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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Balance in everyday life : conceptions of men and women in dual-income couples with young children Wada, Mineko


BACKGROUND: As the social justice movement has lessened the gender gap in occupational participation, the subject of balance in life is receiving enormous attention. A growing body of literature suggests that imbalance can increase individual’s health risks. Although various theories about balance have been developed, it remains elusive as a concept. Understanding how people experience and perceive balance is essential to conceptualizing balance and promoting individual and societal health. OBJECTIVE: To better understand the ways in which men and women in dual-income couples with at least one preschool-aged child perceive and experience balance in everyday life. METHODS: The study was primarily informed by a phenomenographic approach. Fifteen heterosexual, dual-income couples living with at least one child under six years old were recruited from a metropolitan area. Each partner in each couple individually participated in two semi-structured interviews. The first interview was designed to explore participants’ overall experiences of daily life, while the second interview aimed to elicit their experiences and perceptions of balance. Phenomenographic and critical discourse analyses were applied to the interview data. The quality of the findings was assured by peer-debriefing, reflexivity, and the verification of transferability. RESULTS: Two key conceptions of balance were identified: managing life and participating in a mix of occupations. In elucidating these conceptions, parents associated the former with meeting collective needs and the latter with meeting individual needs. Trying to simultaneously satisfy these two conceptions/constructions of balance created tension. Managing life reinforced parents’ intensive commitment to parenting and led to balance, but it limited their engagement in personal occupations, which led to imbalance. Conversely, participating in a mix of occupations allowed parents to meet their own needs and was associated with balance, but as it reduced the time they spent with their families, it led to imbalance. CONCLUSION: Employed parents with young children live with two competing conceptions/constructions of balance, which can create tension and affect health. Developing health care and employment policies that help parents to attain a greater sense of balance by harmonizing collective needs of the family and their personal needs may mediate this tension.

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