chapter  2
16 Pages

A systems perspective on work and family

The prospect of writing this chapter was at first daunting given its focus on a theory that, while having a long and distinguished history, is not highly visible in current studies of the relationships between work and family life (Perry-Jenkins and MacDermid Wadsworth, forthcoming). We wondered how systems theory, having been already in existence for so long, could contribute to the goal of this book to spawn a “new generation” of work-family research. It has been very instructive to revisit the books and articles that first introduced and then extended and refined systems theory. In the pages that follow, we aim to elevate readers:

awareness of the magnitude of the paradigm shift that systems thinking represented in the study of families, employing organizations, and the interface between them;

recognition of the degree to which systems theory has generated useful insights in these areas of study; and

attention to aspects of systems theory yet to be fully applied to the study of the work-family interface.