De-standardization and gender convergence in work–family life courses in Great Britain: a multi-channel sequence analysis

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

December 15, 2015


This study addresses the question of de-standardized life courses from a
gender perspective. Multi-channel sequence analysis is used to
characterise the domains of work, partnership and parenthood in
combination across the adult life courses of three birth cohorts of
British men and women between the ages of 16 and 42. Three research
questions are addressed. First, we examine whether there is evidence of
increasing between-person de-standardization (diversity) and
within-person differentiation (complexity) in work and family life
courses across cohorts during the main childrearing years. Second, we
investigate whether men's and women's work–family life courses are
converging over time. Finally, we assess the link between educational
attainment and work–family life courses across cohorts. Data are from
the MRC National Survey of Health and Development 1946 birth cohort (n = 3012), the National Child Development Study 1958 birth cohort (n = 9616), and the British Cohort Study 1970 birth cohort (n = 8158).
We apply multi-channel sequence analysis to group individuals into
twelve conceptually-based work–family life course types. We find
evidence of growing between-person diversity, across cohorts, for both
women and men. In addition, partnership trajectories are growing more
complex for both genders, while parental biographies and women's work
histories are becoming less so. Women's and men's work–family life
courses are becoming increasingly similar as more women engage in
continuous full-time employment; however, life courses involving
part-time employment or a career break remain common for women in the
most recent cohort. Continuous, full-time employment combined with
minimal family ties up to age 42 emerged as the most common pattern for
women and the second most common for men in the 1970 cohort.

Published in

Advances in Life Course Research

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 26 , p.60 -75






Open Access

Open Access funded by Economic and Social Research Council

Under a Creative Commons license



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