Dr. Rebecca Meisenbach of the University of Missouri in Columbia conducted in-depth interviews with 15 U.S. women ages 26-63 and asked them about their personal history and work-life expectations.
The women's work experiences developed in six common themes:
-- Opportunities for control, not all women wanted it, but many enjoyed this power.
-- Independence, which all women valued as part of their identities.
-- Pressure and worry.
-- Valuing their partner's contributions to the family as a way of helping him maintain his gender identity.
-- Guilt and resentment as a result of societal and personal expectations of themselves and their partners.
-- Ambition and a strong drive to achieve.
Meisenbach said that on an individual level, knowing these essential experiences of female breadwinners may help women create and manage their own identities.
However, organizations need to implement policies that recognize that both male and female employees may be the primary source of income for their households, Meisenbach adds.
The findings are published in the journal Sex Roles.