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Rice sociologist finds male scientists regret parenthood decisions more than female counterparts
Date:8/19/2010

Many scientists in academia bemoan the fact that their lifestyles do not allow them to have as many children as they would like. Surprisingly, male scientists harbor more regrets than female scientists, according to a study by Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund.

Ecklund and co-author Anne Lincoln of Southern Methodist University measured the perceptions of career, life outside work and the intersection of work and family for scientists in two different scientific fields -- physics and biology. They chose physics and biology because the proportion of women is much higher in biology than physics, where women's representation has remained quite low.

When asked about "denied parenthood" -- having fewer children than they would have wanted, many more women (45 percent) than men (24 percent) said they had fewer because they chose to pursue a scientific career. However, Ecklund said, "Men are harder hit by this than women. Not having as many children as they wanted has a more negative impact on their life satisfaction than it does for women."

Ecklund, assistant professor of sociology and Rice Scholar at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, delivered her findings Aug. 15 at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Atlanta during a presentation called "Male Scientists Want to be Fathers, and Other Ways The Science Career Influences Family Life of Men and Women."

According to the survey, "a lower percentage of female scientists have children, and of those who do have children, they have fewer on average than men, averaging 1.9 versus men's 2.1." Ecklund and Lincoln sought to use the data to draw broader conclusions. "These analyses suggest that experiences of parenthood are different for male and female scientists, that women who have successfully pursued academic science careers have different expectations for parenthood possibilities or that people who persist in science careers are different
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Contact: David Ruth
druth@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

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