Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Change in Work-Family Conflict among Employed Parents between 1977 and 1997

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Change in Work-Family Conflict among Employed Parents between 1977 and 1997

Article excerpt

Using data from two national surveys (N = 2,050), this paper examines what accounts for the increase in the sense of work-family conflict among employed parents between 1977 and 1997. Decomposition analysis indicates that the increases in women's labor force participation, college education, time pressure in completing one's job, and the decline in free time were related to the increase. Fathers in dual-earner marriages experienced a particular increase in work-family conflict. With the same amount of time spent with children, parents felt greater work-family conflict in 1997 than in 1977. Although masked by the overall increase, some trends, such as the increases in intrinsic job rewards, time with children, and egalitarian gender attitudes, contributed to a decline in work-family conflict.

Key Words: decomposition analysis, gender, parenthood, sociohistorical change, time use, work-family balance.

Since the 1970s, the United States has undergone a variety of demographic, economic, and cultural changes, such as the increase in women's labor force participation, the changing nature of employment, and the changing ideas toward gender and parenting. Work-family researchers tend to agree that these social changes have resulted in dramatic changes in how U.S. adults integrate work and family and how they feel about it (e.g., Jacobs & Gerson, 2004). One notable change is the increasing sense of conflict between paid work and family life. Using data from the 1977 Quality of Employment Survey (QES) and the 1997 National Study of the Changing Workforce (NSCW), Winslow (2005) reported that between 1977 and 1997, employed adults who felt mat their job and family life interfere with each other increased substantially. Empirical evidence what accounts for the link between social change and the increasing sense of work-family conflict has been limited, however.

The purpose of this paper is to address this gap in the literature. Using data from the 1977 QES and the 1997 NSCW, I conducted decomposition analysis to examine how changes in various characteristics of employed parents between 1977 and 1997 - demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, time commitments, and attitudes toward gender - were related to the change in the sense of work-family conflict in the population. I focused on parents living with children under age 18 because they tend to experience higher work-family conflict man those without minor children at home (Winslow, 2005). Because the 1977 QES did not collect data from those who worked fewer hours, mis study focuses on parents who worked 20 or more hours per week.

SOCIAL CHANGE AND WORK-FAMILY CONFLICT

Work-family conflict is a form of inter-role conflict that involves the extent to which individuals feel that the demands of paid work and family roles are incompatible so that participation in either role is difficult because of the other role (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). The demandresource perspective (Voydanoff , 2004) suggests that people feel greater work-family conflict when (a) demands of paid work and family responsibilities are higher, (b) resources that help them manage those demands are fewer, or (c) perceptions of demands that they feel they must fulfill are higher. Below, guided by this perspective, I discuss how demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, time commitments, and attitudes toward gender may be related to the level of work-family conflict and how changes in those characteristics between 1977 and 1997 may have led to change in work-family conflict among employed parents. Following Firebaugh's (1997) suggestion, I pay attention to two different ways through which change in each characteristic may be related to change in work-family conflict. One is change in the prevalence or mean level of the characteristic among employed parents. The other is change in the effect of the characteristic on work-family conflict.

Demographic Characteristics

Gender and family structure. …

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