Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Work-Family Conflict and Career Development Theories: A Search for Helping Strategies

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Work-Family Conflict and Career Development Theories: A Search for Helping Strategies

Article excerpt

There has been a growing prevalence of concern in postindustrial Western societies regarding the pressures employees face where competing work and family demands are concerned. Increasingly, organizations are attempting to implement family friendly policies to help attract and retain employees and ensure their consistent performance (Di Cieri, Holmes, Abbott, & Pettit, 2005). In particular, organizations are implementing initiatives to help employees deal with work-family conflict (Anderson, Coffey, & Byerly, 2002). However, research has suggested that these family friendly initiatives do not always benefit many employees (Rosin & Korabik, 2002). Part of the reason for this less than optimal result is that the majority of interventions are focused at the organizational level (i.e., policies are being implemented) with little consideration for individual situations. Cinamon and Rich (2002) suggested that organizations may benefit from incorporating an individual profile approach to understanding how people divide their resources and how they behave in each of their salient roles. As well, Lobel (1999) explained that many family friendly initiatives are designed to help employees deal with immediate conflict and do not consider the impact on the employees' long-term needs for life-career balance. As a result, one area that has been devoid of focus in helping employees cope with this balance has been the use of career counseling. This approach calls for consideration of a more individually concentrated and comprehensive helping intervention to tackle the challenge of work-family conflict.

This article seeks to establish a connection between the work-family conflict literature and some career development and counseling theories, aiming to use theoretical tenets for effective helping interventions. To do so, some key concepts from Super's (1990) life-span, life-space approach and from social cognitive career theory (SCCT; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2002) are incorporated to develop an understanding of how these concepts can aid employees in negotiating and balancing the demands arising from their work and family roles. In particular, we focus this article on women between the ages of 25 and 55 years who work full-time and who face child care and/or elder care responsibilities. To begin, the issue of work-family conflict is addressed, followed by an explanation of the concepts of role salience, self-efficacy, outcome expectation, and goal setting, with a focus on applying these theoretical tenets to the phenomenon of work-family conflict. Finally, we discuss implications for providing career counseling for female workers to achieve better work-family balance.

* Work-Family Conflict: A Critical Issue

The issue of work-life balance has been gaining attention in both research and practice since the early 1980s. As Duxbury and Higgins (2005) explained, there are numerous demographic variables that have created the need to examine this issue: increasing female workforce participation, higher divorce rates, more dual-earner and single-parent families, more families with both child and elder care responsibilities, and a reconceptualization of traditional gender roles. Work factors, such as increased globalization and use of technology, knowledge-based economies, deregulations, and labor shortages have also prompted a proliferation of research in this area (Duxbury & Higgins, 2005; HRSDC, 2005). Although these variables are described in a Canadian context, they are not necessarily specific to Canadian society. Many other countries have experienced similar influences, and work-life balance research has been carried out in a variety of countries, including the United States (e.g., Williams & Alliger, 1994), Israel (e.g., Cinamon & Rich, 2005), and China (e.g., Aryee, Luk, & Stone, 1998).

Work-life balance has been defined as "a lack of conflict or interference between work and family roles" (Frone, 2002, p. …

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