Academic journal article Family Relations

Work Separation Demands and Spouse Psychological Well-Being

Academic journal article Family Relations

Work Separation Demands and Spouse Psychological Well-Being

Article excerpt

Using family resilience and ecological theories, we examine the relationship between partner work-required travel separations and spouse psychological well-being. The study examines the role of work-organization-provided supports for families and of informal support networks, including marital satisfaction, as factors that can reduce the risks for indicators of poor well-being. The data come from a probability sample survey of 8,056 female spouses of U.S. Army personnel, with considerable variation in the amount of travel-related separations. Findings indicate risks for poor psychological well-being are greater for spouses who experience more frequent work-related separations. Findings also indicate that both work organization support and informal support network connections are significant protective factors for spouses experiencing these separations.

Key Words: family and mental illness, family relationships, family/work issues, social support, workplace policies.

Work demands and stresses are generally acknowledged today to have impacts on the quality of life of families and the psychological well-being of family members. The most common language used in professional writing to refer to this phenomenon is "spillover" or "crossover," an observation that stresses in one part of life are very likely to create stresses on other parts of one's life (cf. Voydanoff, 2007; Westman & Etzion, 2006). This spillover between work and family stress can be, and often is, bidirectional, but research tends to confirm that the most common pattern of transference is from work stress and demands to family and personal well-being (cf. Eby, Casper, Lockwood, Bordeaux, & Brinley, 2003; Voydanoff, 2005b).

Although this transference of work-related stress is common in many types of jobs or careers, some employment patterns are more likely to engender poor personal well-being and increased family stress. The jobs most associated with these negative outcomes include those with irregular work schedules (Davis, Goodman, Pirretti, & Almeida, 2008), rotating and off scheduled shift work (He, Zhao, & Archbold, 2002), work schedules that conflict with marital partners (White & Keith, 1 990), excessively long work weeks (Voydanoff, 2005b), and jobs that require long periods of separation from family members (Orthner & Rose, 2003; Zvonkovic, Solomon, Humble, & Manoogian, 2005). All of these patterns have been shown to negatively impact family members, but periods of workrelated separations are of special concern because they tend to create ongoing challenges associated with separations and reunions that can create role confusion in both the separating family member and members of their household. It is the potential stress from "comings and goings" as well as the family and personal role realignments that must be accommodated on a regular basis, that can be especially challenging for these families.

Among those who are married or in committed relationships, the separated worker leaves behind a partner who must make ongoing adjustments to being in an intimate relationship for a period of time and then transitioning into an independent person or household head for another period of time. During the time of separation, there is likely to be a sense of what Boss calls, "ambiguous loss' ' (Boss, 2000). The partner left behind is in a relationship, but the separated partner is gone and unable to perform his or her roles and responsibilities or provide the emotional support and encouragement that is expected in an intimate relationship. This leaves the household-based partner with a feeling of loss, or even abandonment, that can create emotional difficulties or poor mental healthrelated symptoms (Boss, 2006). As these periods of separation in some jobs can be common, and reunions and separations both anticipated and concerning, there is also an increased risk for ambiguity and confusion in terms of their role in the relationship and a sense of loneliness in being apart from their partner. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.