Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

Context-Specific Stressors, Work-Related Social Support and Work-Family Conflict: A Mediation Study

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

Context-Specific Stressors, Work-Related Social Support and Work-Family Conflict: A Mediation Study

Article excerpt


Understanding the antecedents of work-family conflict is important as it allows organisations to effectively engage in work design for professional employees. This study examines the impact of sources of social support as antecedents of work-family conflict. The hypotheses were tests using Partial Least Squares modelling on a sample of 366 professional employees. The path model showed that context-specific stressors impacted positively on job demand, which led to higher levels of work-family conflict. Contrary to our expectation, non-work related social support did not have any statistical relationship with job demand and work-family conflict. In addition, individuals experiencing high job demands were found to obtain more social support from both work and non-work-related sources. Individuals with more work-related social support were less likely to have less work-family conflict. Surprisingly, non-work social support sources had no statistically significant relationship with work-family conflict.

Key words: professional service, stressors, social support, work-family conflict, mediation


Professional employees are working longer hours than ever before, resulting in reduced time spent with their families. This is particularly the case for service-related professions (e.g. accountants, lawyers, etc). There exists a considerable body of literature that has investigated the potential negative impact of work interfering with the family domain. One such example is work-family conflict (WFC). WFC has been shown to have a negative impact on organisational, family, and personal outcomes (Frone, Russell & Cooper, 1997; Yildirima & Aycan, 2008). WFC has also been shown to be the consequence of job stress (Pal & Saksvik, 2008) and be negatively associated with job performance indicators (Gilboa, Shirom, Fried & Cooper, 2008). This is similar to the same conceptualisation of WFC as Carlson and Perrewé (1999).

Social support from both work and non-work sources has been studied in relation to its effect in reducing the negative consequences of work intensification. Various scholars such as Haar (2008) concluded that workrelated social support (such as a supportive supervisor) has a negative relationship with WFC. Social support has been shown to reduce time demands, and thus, indirectly decrease WFC (Carlson & Perrewé, 1999). While some studies show that social support has a mediation effect (e.g., Carlson & Perrewé, 1999), others argue that it has a buffer effect, where social support is treated as a moderator (Lawrence, 2006). Despite these studies, there have not been any studies which simultaneously examine the mediation and moderation effects in the same model. This will be the aim of the current study.

Stressors, Social Support and Work-Family Conflict

The literature shows that stressors related to service work have been well-documented. At the broadest level, some researchers have described the work of customer service employees as monotonous (e.g., in terms of repetitive tasks) and demanding (e.g., in terms of quality and quantity of tasks to complete), and ultimately a source of strain for those holding such positions (Lewig & Dollard, 2003). Stressors are situated at the beginning of the causal relationships. In the current paper, we adopted Ganster's (2008: 260) definition where stressors refer to:

.. .some environmental events or conditions, exposure to which is hypothesized to cause changes in mental and physical well-being... [the] concern is with events and conditions of a psychosocial nature, ones such as pressure to meet a deadline, conflicting role demands, verbal abuse, threat of layoff, work overload, and lack of control.

Recent research showed that Australian public sector employees experienced a variety of stressors related to service provision due to the introduction of service orientation (Noblet, Teo, McWilliams & Rodwell, 2005). …

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