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Balancing extensive ambition and a context overflowing with opportunities and demands: A grounded theory on stress and recovery among highly educated working young women entering male-dominated occupational areas

Author(s): Jesper Löve | Mats Hagberg | Lotta Dellve

Journal: International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health & Well-Being
ISSN 1748-2623

Volume: 6;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: stress | recovery | young women | individualization | gender | grounded theory

Several factors underline the issue of stress-related health among young highly educated women. Major societal changes might provide more new challenges with considerably changed and expanded roles than were expected by earlier generations, especially among women. The quantity of young women with higher education has also increased threefold in Sweden in less than two decades and there are a growing number of young women that hereby break with traditional gender positions and enter new occupational areas traditionally dominated by men. The research questions in the present study were: “What is the main concern, regarding stress and recovery, among young highly educated working women breaking with traditional gender positions and entering male-dominated occupational areas?” and “How do they handle this concern?” We conducted open-ended interviews with 20 informants, aged 23–29 years. The results showed that the synergy between highly ambitious individuals and a context overflowing with opportunities and demands ended up in the informants’ constantly striving to find a balance in daily life (main concern). This concern refers to the respondents experiencing a constant overload of ambiguity and that they easily became entangled in a loop of stress and dysfunctional coping behavior, threatening the balance between stress and sufficient recovery. In order to handle this concern, the respondents used different strategies in balancing extensive ambition and a context overflowing with opportunities and demands (core category). This preliminary theoretical model deepens our understanding of how the increasing numbers of highly educated young women face complex living conditions endangering their possibility of maintaining health and work ability.
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