Career and marriage among professional black couples



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Texas Tech University


Investigations of dual-career families and the Black family have focused on either a descriptive idealization or an aberrant criticism of their differences from the traditional nuclear family (Hall & Hall, 1980; Myers, 1982). Linda Gottfredson's (1981) theory of vocational circumscription and compromise provides a framework for an investigation of career and marital characteristics of Black dual-career couples. Circumscription (the development of criteria to eliminate alternatives) and compromise (the accommodation to uncontrollable circumstances) characterize the development of choices as reflected in several vocationally-relevant variables. The investigation focused on these variables in the vocational realm and as translated into the marital realm to provide insights into career and marital choices of Black dual-career couples.

The 44 predominantly professional highly educated couples were found to be satisfied with their jobs and their marriages. Significant differences were found for gender in the Realistic, Investigative, and Enterprising vocational types with more men exhibiting these types than women. Men and women were most likely to be employed in Social occupations. Black men were more agapic (selfless love) in their attitudes toward love than Black women which may have been related to their predominance in Social occupations, and their characteristics of religiosity and willingness to act as leaders in their communities. In common with normative samples, both men and women viewed professional jobs as more prestigious than non-professional jobs with stereotypically masculine professional careers seen as the most prestigious group of careers. The values of home (children, religiosity, and family) were seen as more important than career-oriented values for both men and women. An examination of parental marital and vocational variables revealed differences in vocational behavior with more parents belonging in the worker class, utilizing friends versus agencies or advertisements as a way of finding work, and having jobs in the Realistic or Social areas of vocational interests. Results gave credence to the mechanisms of circumscription and compromise for both generations of Black couples. Counselors and other mental health professionals need to be aware of how distinctions of race, class, and sex may have an impact on Black dual-career couples.