Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

The Mediating Role of Work-Family Conflict in the Relationship between Boundary Control and Burnout among Young Mothers

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

The Mediating Role of Work-Family Conflict in the Relationship between Boundary Control and Burnout among Young Mothers

Article excerpt

Theoretical and Empirical Background

Burnout has been defined as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, caused by chronic stress, and having many harmful consequences for both individuals and organizations (e.g., Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001). It is therefore of importance to examine which factors may increase, reduce, and/or buffer burnout.

The current research has focused on burnout among women who are mothers of young children (at least one child under the age of ten), and work for at least 30 hrs. per week. The main goals of the research were: (a) to examine the role that work-family conflict plays in burnout; and (b) to test the role that boundary permeability and flexibility play in the workfamily conflict and in burnout.

Among the various stressors which increase burnout (Frish-Burstein & Braunstein-Bercovitz, 2010), we have chosen work-family conflict (WFC), because: (a) WFC has become one of the major stressors causing burnout in the last thirty years, as the percentage of dual-career families has constantly increased (e.g., Jawahar, Stone & Kisamore, 2007); (b) women experience WFC in a stronger fashion than men, especially when their children are young (Eby, Casper, Lockwood, Bordeaux & Brinley, 2005). Thus, it is likely that among mothers of young children, the main source of burnout would to be WFC.

What is the nature of work-family conflict?

Work-family conflict is "...a form of interrole conflict in which role pressures from the work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect" (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985: 77). It was suggested that WFC is bi-directional and is composed of two reciprocal processes (Frone, Russel and Cooper, 1992): Work-interferes-family (WIF), when work demands interfere with family needs (W->F); Family-interferes-work (FIW), when family obligations interfere with work responsibilities (F->W).

Boundary Control

As mentioned earlier, WFC increases burnout. However, work-family boundary control may reduce or enhance burnout, depending on whether control is gained or lost. According to the work-family border theory (Clark, 2000), the permeability and flexibility of the boundaries between domains affect the conflict between work and family. Permeability refers to the degree to which elements from one domain enter into another domain, resulting in a sense of lost control. Flexibility is the extent to which temporal and spatial boundaries allow employees to vary the time and place in which they fulfill specific roles, resulting in a sense of gained control. It is reported that work-family boundaries also affect WFC outcomes, i.e., degree of satisfaction (Voydanoff, 2005).

The Proposed Mediating Model

In the proposed model, permeability and flexibility were the predictors, WIF and FIW were the mediators and burnout was the outcome. On the basis of the theoretical and empirical evidence mentioned above, we proposed a model which links boundary control, WFC and burnout. Accordingly, we expected that in young mothers the effects of boundary control on burnout would mainly depend on their impact on WFC. In other words, we expected that boundary control would be indirectly linked to burnout through a full mediation of WFC (see Figure 1).

The Hypotheses

Hypothesis 1. The relationship between boundary permeability and burnout would be mediated by WIF and FIW through negative associations between permeability and WFC dimensions.

Hypothesis 2. The relationship between boundary flexibility and burnout would be mediated by WIF and FIW through positive associations between flexibility and WFC dimensions.

METHOD

Sample

One hundred and forty one women, with the mean age of 34.8 years participated voluntarily. All participants were married and came from dualcareer families. Only participants who had at least one child under the age of 10, and working at least 30 hours per week were included in the sample. …

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