The Role of Work Family Conflict as a Mediator between Work-Thought Interference and Job Stress

Article excerpt


Work and family are the two central domains framing the backbone of an individual's life (Howard, 1992). These two institutions have historically coexisted as discrete spheres in one's life. However, the separation between work and life began to change in societal demographics in the last few decades. The traditional nuclear family in which the husband works outside the family and the wife cares for the home and children is the system, which no longer applies to the majority of families. There has been an accelerated influx of women into paid employment roles that has taken place in the recent past (Spurlock, 1995). Now, more women are entering the labor work force that was once considered for men only (Collins, Hollander, Koffman, Reeve, and Seidler 1997; Frone and Yardley, 1996). The growth rate for women entering the workforce is expected to become greater than for men. During the 1980's, women emerged as a powerful part of the work force in the world economy. Women became liberated and fought for equal pay and equal status with men in the work place. This article attempts to study the relationship between the work-thought interference as an antecedent, job stress as a consequence, and work life conflict as a mediator. Statistical analytical tools were administered to study the direct relationship and the indirect relationship through the work life conflict.

[Keywords] work and family; women; labor force; workforce; work-thought; job stress


The boundaries between work and family were asymmetrically permeable when the demands from one domain intruded into the other domain with unequal frequency (Pleck, 1977). Among women, family demands would intrude into the work role more than work demands would intrude into the family role because they assumed primary responsibility for managing home-related demands. In contrast, among men, work demands would intrude into the family role more than the reverse because they were more likely than women to take work home and more likely to use family time to recuperate from the stresses they face in the work place. This pattern shows that work-to-family conflict is more prevalent than family-to-work conflict, suggesting that family boundaries are more permeable than work boundaries (Eagle, et al., 1997). It seems clear that family and work are the most central domains for nearly everyone (Mortimer, Lorence, & Kumka, 1986). Traditionally people have allocated their time to these two domains along gender lines.

Work/Non-Work Conflict refers to the challenge many of us face trying to juggle work responsibilities with aspects of our personal life, such as caring for one's aging parents or young children. Many studies have focused on developing and testing models regarding the antecedents and outcomes of work/family conflict (e.g., Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1992; Grandey & Cropanzano, 1999).

Definition of Key Terms

Work and family is defined "as a form of inter role conflict in which the role pressures from the work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect" (Greenhaus & Beutall, 1985, p. 77). The assumption is that family has the greatest impact on the individual for any of the non-work areas. Therefore, this study will focus on the relationship between work and family domains only. Many have conceptualized the work-family conflict (WFC) and the family-work conflict (FWC) to mean the same as work interfering with family (WIF) and family interfering with work (FIW) (e.g., Frone, et al., 1992a).

Work Family Domain

The work or family domains include factors that are both objective and subjective in nature that capture one's work or family experience. This includes work or family characteristics, role stressors, and social support. Specifically, work characteristics include tenure at organizations, the nature of the organization, income, and level of work autonomy. Work role stressors are variable, including work/role conflict along with social support. …