The impact of farm women's external employment on farm and family functioning: a case study of Virginia
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Many American farmers have faced financial stress in the early 1980s unprecedented since the Depression. Simultaneously, farm wives have joined the off-farm labor market at rates exceeding urban women. Since prior research has found different correlates of family functioning and of external employment for rural and urban families, this descriptive study of Virginia farm wives (N = 128) investigated the impact of farm wives' external employment on the functioning of the farm and the farm family. While the sample did not represent the total Virginia farm population, it did appear to represent the financially stressed farm population. A comparison of employed farm wives (E = 57) and non-employed wives (N = 71) was analyzed to determine differences. Dependent variables affecting farm functioning included the farm's debt-to-asset ratio indicating the financial _ stress level, the wife's mental strain due to economic pressures, and lifestyle satisfaction. Dependent variables affecting family functioning were the wife's marital adjustment, psychological well being, and overall life satisfaction. The results indicated that the wife's external employment had a significantly negative impact on farm functioning. Wives working off the farm were more likely to come from farms with greater financial stress and were less satisfied with the equity factor of their lifestyle satisfaction. While mental strain was not significantly higher, more than one-third of employed wives experienced high mental strain. A signficantly negative impact on family functioning was not found although employed farm wives reported lower marital adjustment and overall life satisfaction with proportionately fewer employed farm wives than nonemployed wives reporting positive psychological well-being.
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