Academic Work and Family Responsibility: A Balancing Act

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Science Careers


American Association for the Advancement of Science

Publication Date



Congratulations! You've just been hired for a tenure-track assistant professor position at a prestigious university. Or maybe you've just received a government grant to conduct a groundbreaking study. But you've also reached an age at which it may not be a good idea to, yet again, put off starting a family. The average age for receipt of a Ph.D. is 33, which puts tenure at age 40, even if you don't do a postdoc. If you decide to start a family, will you be able to take a paid leave after childbirth? What if you need to take leave during your lab project to assist your spouse with a newly adopted infant? How would you be perceived by your colleagues if you took leave during the probationary period to care for an elderly parent? When making important career choices such as these, all faculty members should know whether "family-friendly" employment policies are available to them. Unfortunately, many faculty members are not aware of such policies, even when they do exist. Furthermore, research shows that work/family policies are underutilized, as faculty members perceive that they may somehow be seen as "not fully dedicated to their profession" if they also try to make significant time for family responsibilities. Since 1915, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has worked to advance academic freedom and to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education. Today, AAUP seeks to address the conflict between the expectations of an academic career and family care-giving by providing guidelines for helping faculty members more effectively exercise their family responsibilities without damaging their career prospects.


Originally published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). HTML fulltext available through remote link.