Spillover between Marital Quality and Job Satisfaction: Long-Term Patterns and Gender Differences

Article excerpt

We used data from a 12-year panel survey of a nationally representative sample of married individuals (not couples) and structural equation modeling to investigate the process of spillover between marital quality (satisfaction and discord) and job satisfaction among married individuals. We considered three questions: whether job satisfaction and marital quality are related over the long term, whether influence flows primarily from work to family or if there is a pattern of mutual effects between job satisfaction and marital quality, and whether job satisfaction and marital quality are related in similar ways for married women and married men over the long term. We found that marital quality and job satisfaction are related over the long term and that marital quality is the more influential of these domains. We found evidence of both positive and negative spillover from marital quality to job satisfaction over the long term. Specifically, increases in marital satisfaction were significantly related to increases in job satisfaction, and increases in marital discord were significantly related to declines in job satisfaction. Finally, our results indicated that these processes operate similarly for married women and married men.

Key Words: gender, job satisfaction, marital quality, negative spillover, positive spillover, work/family.

Work and marital roles are among the most salient of adult life, and married women and men are increasingly likely to share both economic and domestic responsibilities throughout the life course (Moen, 1992; Spain & Bianchi, 1996). Currently, a majority of married mothers with children under age 6 are employed, and employed wives contribute significantly to their families' total income (White & Rogers, 2000). In addition, women, like men, appreciate the personal rewards from paid work and value job advancement (Hodson, 1996; Moen). With respect to marriage, although marriage rates have declined in recent decades, the great majority of men and women continue to marry (Cherlin, 1992). And although rates of divorce continue to be historically high, remarriage after divorce continues to occur for most women and men (Teachman, Tedrow, & Crowder, 2000), suggesting that people place a high value on marriage.

In this social context of strong commitment to employment and high marital instability, it is particularly important to understand the patterns of influence between work roles and marital roles. Previous research in the work and family tradition has indicated the importance of spillover of positive and negative psychological states from one role into the other (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985; Piotrkowski, 1979; Voydanoff, 1988). Experiences in one role that leave the individual feeling frustrated, depressed, or ineffective may lead to negative spillover into the other role, contributing to withdrawal or hostility in interaction, dissatisfaction with the role, or lowered role performance. Similarly, experiences in one role that contribute to feelings of competence, enjoyment, and stimulation are associated with positive spillover into the other role, contributing to greater warmth and involvement in interaction, role satisfaction, or improved role performance.

Although the notion of spillover between work and marital relations has considerable empirical support, there are some important gaps in our understanding. First, we know relatively little about spillover between work and marital relations over the long term because much previous research has been cross-sectional (Duxbury, Higgins, & Lee, 1994; Eagle, Miles, & Icenogle, 1997; Frone, Yardley, & Markel, 1997; Hughes, Galinsky, & Morris, 1992), or has focused on variation in work and family over short periods of time such as days or weeks (Bolger, DeLongis, Kessler, & Wethington, 1989; MacEwen & Barling, 1994; Repetti, 1989). However, it is important to consider long-term patterns that may represent the accumulation of short-term effects (Bradbury, Fincham, & Beach, 2000). …