Academic journal article Family Relations

Work-Family Conflict and Health among Working Parents: Potential Linkages for Family Science and Social Neuroscience

Academic journal article Family Relations

Work-Family Conflict and Health among Working Parents: Potential Linkages for Family Science and Social Neuroscience

Article excerpt

Special Issue Guest Editor's Note: In this article the authors examine the stress-based, biobehavioral framework underlying paid work, parenting, and health research and then summarize selected areas of social neuroscience research with a focus on stress and health research in social neuroscience as having the potential to further understanding of how different work-family experiences should be conceived as "stressors" and, if so, they may get "under the skin" to affect health outcomes. This examination of social neuroscience and work-family conflict builds on the paired article, "Nontoxic Family Stress: Potential Benefits and Underlying Biology" (this issue, 163-174), in which Repetti and Robles discuss potential benefits of normative exposure to stress in children's daily lives, emphasizing development of emotion regulation and coping and functioning of the neuroendocrine and immune systems.

The work-family interface, more popularly understood in terms of the challenge of meeting responsibilities in both the work and family domains, has been the topic of widespread recent attention. A former president of the American Psychological Association characterized the "work-family challenge" as a defining feature of the generation (Halpern, 2004). Initiatives like Workplace Flexibility 2010 and the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility argued the necessity for public policy solutions to support workers in integrating their work and family lives (Office of the President, Council of Economic Advisors, 2010). In this same period, business-led initiatives like Corporate Voices for Working Families (2005) and advocacy organizations such as the Families and Work Institute lauded the organizational imperatives of management and human resource development strategies that enabled work-life balance. Most recently, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched the Work, Family & Health Network (http://projects.iq.harvard.edu/wfhn/home) with the explicit task of developing and testing the health-related benefits of employer strategies for promoting work-life balance.

Emerging results from the Work, Family & Health Network are expanding confidence that working adults' experiences of combining work and family are sensitive to deliberate intervention (Moen, Kelly, Tranby, & Huang, 2011), and that these interventions produce subsequent improvements in discrete disease risk outcomes (Berkman, Buxton, Ertel, & Okechukwu, 2010; Moen, Fan, & Kelly, 2013). These emerging results are largely consistent with the wider multidisciplinary literature focused on the health-related implications of combining paid work and family (see Grzywacz, in press, for a recent review). Contributions of the Work, Family & Health Network notwithstanding, several commentators have lamented the modest number of practical solutions resulting from the voluminous work-family literature (Kossek, Baltes, & Matthews, 2011), whereas others point to fundamental and methodological shortcomings in this literature (Casper, Eby, Bordeaux, Lockwood, & Lambert, 2007; Grzywacz, in press). These critiques can be reasonably summarized in terms of great depth in describing potential linkages between every day and cumulative experiences at the work-family interface and health outcomes. However, there is relatively scant evidence of causation and even less understanding of the mechanisms and processes by which work-family experiences get "under the skin" to affect health.

The goal of this paired article is to stimulate an alternative conception and approach to work, family, and health research. To achieve this goal, we refine a recent review of the broader work, family, and health literature (Grzywacz, in press) by emphasizing research on paid work, parenting, and health in order to better isolate fundamental questions and issues that remain unaddressed. …

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