Book Chapter

Maternal and paternal employment across the life course

Kreyenfeld, M. R.
In: Scott, R. A., Kosslyn, S. M. (Eds.): Emerging trends in the social and behavioral sciences: an interdisciplinary, searchable, and linkable resource, 1–15
Hoboken, NJ [et al.], Wiley (2015)


This essay provides a condensed summary of major findings in trends in maternal and paternal employment patterns. Key theoretical concepts (such as cultural approaches, welfare state approaches, preference theory, economic approaches, and life course theory) are briefly summarized. The increase in maternal employment rates in most European countries, and the extent to which this increase has been related to growth in part-time and marginal employment, are also discussed. In studying the dynamics of the employment behavior of mothers, empirical researchers have mainly looked at the amount of time it takes for women to return to work after childbirth. While these studies often capture only a snapshot of the life course—namely, the period between childbirth and labor market reentry—new approaches (so-called sequence analyses) that map the lifetime employment patterns of women have been developed. The analysis of the employment patterns of fathers is an emerging field of research as well. However, little is known so far about how fatherhood affects men's lifetime employment patterns, and how paternal employment varies in different cultural and social policy contexts.

Keywords: employment; labor market; gender roles; life course; social policies; fertility

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.