Physician role conflict and resulting career changes. Gender and generational differences

J Gen Intern Med. 1996 Dec;11(12):729-35. doi: 10.1007/BF02598986.


Objective: To evaluate gender and generational differences both in the prevalence of role conflict and in resulting career changes among married physicians with children.

Study design: Cross-sectional survey.

Participants: We sent a survey to equal numbers of licensed male and female physicians (1,412 total) in a Southern California county; of the 964 delivered questionnaires, 656 (68%) were returned completed. Our sample includes 415 currently married physicians with children, 64% male and 36% female.

Measurements and main results: The prevalence of perceived role conflict, or career changes for marriage, and of career changes for children were evaluated. Types of career changes were also evaluated. More female than male physicians (87% vs 62%, p < .001) and more younger than older female physicians (93% vs 80%, p < .01) and male physicians (79% vs 54%, p < .001) experienced at least moderate levels of role conflict. Younger female and male physicians did not differ in their rates of career change for marriage (57% vs 49%), but female physicians from both age cohorts were more likely than their male peers to have made career changes for their children (85% vs 35%, p < .001). Younger male physicians were twice as likely as their older peers to have made a career change for marriage (49% vs 28%, p < .001) or children (51% vs 25%, p < .001). The most common type of career change made for marriage or children was a decrease in work hours.

Conclusions: Most physicians experience role conflict, and many adjust their careers in response. Flexible career options may enable physicians to combine professional and family roles more effectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Career Choice*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Physicians, Women / psychology*
  • Role*
  • Sex Factors