Work orientation and wives’ employment careers: an evaluation of Hakim’s preference theory

Publication type

Research Paper

Series Number



GeNet Working Papers


Publication date

October 1, 2005


This paper uses a nine-year period of work-life history data from the British
Household Panel Survey (1991 - 1999) to examine married/cohabiting women’s work
trajectories. In particular, it tests some major contentions of Hakim’s (2000) preference
theory. Both supportive and opposing evidence for the theory has been found. First,
concurring with Hakim’s arguments, women who have followed a home-career path hold
consistently more home-centred attitudes over time than women who have been
committed to their employment careers. Moreover, it is found that presence of dependent
children has little or no negative effect on a work-centred woman’s chance of being
engaged in full-time work. But the findings could not rule out the possibility that
women’s employment careers are still constrained. The most work-centred women (as
revealed in their gender role attitudes in the nine-year period), despite having been
committed mostly to a full-time work, still have displayed a certain degree of
discontinuity in their career pursuits. Finally, contrary to corollary of the preference
theory, the relationship between gender role attitudes and women’s participation in labour market work is reciprocal rather than unidirectional. That is, women’s work orientations to their labour market experiences.





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