Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Family-to-Work Conflict: Gender, Equity and Workplace Policies

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Family-to-Work Conflict: Gender, Equity and Workplace Policies

Article excerpt


Over the past three decades, as the increase in working mothers and changes in the role of "traditional fathers," working couples are faced with allocating and dividing family and work responsibilities. A large body of research has examined how couples create a sense of balance in the midst of enormous family and work-related responsibilities, trade-offs, and sacrifices (Duxbury & Higgins, 1991; Hakim, 2002; Maume, 2006; McElwain, Korabik & Rosin, 2005). Work-Family conflict (WFC) is a type of inter-role conflict in which role pressures from the work and family domains are mutually incompatible (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). Research suggests that WFC is reciprocal in nature due to the influences between work and family (e.g., Frone, Yardley, Markel, 1997, McElwain, et al., 2005; Somech & Drach-Zahavy, 2007). That is, work can interfere with family (WIF) and family can interfere with work (FIW) too. WIF and FIW are generally considered distinct but related constructs. The general demands of each role include the responsibility requirements, duties, commitments, and expectations related to performance in the given domain (Eby, Casper, Lockwood, Bordeaux & Brinley, 2005).

For several decades, work-family research has attempted to understand the causes and consequences of work-family interface. Numerous studies link work-family conflict to job satisfaction (McElwain et al., 2005; Saginak & Saginak, 2005; Bruck, Allen, & Spector, 2002; Allen, Herst, Bruck & Sutton, 2000), suggesting that work-family conflict becomes one of the most important predictors on life satisfaction.

However, it is still not clear whether there are important moderators of the relationship between work and family demands, WIF/FIW and job satisfaction and how they affect this relationship; gender is the only moderator that has been studied, with inconsistent: findings (Bedeian et al., 1988; Lamber, 1991; McElwain et al., 2005; Maume, 2006). In the United States, the culture of individualism espouses the value of gender equality and promotes egalitarianism between working couples. At the same time, there are few governmental or work place supports for families with dual employment. Examination of gender differences might support interest in famly-supportive policy.

Work Family Conflict and Job Satisfaction

There are some universal findings across regions in the work-family literature. For example, the level of participation on the job is positively related to work-family conflict. Role overload and job responsibilities have been found as an antecedent of work-family conflict for both Hong Kong Chinese, Singaporean, and Western employees (Luk, 2002; Aryee, et al., 1999; Reynolds & Aletraris, 2007). The positive link between flexible work arrangement and workfamily fit has also been documented by research conducted in China and the United States (Lo, 2003; Bond, et al., 2002). The model that job flexibility related to reduced work-family conflict increased job satisfacticn has also been testified as transportable across four cultural groups based on a 48-country sample study (Hill, et al., 2004).

Theoretical models of work-family conflict also suggest domain-specific outcomes associated with WFC. Kossek and Ozeki (1998) found that the relationship between WIF and job satisfaction was stronger than the relationship between FIW and job satisfaction. Andersen, Coffey and Byerly (2002) developed and tested their model of relationship between various aspects of support, family structure, WIF/FIW, and employee outcomes, suggesting that a less flexible schedule, lower managerial support and the negative perception of family predicted WIF which led to lower job satisfaction, while FIW was predicted by family responsibilities, which in turn related to higher stress and frequent absence. Frone, Russell &Coope (1992) and Frone et al. (1997) asserted that WIF would predict only family stress while FIW is predictive of work dissatisfaction. …

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