Work and marriage: Mother-daughter similarities in Sri Lanka

Anju Malhotra, Amy Ong Tsui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This paper examines generational interaction and gender roles in Sri Lanka by focusing on the mother-daughter dyad with regard to the issues of marriage and work. Using survey and focus group data from the Kalutara district for 288 pairs of young daughters aged 15-30 and their coresident mothers, we examine each generation with regard to participation in paid employment and attitudes towards the daughters expected age at marriage. Our findings show that most of the women in our study, regardless of generation, hold some very 'modern' attitudes about both work and marriage. At the same time, current work force participation levels are low among both mothers and daughters. The generational similarity extends to the determinants of attitudes towards marriage timing, showing that there is no generation gap, and that there is widespread normative acceptance of relatively late marriages among daughters as well as mothers, reflecting traditional support for delayed marriages in Sri Lankan society. The two generations, however, are very different in the factors correlating with their work status: for mothers, family issues, especially the work status of other members is of prime importance, while for daughters their life course stage in terms of age and schooling status, as well as media exposure are the major factors related to employment. Mothers are more likely to be working because of economic need, while the younger women have greater flexibility on issues of family responsibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-241
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Comparative Family Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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