preference theory

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Was developed by the British sociologist, Catherine Hakim, to explain variation in women's behaviour in the sphere of paid employment. At the heart of the theory is a belief that women increasingly are able to make deliberate choices about their lifestyles and the relative priority they attach to paid work. Hakim claims that there are three main lifestyles chosen by working women: adaptive, work-centred, and home-centred. Adaptive women are the largest group and prefer to combine work and family life without giving a fixed priority to either. Many adaptive women choose to work part-time after the birth of their children. Work-centred women prioritize their jobs and careers and fit their family lives around the demands of paid employment. Finally, home-centred women give priority to home and family life, tend to have larger families and avoid paid work after marriage except at times of financial stress. Hakim estimates that home-centred and work-centred women each comprise about one-fifth of the adult female population of working age. Hakim's theory has proved controversial and has been attacked fiercely by feminist critics who believe that it exaggerates the degree of choice women have over their pattern of work. [See work-life balance.]

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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