Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science Honours


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Kiah Evans

Second Advisor

Dr Sonya Girdler


For working mothers, maintaining a balance between work and parenting roles is a challenge. Each role presents its own set of physical, mental and temporal demands which frequently compete for the limited personal and environmental resources available to the mother. These competing demands can create conflict and stress, which prompts a coping response. The coping response initiated is a physiological reaction to the mother's appraisal of her situational conflict, and follows a process of appraisal. Firstly the working mother appraises the conflict itself. This is followed by the appraisal of the personal and environmental resources, constraints and demands. Finally, a coping strategy is chosen and implemented. Three commonly utilised coping strategies are discussed: increased role behaviour, role redefinition and accessing support. This literature review demonstrates that the Ecology of Human Performance Framework can be used to explore the coping process for working mothers, by considering the personal, contextual, task and performance factors that impact on their ability to achieve role balance. Despite decades of research, stress and negative health outcomes from role imbalance still cost governments millions of dollars per year. In Western Australia 6 million dollars was spent in compensation for work related stress in the 2001/2002 financial year. Inability to reduce the effects of role imbalance is not due to the lack of research, but rather its fragmented state. This study piloted the effectiveness of a theoretical framework for a doctoral study titled Role Balance and Working Mothers with Multigenerational Caring Responsibilities. The framework aims to capture the complexity of role balance through the integration of two theoretical models. A case study design was used to pilot the framework with three working mothers with primary school age children. Data was collected from three sources, a descriptive questionnaire, a three day electronic time diary and a semi structured interview. Global role balance was measured using the Marks and MacDermid eight item Role Balance Scale. Activity specific role balance was collected for each activity, over three days, using a five point likert scale within the electronic time diary. Results indicate that the theoretical framework, which includes both inter-role conflict and inter-role enrichment along with personal factors, is an effective framework for addressing the complexity of role balance in this population.