Date of Award

2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Abstract

This project examines the lives of people living alone, particularly their efforts to negotiate and create social boundaries to support a healthy work-life balance. The findings show that people living alone are a diverse segment of the U.S. population and that these individuals work more hours, spend less time on activities at home, and more time with people outside of their home than individuals living with others. People living alone are their own primary caregivers and must find time for self-care and household maintenance in the midst of working and developing meaningful relationships. Without traditional external obligations to structure their time, tensions develop between the desires to construct autonomous lives and establish connections with others. To develop a healthy balance between work and life, people living alone must find ways to sustain their lives outside of work; limit the influence of work on their time; negotiate competing demands among family, relatives, friends, and personal needs; and develop supportive relationships.

This project begins to address a gap in the study of work-life balance that neglects individuals living alone. The number of people living alone in the United States continues to grow; yet they are an unstudied population in sociology. People in single person households have rich lives of multiple connections and provide much to our workforce and social networks. They are part of complex social networks that provide social, psychological and sometimes economic support, and sometimes struggle to integrate their social and family life with their work life. Utilizing the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) and twenty-two in-depth interviews, this mixed method study examines how individuals living alone spend time differently than those living with partners and children, and how people living alone understand and feel about their time. These findings have implications beyond this study to suggest that our national and workforce policies should be realigned to support individuals living alone, as well as those who live with others.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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