Role Overload, Job Satisfaction, Leisure Satisfaction, and Psychological Health among Employed Women

Article excerpt

Contemporary definitions of career (McDaniels, 1984; Super, 1984) and career counseling have emphasized the importance of nonwork variables, such as leisure and other life roles (Herr, Cramer, & Niles, 2004; McDaniels & Gysbers, 1992; Zunker, 2002). Recognizing the theorized potential of leisure to compensate for both negative experiences and insufficient positive outlets associated with paid work (Kando & Summers, 1971), Bloland and Edwards (1981) developed a career counseling model that encompassed work and leisure. Their model emphasizes the potential of combining work and leisure activities to meet clients' needs and enhance overall life satisfaction.

The theorized contribution of work and leisure to life satisfaction has received support from the empirical literature. Various aspects of psychological health have been positively correlated with leisure satisfaction (Kaufman, 1988) and job satisfaction (Noblet, Rodwell, & McWilliams, 2001; O'Connor, O'Connor, White, & Bundred, 2000; Watson & Slack, 1993), and improvements in psychological health followed increases in job satisfaction (Wright & Boner, 1992) and purposeful use of spare time (Winefield, Tiggemann, & Winefield, 1992). Additionally, leisure was found to contribute to aspects of psychological health by providing a means to cope with work stress (Trenberth & Dewe, 2002). In a study investigating the relationship of both work and leisure to a comprehensive measure of psychological health, Pearson (1998) found that although job satisfaction was the stronger predictor of psychological health, "the combination of job satisfaction and leisure satisfaction was a stronger predictor of psychological health than job satisfaction alone" (p. 422). In conjunction with other research, Pearson's (1998) study provided strong evidence for the need-satisfying potential of work and leisure and the subsequent justification for including work and leisure in career counseling.

Pearson (1998) cautioned against generalizing these results to women because the study was limited to men. Perhaps one of the most critical factors affecting the relationship between work, leisure, and psychological health for women involves the impact of multiple roles. Compared with employed men, employed women continue to bear far greater responsibility for household tasks (Wentling, 1998) and caregiving responsibilities (Riemenschnieder & Harper, 1990), even among professionals such as academic faculty (Lease, 1999). Citing numerous reports from the professional literature, McBride (1990) concluded that the competing demands of multiple roles could lead to role overload and subsequent strain. She went further to say that future research should investigate how role overload and conflict might lead to mental illness and how mental illness might be prevented or limited by specific interventions.

A number of theories provide explanations for the potential impact of multiple roles. Super's (1980, 1990) life span, life space view of career development posited that multiple roles can have a positive impact on happiness and life satisfaction by providing more outlets for one's interests, abilities, values, and self-concept. Closely aligned with this perspective is the role enhancement hypothesis (Marks, 1977), which emphasizes that multiple roles can be energizing and provide opportunities for meaningful involvement. By contrast, the role scarcity perspective assumes that limits to time and energy are exhausted and overtaxed when role demands increase (Goode, 1960). Still others (e.g., Baruch & Barnett, 1986, 1987) have suggested that the quality of roles rather than the number of roles has the greater impact on life satisfaction. After reviewing several studies, Anderson and Miezitis (1999) concluded the following: "The effect of multiple roles on women's well-being depends on the individual nature of their experiences, which is reflective of the quality of the roles, the needs of the woman, and societal expectations of the roles" (p. …


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