Men accross the world struggle with acheiving a work-family balance just as much as women do, irrespective of the level of gender equality in their country, a study has found.
Researchers spent several years examining the findings from more than 350 studies conducted over three decades that included more than 250,000 participants from across the world.
The results were surprising, said lead researcher Kristen Shockley, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia in the US.
“We essentially found very little evidence of differences between women and men as far as the level of work-family conflict they report,” she said.
“This is quite contrary to the common public perception. The way this issue is presented in the media frames the way we think about it, and it creates a perpetual cycle,” she added.
“Women hear that other women are struggling with this issue, so they expect they will experience greater work-family conflict. There also is some socialisation for it being OK for women to talk more about it than men,” she said.
Some previous research has found that men often do not feel comfortable discussing work-family concerns because of fears of being stigmatised, threats to their masculinity or negative career repercussions.
“I do think it's harming men, who are silently struggling and are experiencing the same amount of work-family conflict, but no one is acknowledging it,” she said.
In recent years, men also have increasingly become primary caregivers for young children, and fathers on average are spending more time caring for their children and completing household chores, although women still spend more time on both tasks.
Women also may face career penalties because of stereotypes that they are more family-oriented and less committed to their careers.
The researchers also examined ratings of gender equality for the countries where the studies were conducted, and they were surprised to find that men and women reported similar levels of work-family conflict regardless of the level of gender equality in their country.
Some minor differences were detected between men and women about work-family conflict when the data were divided into different subgroups, but none of them were large in magnitude, Shockley said.
Mothers reported slightly greater family interference with work than fathers, as did women in dual-earner couples.
Men in dual-earner couples reported slightly greater work interference with family, as did women when the sample was restricted to men and women in the same occupations.
Men and women may experience the same level of work- family conflict but perceive it differently, Shockley said.
Women may feel guiltier about work interference with family because of traditional expectations that mothers are caretakers, but there has been little research on that issue and there were not enough studies to include in the meta- analysis, Shockley said.
A father's traditional role has been as the primary breadwinner so men may feel they are fulfilling their family responsibilities by working, resulting in less guilt, she added.
The research was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.