, in a series of reciprocal effects models, that key occupational conditions have causal effects on intellectual flexibility. These effects are consistently shown even though rigorous statistical controls are imposed and models making a number of different assumptions are tested. Although we have to make further assumptions to identify models of the relationships between occupational conditions and other aspects of psycho- logical functioning, these models, too, buttress the interpretation that occupational conditions are not only correlated with, but actually affect, psychological functioning. (p.90)


Gender, Women And Work, Working Conditions, Intellectual Flexibility, Reciprocity, Personality, Identity, Self, Distress, Psychology, Work Complexity, Development


Kohn-Schooler, Psychological Centrality of Work

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