Academic journal article Family Relations

Examining the Impact of Workplace Supports: Work-Family Fit and Satisfaction in the U.S. Military

Academic journal article Family Relations

Examining the Impact of Workplace Supports: Work-Family Fit and Satisfaction in the U.S. Military

Article excerpt


The current study sought to discover whether workplace support provided by Army Family Team Building (AFTB) of the Department of the Army was associated with changes in individual knowledge of basic Army lifestyle information, and whether such changes influenced a sense of fit and satisfaction with the Army. Data were collected from 69 Army wives. Findings support the notion that AFTB does increase a basic level of knowledge about the Army, and that this increase positively influences fit. Fit also mediated the relationship between knowledge gain and satisfaction. Implications for the general work-family interface are discussed.

Key Words: family support, military families, work-family fit.

In recent years, the impact of the workplace on families and the reciprocal impact of families on the workplace has been a topic of interest in many disciplines, including psychology, sociology, and organizational behavior (Barnett, 1998). The workplace and families traditionally have competing interests, and underneath the conflicts lay a series of social and cultural values and a perception of the give and take between the two institutions. It is helpful to consider that families, in the same way as the workplace, are a "greedy institution" (Coser, 1974) in that the demands they make on members can and do cause conflicts in other areas.

The interface between work and family-the "fit" between these two institutions-is a focus for social scientists and family practitioners because of their interconnectedness, and situations of balance or conflict have implications for individual and family functioning in both domains (Eckenrode & Gore, 1990). Recently, interest has been in factors that impact the work-family interface. For example, the Families and Work Institute conducted the Business Work-Life Study (Galinsky & Bond, 1998), which surveyed a representative sample of 1,057 for-profit and not-for-profit companies, and the 1997 National Study of the Changing Workforce (Bond, Galinsky, & Swanberg, 1998), which surveyed a representative sample of employees in the U.S. labor force regarding issues related to workplace supports (programs and policies) and the impact on individual functioning. These studies found that employees with more supportive workplaces had higher levels of job satisfaction, more commitment and loyalty to the company, and a stronger intention to remain with their companies. More than half of the companies provided work-life educational seminars that addressed work and family issues; however, these were not examined independently for their impact on individual and relationship functioning, but they were included as part of the overall package of workplace supports. Others have conducted similar research (e.g., Scharlach, 2001; Warren & Johnson, 1995). An exception is a study by Kagan and colleagues (1995) that examined specific effects of a workplace-provided psychoeducational program on stress reduction for emergency medical service employees over a three-year period. Evidence of a positive impact on preventive mental health outcomes for workers was found. The implementation and empirical study of the impact of workplace-sponsored education programs that address the work-family interface on individual and relationship functioning in both domains continue to be a developing area of research. Our purpose here was to examine the theoretical premise that increases in knowledge about the workplace gained in the context of workplace-sponsored resources (i.e., educational programs), positively impact perceptions of fit between work life and family life, and in turn increase satisfaction with the workplace.

Our test of this theoretical premise is conducted within the context of the Army and its families, focusing on civilian wives' participation in an Army-sponsored program as it relates to increases in knowledge about the Army, perceptions of fit between military and family life, and satisfaction with the military lifestyle. …

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