Career-changing behaviors of women in the middle years: internal, environmental, and interactional approaches

Ackerman, Rosalie
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Middle-aged women who had changed jobs within the past 3 years were classified by self-report into four groups: those wanting and planning a job change (n = 12); those wanting but not planning for the job change (n = 15); those not wanting a job change but planning for a different job when forced to change (n = 28); and women who did not want and did not plan for a job change they were forced to make (n = 16);Variables of job-changing strategies and behaviors of the women were categorized according to three theoretical perspectives: internal, environmental, and interactional. Significant group differences were obtained for all perspectives using MANOVAs, ANOVAs, and post hoc Tukey's test for group differences. From an internal or personal perspective, the variables of available family income, marital status, personality dimensions, and evaluative descriptions of the midlife career-changing situation significantly differentiated among the four groups of women. Within the environmental perspective, life events and stress differed significantly among the groups. From the interactional perspective, the women showed significant differences in various areas of life satisfaction and in the self-help measures they used when changing jobs;Discriminant analyses, using the above variables in the three perspectives as predictors, classified the women within their self-reported groups at significant rates. Correct proportions of group classifications for the perspectives wre the following: 84.5% by internal variables; 62% by number of life event stressors and 64.7% by level of stress by the environmental perspective; and 63.4% by interactional variables;Conclusions drawn from the study were that the internal perspective may be more useful than either of the other perspectives in assessing adult transitional stages. In addition, middle-aged women who work outside the home, particularly those who are wives and mothers, suffer from a great deal of conflict and stress as a result of their multiple life roles. Nonetheless, they look upon midlife as a challenging developmental period and derive enjoyment and satisfaction from it.