The Implications of Family Policy Regimes for Mothers’ Autonomy

Alex Janus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article is concerned with the implications of different state strategies in the area of family policy for mothers’ autonomy, which I conceptualize as their freedom to choose between employment and homemaking as alternative means of self-fulfillment and economic independence. Using data on 15 OECD countries from the International Social Survey Program, I examine cross-national variation in “the gap” between mothers’ work-family orientations and employment trajectories. Cross-national variation in support for mothers’ choice to work, mothers’ choice to stay at home, or mothers’ life-course flexibility differs from the broad picture suggest by previous research. Specifically, in contrast to suggestions that the well-developed childcare-related provisions in the Scandinavian countries and Belgium and France offer uniquely strong support for mothers’ choice to work, I find that the large majority of countries (13 out of 15) offer at least moderately strong support for “work-centered” mothers’ choice or autonomy. In addition, I find that actual levels of labor force involvement exceeded ideals among the majority of “home-centered” mothers in 7 out of 15 countries. Single mothers living in policy contexts with underdeveloped maternity leave provisions were especially likely to face incentives to work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-100
JournalResearch in Social Stratification and Mobility
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


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