Imposing Order: A Process to Manage Day-to-Day Activities in Two-Earner Families With Preschool Children

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Abstract

This study investigated how English and Canadian families with preschool children used strategies to impose varying levels of order to manage day-to-day activities. This grounded theory study is a secondary analysis of 55 hours of participant observation and interviews with 58 individuals and 29 couples. Constant comparative analysis and theoretical sampling were used to construct categories. To attempt to impose order, strategies used by families included organizing and planning, establishing routines, setting limits, setting standards, purchasing services and technology, and delegating tasks. Most families used these strategies successfully; costs outweighed benefits where families concentrated inflexibly on a few strategies in particular spheres of activity or had difficulty using strategies. Families using a variety of strategies flexibly were better at balancing personal and family goals, promoting fulfillment, health, and happiness for each family member, and fostering family development and commitment. Imposing order links everyday family dynamics and concerns to long-term goals.

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