Working for a New Family

Dries Van Gasse, University of Antwerp
Dimitri Mortelmans, University of Antwerp

Single parenthood is often approached as a problematic situation. People become single parents by divorce, separation or bereavement and have to cope with this situation (Fisher & Low, 2015; Paj & Ha, 2012). These transitions to single parenthood provoke unforeseen struggles in reconciling work and family responsibilities. In order to maintain the household, single parents have to both work and take up all the household roles (Bakker & Karsten, 2013). This is a feeble balance as single parents have a higher poverty risk (Maldonado & Nieuwenhuis, 2015) and don’t have a partner to share their family responsibilities with. Single parenthood and the working place is thus problematized in past research.

However, Van Gasse, Chandesais & Mortelmans (2017) argued that this is partly due to the focus of divorce research looking at divorce as a dichotomy. Previous research tended to look into divorce as a dichotomy, while single parents seem to outgrow their problems and construct a single parent lifestyle. As single parenthood is becoming more and more prevalent in nowadays society, it can be a valuable perspective to look into the recovering of a separation process. Therefore, this study investigates how single parents adapt their work-interface in order to fit their new single parent family.

Although a vast amount of quantitative studies investigated the work-life balance of single parents, there are some aspects that remained unexamined (Casey & Pitt-Catsouphes, 1994; Dermott & Pomati, 2016; Konrad & Yang, 2012; Tausig & Fenwick, 2001). One of which are the changes people make in their working life to reorganise their work life interface after separation. This will be the focus of our study with as main research question: ‘‘How do single parents adapt their working interface to find a new balance in work and household responsibilities?”.


Single parenthood is often approached as a problematic situation. People become single parents by divorce, separation or bereavement and have to cope with this situation (Fisher & Low, 2015; Pai & Ha, 2012). These transitions to single parenthood provoke unforeseen struggles in reconciling work and family responsibilities. In order to maintain the household, single parents have to both work and take up all the household roles (Bakker & Karsten, 2013). This is a feeble balance as single parents have a higher poverty risk (Maldonado & Nieuwenhuis, 2015) and don’t have a partner to share their family responsibilities with. Single parenthood and the working place is thus problematized in past research.

However, Van Gasse, Chandesais & Mortelmans (2017) argued that this is partly due to the focus of divorce research looking at divorce as a dichotomy. Previous research tended to look into divorce as a dichotomy, while single parents seem to outgrow their problems and construct a single parent lifestyle. As single parenthood is becoming more and more prevalent in nowadays society, it can be a valuable perspective to look into the recovering of a separation process. Therefore, this study investigates how single parents adapt their work-interface in order to fit their new single parent family.

Although a vast amount of quantitative studies investigated the work-life balance of single parents, there are some aspects that remained unexamined (Casey & Pitt-Catsouphes, 1994; Dermott & Pomati, 2016; Konrad & Yang, 2012; Tausig & Fenwick, 2001). One of which are the changes people make in their working life to reorganise their work life interface after separation. This will be the focus of our study with as main research question: ‘‘How do single parents adapt their working interface to find a new balance in work and household responsibilities?”.

We use retrospective career interviewing and focus on the career changes after divorce. Within the interviews, we make timelines with the interviewees on which they have the possibility to evaluate certain changes within their career lives. This way we try to reconstruct career paths of divorced parents to look where they find a new contentment in their work and life interface. As we are in a starting phase of this research, we have not yet preliminary results

Presented in Session 1111: Families and Households