Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Implications of Overwork and Overload for the Quality of Men's Family Relationships

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Implications of Overwork and Overload for the Quality of Men's Family Relationships

Article excerpt

This study examined the implications of men's long work hours and role overload for the quality of their relationships with their wives and their firstborn (M = 15 years) and secondborn adolescent offspring (M = 12.5 years) in a sample of 190 dual-earner families. Holding constant men's occupational self-direction and level of education, long hours were related to less time spent with the wife but were unrelated to spouses' love, perspective-taking, or conflict; high levels of role overload consistently predicted less positive marital relationships. In contrast, the combination of long hours and high overload was consistently associated with less positive father-adolescent relationships, a pattern that was similar for older and younger adolescents and for sons and daughters.

Key Words: father-child relationship, job stress, marital re

lationship, overwork, work and family.

An important and unresolved issue in the literature on work and family is whether or not the sheer amount of time people work matters for the quality of their lives off the job. In the 1990s, several widely publicized monographs in the work and family area emphasized the long hours many Americans spend on the job and the potential negative repercussions of long work hours for workers themselves and for their families (Hochschild, 1997; Schor, 1991). In contrast, other studies that have specifically examined the implications of long work hours for family-related outcomes present a mixed picture of contradictory results (Barnett, 1998).

Although much of the speculation about the impact of long work hours focuses on family relationships, broadly defined, a peculiarity of the work and family literature is the tendency for researchers to focus either on marriage or on parentchild issues; rarely do studies look across multiple relationships in the same family with an eye to similarities and differences in the patterns of association between features of work and the quality of the relationships in question. In this study, we focus on the implications of working long hours for the quality of husband-wife and father-child relationships for a sample of employed men in dual-earner families who are raising adolescent offspring. We focus on fathers for two reasons. First, fathers have received less attention in the work-family and adolescent development literatures than mothers (Parke, 1995). Second, because fathers typically work more hours per week than mothers do (Bond, Galinsky, & Swanberg, 1998), it is more feasible to identify a sample of fathers who work particularly long and potentially excessive hours.

There are several strands of evidence suggesting that over the last several decades employed men and women have increased the time they spend on the job. In The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure (1991), Schor reported that from 1969 to 1987 employed adults increased their annual hours of paid employment by 163 hours, or "an extra month of work" (p. 29). She argued that this increase has had detrimental consequences for employed parents and their children:

... the media provide mounting evidence of "time poverty", overwork, and a squeeze on time... Parents are devoting less attention to their children. Stress is on the rise, partly owing to the "balancing act" of reconciling the demands of work and family. (p. 5)

In a more recent comparison of data from the U.S. Department of Labor's 1977 Quality of Employment Survey with data from the 1997 National Study of the Changing Work Force, Bond et al. (1998) reported that, for employees working 20 or more hours per week across all occupations, men's total weekly work hours had increased from 47.1 hours in 1977 to 49.9 hours in 1997 while women's weekly work hours had risen from 39 to 44 hours across the same period. Bond et al. argue that over the last 20 years "jobs have become ... more demanding-more time-consuming and more hectic-making it increasingly difficult to achieve a balance between work and personal life" (p. …

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