Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Home-to-Work Spillover Revisited: A Study of Full-Time Employed Women in Dual-Earner Couples

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Home-to-Work Spillover Revisited: A Study of Full-Time Employed Women in Dual-Earner Couples

Article excerpt

Several studies challenge the conventional wisdom that the boundary between home and work is more permeable for women than for men (Crouter, 1984; Frone, Russell & Cooper, 1992). Two lines of research bear on this issue. First, it has been argued that a person's subjective experiences at work or at home arouse a set of feelings that are brought into the other arena and affect the tenor and dynamics of life in that arena (Bolger, DeLongis, Kessler, & Wethington, 1989a). This process is referred to as contagion. Second, experiences in one arena may moderate the relationship between experiences in the second arena and psychological distress (Barnett & Marshall, 1992a, 1992b; Kirchmeyer, 1992). This process is referred to as spillover. Available studies suggest that home-to-work contagion and spillover are more prevalent among men than women. These findings have been interpreted largely in terms of a gender difference in coping with multiple roles. It has been suggested, for example, that employed men are less experienced at handling family stressors than are employed women (Bolger, DeLongis, Kessler, & Wethington, 1989b; Kirchmeyer, 1992; Voyandoff, 1988). However, it is also possible that differences other than gender might account for these unexpected findings. Importantly, the men in these studies were all employed full-time, but the women were not.

Perhaps home-to-work spillover is less prevalent when one is employed less than full-time and can, therefore, adjust one's work schedule to accommodate family problems. When one is employed full-time, work schedule rigidity may preclude such accommodation, resulting in negative spillover for women as well as for men.

Given the widespread concern that full-time employed women, especially women with children, are at higher risk for mental health problems than are their male counterparts, the question of stressors and stress mitigators is particularly important. Moreover, most employed women are employed full-time and, of all mothers who held jobs in 1985, approximately 70% worked full-time (United States Senate, 1987). In addition, the dual-earner family form is now the predominant family form, even among families with children (Hayghe, 1986).

In this analysis, I estimated home-to-work spillover effects in a random sample of 300 full-time employed women in dual-earner couples who varied on parental status. I compared the findings to previously reported findings from analyses of data from their full-time employed husbands (Barnett, Marshall, & Pleck, 1992).

LITERATURE REVIEW

One corollary of the assumed greater impact of home events on women than on men is that the boundary between home and work is more permeable for women than men (Pleck, 1985). When Bolger and his colleagues (1989b) tested this assumption in a dual-earner sample, they found, to their surprise, that their findings did not confirm their hypotheses. In their words, the data "show exactly the opposite to be the case" (p. 179). More specifically, overload at home, arguments with spouse, and arguments with children on one day had significant effects on work stress the next day. However, these relationships were true for the men only. Bolger and his colleagues concluded that, "Women are able to avoid the contagion of home stress into the workplace in all the subsamples we considered, whereas the inability of men to prevent this kind of contagion is pervasive" (1989b, p. 179).

Consistent findings, using different methodologies and focusing on spillover, were reported in two within-sex analyses. In these analyses, subjective experience in each of the roles of worker, partner, and parent was conceptualized as a complex construct--overall role quality--consisting of both rewarding and concerning aspects. The two analyses assessed the moderating effect of rewards or concerns in one role on the relationship between overall role quality in a second role and self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression (i. …

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