Intersecting Work and Family: The Influence of Relational Beliefs and Behaviors on Work-Family Integration

By Polk, Denise M. | Journal of Management and Organization, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Intersecting Work and Family: The Influence of Relational Beliefs and Behaviors on Work-Family Integration


Polk, Denise M., Journal of Management and Organization


ABSTRACT

Strategies to integrate work and family have caught the attention of organizations, institutions, academics and families, and many people are motivated to find ways to blend these two domains. Spillover theory, whose tenets surround the mutual influence of home and work, provides a useful framework for understanding better what contributes to achieving work-family integration. Although much of the existing research focuses on the negative influence of these domains, some evidence exists that they positively influence one another as well. This study uses hierarchical multiple regression to test hypotheses about relational identity on positive and negative work-family spillover and considers perceived spousal support and relational equity as moderators. Results reveal that perceived spousal support predicts positive spillover and that it moderates the relationship between relational identity and negative spillover. Other results are discussed as well as limitations and future directions.1

Keywords: spillover; dual-career couples; relational identity; equity; social support; work-family integration

Over 30 years ago, Caplan (1974) predicted that longer commutes, the growth of giant institutions and the challenges associated with greater cultural and ethnic diversity would put people at risk for decreased health and wellbeing. For example, changes in American workforce demographics pose challenges to employers, employees and policymakers to balance competing demands for work and family (Thompson & Prottas 2005). In addition for 48% of managers, work-related traveling difficulties affect family commitments and about one-third report that weekly travel disruption affects work through missed meetings or lost business opportunities (Management Services 2004). Even though Caplan did not predict telecommuting, virtual work negatively impacts work to nonwork conflict and job stress (Raghuram & Wisesenfeld 2004). Furthermore, an increased number of dual-career families is changing the nature of traditional domestic norms (Wadsworth & Owens 2007).

By definition, dual-career couples stress the importance of developing and progressing two careers as well as maintaining marital and family life (Rapoport & Rapoport 1980). These increasingly prevalent stressors create challenges for men and women to create work-family integration (WFI) because work-family experiences mutually influence each other (Hoyman & Duer 2004; Kanter 1977; Surra & Bartell 2001). WFI can be defined as something that goes beyond the idea of simply eliminating the ways work and family get in the way of each other. It even goes beyond the conventional wisdom that looks at work and family as a balancing act - an either/or situation where if one goes up, the other must go down. Bailyn and Harrington (2004) suggest that WFI is the connection of work, family and community that considers the critical nature of arranging work and family in a way that both employment needs and care needs are met in a way that is equitable for both men and women.

Spillover theory helps explain the consequences of WFI because it addresses this mutual influence (Kanter 1977). Spillover may be positive (domains enhance each other) or negative (domains conflict with one another [Grzywacz & Marks 2000; Kirchmeyer 1992; Stephens, Franks & Atienza 1997]). Research suggests that positive and negative spillover assess distinct forms of the work-family experience - that they are orthogonal and not isomorphic (Grzywacz & Marks 2000). In addition, some researchers study crossover - the effects of one spouse's negative spillover on the other spouse (Crossfield, Kinman & Jones 2005; Hammer, Cullen, Neal, Sinclair & Shafiro 2005). To date, the bulk of work-family research focuses on negative spillover. Negative spillover often is conceptualized as work-family conflict (e.g. Kossek, Noe & DeMarr 1999; Wadsworth & Owens 2007; White, Hill, McGovern, Mills & Smeaton 2003). …

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