Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Family, Work, Work-Family Spillover, and Problem Drinking during Midlife

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Family, Work, Work-Family Spillover, and Problem Drinking during Midlife

Article excerpt

Using ecological theory as a theoretical framework, this study systematically examined the associations between multiple dimensions of family relationship quality, work characteristics, workfamily spillover, and problem drinking among a national sample of employed, midlife adults (n = 1,547). Multivariate analyses confirmed that work and family microsystem factors were associated with problem drinking above and beyond individual characteristics. Consistent with previous research, results indicated that a higher level of marital disagreement and more work-related pressure were associated with higher odds of problem drinking. Results also indicated that a higher level of positive spillover from family to work was associated with lower odds of problem drinking, whereas a higher level of positive spillover from work to family was associated with higher odds of problem drinking. Psychological well-being did not account for the association between work and family factors and problem drinking. Associations were similar for men and women.

Key Words: alcohol abuse, emotional support, marital quality, midlife, work characteristics, work family spillover.

Problem drinking has devastating personal and family consequences. Extensive evidence indicates that problematic or chronic alcohol consumption undermines individuals' physical health (Fried et al., 1998; National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA], 1997), psychological well-being (Finney, Moos, & Mewborn, 1980; NIAAA, 1997), and social functioning (Hull & Bond, 1986; Steele & Josephs, 1990). Within families, alcohol abuse and problem drinking have been demonstrated to undermine marital satisfaction (Jacob, 1992), and parent-child interactions (Seilhamer, Jacob, & Dunn, 1993). Consequently, from both a public health and a family enhancement perspective, it is important to more fully understand the correlates and predictors of problem drinking to design targeted prevention and intervention strategies.

Empirical investigations of abusive drinking and practical interventions to change drinking habits typically assume that alcohol consumption reflects an individual's rational choice (cf. Fitzgerald, Davies, Zucker, & Klinger, 1994). The health behavior literature, for example, has been dominated by individual-level theories positing that alcohol consumption results from a logical decision-making process wherein an individual makes a choice whether to drink after considering the pros and cons of the behavior (e.g., Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992). Similarly, much of the clinical literature reflects the "affect regulation" model, which holds that an individual chooses to self medicate with alcohol to cope with burdens and stresses of everyday life (Brennan & Shaer, 1995; Cooper, Frone, Russell & Mudary, 1995; Moos, 1994).

A significant gap in our knowledge about problem drinking results from the current overemphasis on individual-level theories. These models do not give adequate attention to contextual or ecological factors that may either directly influence or moderate individual-level factors in shaping drinking behavior. Although some previous research has considered contextual correlates of problem drinking arising from work and family (Bromet, Dew, & Parkinson, 1990; Frone, Barnes, & Farrell, 1994; Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1993, 1997), stress has served as the dominant underlying contextual construct of interest; consequently, we have a one-sided view of how work and family experiences may influence problem drinking.

The overarching goal of this research project was to use ecological theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998) to guide a systematic investigation of the extent to which multiple dimensions of family relationship quality, work characteristics, and work-family spillover were associated with problem drinking among a nationally representative sample of employed, middle-aged adults. …

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