City Research Online

When the past comes back to haunt you: the enduring influence of upbringing on the work-family balance decisions of professional parents

Lupu, I., Spence, C. & Empson, L. (2018). When the past comes back to haunt you: the enduring influence of upbringing on the work-family balance decisions of professional parents. Human Relations, 71(2), pp. 155-181. doi: 10.1177/0018726717708247


Research on work-family balance decisions generally presents them as an individual’s rational choice between alternatives. The anticipatory socialisation literature highlights the role that early formative experiences play in shaping work and parenting decisions. We go further to emphasise the role of habitus – historically constituted dispositions – in the work-family balance decisions. This relational approach explores how the entrenched and historically formed dispositions of individuals interact dynamically with contextual (i.e. organizational) imperatives. Numerous studies have highlighted the difficulties of reconciling the intense demands of professional careers with family lives. Drawing on 148 interviews with 78 male and female professionals, our study looks at much deeper rooted causes of work-family conflict in professional service firms than have previously been considered. We identify four broad patterns of response to the work-family conflict: professionals may willingly reproduce their parental model, reproduce their parental model against their will, willingly distance themselves from their parental model, and distance themselves from the parental model against their will. We show that the impediments to greater equality lie not only in organizational and societal structures, but within individuals themselves in the form of historically constituted dispositions which contribute towards the maintenance and reproduction of those structures.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Lupu I, Spence C, Empson L. When the past comes back to haunt you: The enduring influence of upbringing on the work–family decisions of professional parents. Human Relations. 2018;71(2):155-181. doi:10.1177/0018726717708247. Copyright © 2017, Sage. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.
Publisher Keywords: socialization, professionals, professional service firms, work-family balance decisions, working parents, professional careers, habitus
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Work-family balance decisions - version for City Research Online.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (1MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login