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

Our findings should also dispel the notion that the relationships between occupational conditions and psychological functioning are not as strong for women as for men. Not only are the overall magnitudes of the relationships we have studied at least as great for women as they are for men but, with interesting variations on the general pattern (see n. 6), the structural imperatives of the job have effects of roughly similar magnitude for women as for men. No matter what the sex of the worker, job conditions that directly or indirectly encourage occupational self-direction are conducive to effective intellectual functioning and to an open and flexible orientation to others. Job conditions that constrain opportunities for self-direction or subject the worker to any of several types of pressures or uncertainties result in less effective intellectual functioning, unfavorable evaluations of self, and a rigid, intolerant social orientation. In sum, despite sex-role definitions that have traditionally emphasized maternal and marital responsibilities, work histories that are likely to be interrupted, and part-time patterns of work, employed women's intellectual and personality development is directly affected by their current occupational experiences. By focusing on occupational conditions, we do not mean to deny that other aspects of women's lives also influence their psychological functioning; our findings simply show that women are not insulated by other experiences, past or present, from the effects of the structural imperatives of the job. Here clearly is evidence that conditions of adult life are important determinants of psychological functioning. For women, as for men, work has a decided psychological impact. (p.91)


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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