Negotiating motherhood and work: A typology of role identity associations among low-income, urban women

Carolin Hagelskamp, Diane Hughes, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Ajay Chaudry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Increasing international migration and an expanding low-wage economy call for continuous research into the work-family experiences of low-income and ethnic minority women. Most research highlights that these women are disproportionately exposed to challenging employment conditions while lacking the supports working and middle-class women rely on. To better capture variation in work-family decisions and well-being under significant structural and social constraints, researchers need to consider women's understanding of themselves as mothers and workers, and their perceptions of the interplay between these roles. Building on role identity theory and the concept of gendered moral rationalities, this paper proposes a five-fold typology of mother-worker role identity associations that captures complexity in work-family identification processes among low-income, ethnically diverse women. The analysis is based on ethnographic data from 25 mothers in New York City who were visited 12 times over a period of 9 months. It examines women's experiences as mothers and workers, their role expectations, and the type and quality of social relationships that sustain these roles. We distinguish dissociated, equivalent, compartmentalized, integrated, and facilitative role identity associations and discuss how this typology facilitates our understanding of low-income mothers' work-family decisions and experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-366
Number of pages32
JournalCommunity, Work and Family
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Low-income women
  • Motherhood
  • Role identity
  • Work-family

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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