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Gerontologist. 2002 Dec;42(6):781-9.

Multiple role occupancy in midlife: balancing work and family life in Britain.

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  • 1Institute of Gerontology, King's College London, Franklin-Wilkins Building, Waterloo Bridge Wing, Waterloo Road, London SE1 9NN, United Kingdom.



This article investigates the extent of multiple-role occupancy among midlife individuals in Britain in cross-section and over the life course, focusing on work and family commitments. The association between demographic and social factors and multiple-role obligations is also investigated.


The research is based on secondary analysis of the British Family and Working Lives Survey, which contains retrospective paid work, caregiving, and child coresidence histories.


The proportion of individuals in midlife (women aged 45-59 and men aged 45-64) who have multiple roles, in terms of paid work and consistent family care, at any one point in time is low (2%). This is primarily due to the relatively small proportion (7%) of people in this age group who are caring for a dependent. Being older, unmarried, and in poor health significantly reduces the number of roles held among men and women. Although the frequency of multiple role occupancy, and intensive multiple role occupancy, is low on a cross-sectional basis, a much higher proportion of individuals have ever occupied multiple roles over their life course (14%).


The findings will inform debate on how policy can best aid those endeavouring to balance paid work, family life, and caring responsibilities.

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