Quinn M. Coen Dissertation Proposal Defense

TitleCareers and Romantic Partnerships 

Location:  Smith 122 or via remote connection

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Dissertation Committee Chair:  Susan Adams, Professor, Management, Bentley University

Committee Members:  Tatiana S. Manolova, Professor, Management, Bentley University; Sandy J. Wayne, Professor, Management, University of Illinois at Chicago


The purpose of this dissertation is to examine careers and romantic partnerships. I intend to explore how these elements of life impact each other, how other variables, such as income levels, interact with career and partnership outcomes and dive into root level influences, such as how our societal gender norms and institutional structures influence these outcomes. I engage with this area of inquiry through three research papers.

In Paper 1, I will conduct a quantitative analysis to evaluate the research question: Do high-income dual-career couples operate more supportively than comparatively moderate or low-income dual-career couples? Whereas previous literature analyzing equity within partnerships have almost exclusively utilized domestic labor hours and distribution as a dependent variable, this study engages in scale development and validation through principal component analysis (PCA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to test the validity of a more holistic measure for dual-career romantic partnership operations.

My second and third papers examine the ramifications of holding one of two opposing roles: primary breadwinner or trailing partner. In Paper 2, I plan to conduct a discourse analysis exploring the phenomenon of the female primary breadwinners (FBWs) and the impact of gender norms, specifically scripts of masculinity, on literature focused on these families. I aim to address the research questions: How has the academic conversation examining this phenomenon perpetuated or deviated from patriarchal scripts and ideology? I evaluate the extant literature in three topic areas: division of household labor within FWB families; divorce and discord among FBW couples; and gender relations/gender role theory and personal identity of females and males in these relationships.

In Paper 3, I shift focus from considering the dominant career relationship member and the family as a whole to investigating the experience of individuals in the subordinate career relationship position. Family members or individuals connected to organizations by virtue of familial or romantic partnership ties are often overlooked in organization studies. Social science research has tended to “specialize in studying organizations or families but not their interdependence” (Scott & Davis, 2007). I attempt to address this gap in the literature through a theoretical discussion of how the process of institutionalization affects family members. To elucidate this power dynamic, I draw upon the theory of the total institutions and present the concept of the ‘secondary inmate’. I develop a theory about the power negotiation process of the secondary inmate, using the case of the overseas U.S. military installation, a total institution. I examine the research question: How do these adult family members negotiate the power dynamic between themselves and the institution?

This dissertation will make several contributions. Theoretically, it advances academic inquiry of: theories of economics and theories of gender applied to internal operations of dual-career couples; relationship specific social support; female primary breadwinners; power negotiation in total institutions; and the experience of trailing spouses. Empirically, this dissertation advances quantitative analysis of romantic partnership dynamics for working couples by testing a survey scale to measure partner support and determining whether income is significantly statistically related to this holistic evaluation of support in this context. Furthermore, it will offer the first postmodern feminist deconstruction discourse analysis of academic literature on female breadwinners, shedding light on the perceptible influence of societal gender scripts in academic knowledge production by evaluating, chronicling, and synthesizing what has been written on the female breadwinner phenomenon and the impact of ideology on academic understanding. Practically, this dissertation contributes by seeking better understanding of the impact variables organizations or couples may be able to alter to improve partner operations, offering rigorously evaluated results to inform the social justice resistance movement, and informing understanding and coping efforts of military trailing spouses.  

Friday, December 7, 2018 at 12:00pm to 5:00pm

Smith Technology Center, Classroom 122, SMI 122
Smith Technology Center 122, Bentley University, 175 Forest Street, Waltham MA 02452

Event Type

Research lecture or seminar, Academic

Event Audience

All students, Faculty/Staff


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