United States and Spain: Work and Family

United States and Spain: Work and Family

Explaining how concept is tied in with work and family is important - United States and Spain: Work and Family introduction. Often, defining the relations of culture to work and family can provide an insight to family, gender, work, and work-family conflicts. Throughout the industrialized world, scholars, workers, employers, and the public are concerned about workers’ struggles to juggle work and family responsibilities and obligations (Parcel & Cornfield, 2000). This is true of both Spain and the United States.

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In Spain today, there is a problem with the compatibility of work and family.  It has become a public issue on Spain’s political agenda.  The Estatuto de los Trabajadores is a document that explains certain measures that need to be done to reconcile family and work, including, but not limited to, hour regulations and family leave.

It appears that Spain has many obstacles to overcome regarding issues with work and families.  Women in the work force were short by comparison.  Most of the reasoning behind this was that women were deemed inferior by the society, in general.  Women are considered responsible for the family workload in Spain.  For all the efforts made to improve the integration of women in the workplace, the roles of the household are unchanged.

As a result of the conflict between a woman’s family role and her role in the work force, “The common social trend is the restructuring of many areas: a delay in marriage, a rise in non-marital unions, and a loosening of the normal connection of marriage and child birth.  Commonplace explanations rest on “the new role of women,” as indexed by increased formal education and more general employment in the paid labor market.” (Modell, 1997)

There are many different variations of the examinations that relate to the connections of the new role of women in each society.  As a result of a few of such examinations, it is found that population are declining slightly because of a woman’s need to work rather than get married and have children.

Family structures are affected by many social and cultural trends in Spain, similar to everywhere else.  Changes to any one of these trends can lead to a new family structure (i.e. the father might become the primary caregiver of the children), new family forms, and relationships.  In studying sociology and families, one can see the effect of social class, gender, and ethnicity, number of children, age, and education levels.

There are certain sociological demographics that can directly influence a family’s composition, which also influences the work-family relationship, and its roles, as well as the children that may or may not be present. Among these are age of the marriage, if there is one, marriage and divorce rates, and births outside of marriage.  Family employment patterns are a major factor.

In the United States, both men and women are experiencing problems with trying to combine work and family.  The most common problem is that both men and women are overloaded, and trying to manage a multi-role household.  In Spain, the work and family relationships are not as closely tied in to one another.  The ideal that it is a man’s responsibility to work, and it is the woman’s responsibility to be the caregiver and tend to the household, still remain primarily the same.  This may be considered a factor in examining poverty levels and circumstances.  For the majority, between the two countries, there are many differences that can be linked to the various conflicts that arise in the work and family relations.  With the gender bias on the employment issue, this causes strain on the relationship between man and woman. This is especially true if it is an area with a suffering economy and employment market.

The United States and Spain are quite different in their views, from a sociological prospective, as to which family member will hold which role in a family unit.  While Spain is still holding on to the idea that a woman is meant to control all the aspects of running a household and raising children, in the United States roles are shared by both genders.

The problem with Spain’s traditional idea is that this assumption is then passed on to another generation.  With the United States, the problem is that creating a multi-role household is quite difficult.  Despite the fact that all duties in both work and family are to be shared by both genders, men still tend to think that it is their duty, as the man, to be the substantial income earner.  The women take a more defensive approach, thinking that it is their job to take care their family.  Thus, an unspoken conflict is born.

Regardless of the state or country, a child’s development is related to events happening outside, as well as inside, of school and the family. (Bryant, 2006) The rules at a mother’s workplace are a large factor.  A child is naturally connected to a mother, and if that child has limited or no access to the mother during work hours, they tend to be limited in areas that they participate in, such as extra curricular activities.  The variable factor is whether or not there is adult supervision, or to what degree they interact with peers.

In both countries, there are issues with employment and wages that affect both the family as a whole and the children.  Poverty levels are rising.  Regardless of whether the mother or the father is the primary provider, both countries have evidence of the damage that poverty does to a child.  The main focus of Spain, as a whole, is that family relationships are more important than whether or not there is enough income coming into the household.

America seems to have a large desire to exceed the level of their neighbor, particularly in men.  The need to compete with others is a driving force.  Every family compares themselves, in terms of worth, with other families.  Americans strive to achieve more in order to have more material things.  The effect of this on family live is that of strain.  Both parents become stressed.

Such a desire also hurts the children, causing them to think that it is normal to constantly compare themselves to others.  Instead of gauging one’s own worth, they base the idea of who they are on what they have.  Most will eventually resort to military employment, such as an Army Ranger, to boost the idea of what others also think of them.

Spain, overall, seems to put more of an effort into teaching values to their children.  Such respect for the next generation, shows that their values, however foreign to others, will continue to each generation.  There is something to be said for those who just generally appreciate people, as a whole, regardless of what their nation of origin is.

Past research and plausible arguments suggest that the following demographic factors are likely to be associated with and may constitute risk factors for a host of child outcomes and child and family problems: (1) parents’ ages at child’s birth and parent-child age differences throughout childhood; (2) race, ethnicity, and family immigration experience; (3) residential mobility; (4) parents’ marital situation and children’s  living arrangements with parents, other family members, and nonrelatives; (5) parents’ educational attainments; (6) parents labor force participation; and (7) family poverty and income inequality. (Hernandez, 1997)  With all of these possible risk factors, there is opportunity for many conflicts to arise, not only in the relationship between the man and woman, but also in the relationship between the parents and the child.  There is also the possibility for conflicts to arise between the child/children and other people with whom they may interact with, such as teachers and other family members.

There are many economic, social, and cultural factors behind the changing trends in the family composition. The role of the rise in women’s employment, new government policies in the treatment of women, changing attitudes about couple living together and having children outside of marriage, and changes in employment that allow maternity leave are all factors that directly, or indirectly affect a family’s composition.

In the United States and Spain, people are having fewer children, marry later or not at all, and are more likely to divorce.  The timing of marriage and divorce has been an important factor in a family’s composition changing.  There also seems to be an increasing number of single-parent families in both countries, although the United States seems to have a higher number in comparison.

In both Spain and the United States, household composition has changed greatly in the past twenty years.  The United States has a higher level of couple choosing marriage over living together.  Spain, however, has a larger number of couples who favor cohabitation.  The general consensus is that couples who lived together before the marriage were less likely to be divorced.  That, in turn, affects the relationship of the couple, and they way they interact.  The couple’s interaction with one another, in turn, affects their relationship with their children.  When the cycle finishes, one is brought back to the work relationship.

In short, views between the United States and Spain may be similar and different.  A work-family view depends first on a couple.  Then on the economy.  Every aspect of work and family life interacts with the other in some way. When examined, each aspect relies on the other in order to get to the next level. When employment is good, the family’s relationship is good.  When the couple’s relationship is good, the family’s relationship is good.  The inter-relationships within the different aspects keep the family’s happiness, as a whole, intact.  Without these inter-dependences, we would not have a way to examine our relationships with ourselves or anyone else.  The information that is gained helps us to realize that society as a whole, not just with specific countries, is all intertwined.  We depend on ourselves to depend on others to ensure our own success and happiness.  Without our personal success and happiness, our relationships with our families and nonfamily members suffer a great deal.


Arendell, T. (2001) The New care Work of Middle Class Mothers: Managing Childrearing, Employment, and Time Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research, 3 (pp.163-204)

Bryant, Brenda (2006) Families and Work Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies

Compton, R. (1998) Gender Transformations   The British Journal of Sociology, 49    (pp. 678-679)

Ely, R.J. and Meyerson, D.E. (2000) Theories of gender in organizations: A New Approach to Organizational Behavior Research in Organizational Behavior, 22 (pp 103-151)

Ines, Alberdi (2000) Balance and Work European Network www.familie-und-beruf.at/EU-Balace&Work/EU-Netzwerk.htm#reports

John Modell (1997) The New Role of Women: Family Formation in Modern Societies Journal of Social History

Parcel, T.L. and Cornfield, D.B. (2000) Work and Family: Researching informing policy. Thousand Oakes: Sage


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