Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Leisure-Time Physical Activity Moderates the Longitudinal Associations between Work-Family Spillover and Physical Health

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Leisure-Time Physical Activity Moderates the Longitudinal Associations between Work-Family Spillover and Physical Health

Article excerpt

With over 60% of married women in the labor force (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012), it is becoming increasingly less likely that any one adult member of the family consistently stays at home to manage family concerns. Thus, work-family balance has become increasingly important for adults (Mainiero & Sullivan, 2005). Work and family experiences co-occur within individuals, whereby the experiences in one domain influence experiences in the other domain, and combine to shape health outcomes above and beyond each life domain's individual effect (Grzywacz & Marks, 2000a, 2000b). Specifically, work and family domains interact bidirectionally, generating work-family spillover defined as instances when moods, emotions, stress, and behaviors spill over across work and family domains (Mennino, Rubin, & Brayfield, 2005). For example, tensions resulting from work strains could spill over from work to family, as when one brings work irritations home, or from family to work, as when a family illness intrudes on one's ability to be productive at work. These spillover experiences are known to exacerbate or improve health in different ways (Barnett & Hyde, 2001; Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985; Greenhaus & Powell, 2006).

Based on research regarding the health implications of work-family spillover, researchers have been advocating for interventions that help people better manage their work-family lives, and eventually benefit workers and employers (Kossek & Hammer, 2008; Hammer, Kossek, Anger, Bodner, & Zimmerman, 2011). While these scholars mostly focused on workplace interventions, individual-level efforts to lessen the negative impact or enhance the positive impact of work-family spillover on health exist. One potential intervention target is the degree of physical activity that a person engages in during leisure time. Leisure researchers have demonstrated that engaging in leisure activities facilitates positive efforts to recover from work stress (Nimrod, Kleiber, & Berdychevsky, 2012; Sonnentag, 2001). Leisure activities are health-promoting behaviors that alleviate the stress-health relationship (Coleman & Iso-Ahola, 1993; Orsega-Smith, Mowen, Payne, & Godbey, 2004; Qian, Yarnal, & Almeida, 2013) and can be targeted for change (Pate et al., 1995). This study examined how work-family spillover affects physical health in adulthood and explored whether leisure-time physical activities in everyday life may ameliorate negative effects and amplify any positive effects of work-family spillover on health.

Negative and Positive Work-Family Spillover and Health

There are two major perspectives that guide research regarding how the work-family interface may affect health. The role conflict perspective holds that taking multiple roles across life domains may generate strain and stress (Goode, 1960; Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). One individual can hold different roles in varying contexts. For example, one can be a mother of two sons in a family while being a financial manager at work. Research indicates that within the work-family interface, strain and stress is manifested in two distinct dimensions: negative work-to-family spillover, and negative family-to-work spillover. Negative types of work-family spillover have been conceptualized as a type of chronic stressor, which may activate a physiological stress response (Grzywacz & Marks, 2000a).

Empirical studies support this perspective, showing evidence that negative work-family spillover is related to poorer physical and mental health (Frone, 2003; Kim et al., 2013; Okechukwu, El Ayadi, Tamers, Sabbath, & Berkman, 2012). For example, experiences of conflict between work and family have been associated with emotional exhaustion and depression (Jawahar, Kisamore, Stone, & Rahn, 2012; Van Steenbergen, Ellemers, & Mooijaart, 2007), and higher negative work-family spillover has been linked with worse self-reported overall physical health, a greater number of physical health symptoms (Amstad, Meier, Fasel, Elfering, & Semmer, 2011), musculoskeletal pain (Kim et al. …

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