The Relationship of Women's Role Strain to Social Support, Role Satisfaction, and Self-Efficacy

By Erdwins, Carl J.; Buffardi, Louis C. et al. | Family Relations, July 2001 | Go to article overview

The Relationship of Women's Role Strain to Social Support, Role Satisfaction, and Self-Efficacy


Erdwins, Carl J., Buffardi, Louis C., Casper, Wendy J., O'Brien, Alison S., Family Relations


The Relationship of Women's Role Strain to Social Support, Role Satisfaction, and Self-Efficacy*

Key Words: employed mothers, role strain, self-efficacy, social support, work and family.

The relationship of social support, role satisfaction, and self-efficacy to measures of role strain was explored in a sample of 129 married, employed women with at least I preschool-aged child. Self-efficacy in work and parental roles proved to be a significant predictor of these women's work-family conflict and role overload, respectively. In addition, satisfaction with their child care was related to significantly less anxiety about being separated from their young children. Spousal and supervisor support also accounted for significant variation in work-family conflict, but the impact of organizational support on role conflict was fully mediated by job self-efficacy.

The connection between women's role strain and psychological well-being has been firmly established by research in the last decade. A number of studies have documented the negative impact of role stress and conflict on different aspects of women's psychological health. For example, Barling and MacIntyre (1993), Hughes and Galinsky (1994), O'Driscoll, Ilgen, and Hildreth (1992), and Parasuraman, Greenhaus, and Granrose (1992) all reported significant relationships between work-family conflict and various measures of psychological distress in women. Others found significant connections between role conflict and women's depressive symptomatology (e.g., Frone, Russell, & Barnes, 1996; Reifman, Biernat, & Lang, 1991) as well as higher levels of alcohol consumption (Frone et al.) and decreased life satisfaction (Aryee, 1992; Kossek & Ozeki, 1998).

Role Strain

The concept of strain or conflict among women's life roles also has been further delineated by recent research. The focus of much of the work cited above is on role conflict, originally conceptualized as an incompatibility between the demands of one life role with those of another (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek, & Rosenthal, 1964). Although occasional studies attempted to assess conflict between multiple specific roles, such as marital, parental, housekeeping, and outside employment (Ayree, 1992; Holahan & Gilbert, 1979), the great majority of studies focused on conflict arising from the individual's attempts to meet both general family life and employment obligations. In a recent meta-analysis of the literature on this concept, Kossek and Ozeki (1998) reported that conflict between work and family roles was a stronger predictor of life satisfaction for women than men. These authors and others (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985; Frone et al., 1996) also suggested the need to differentiate situations where the demands of work interfere with family life from the reverse process of family obligations interfering with work.

At the same time, Barnett and Baruch (1985) pointed to the importance of role overload for women, which they define as the general sense of having so many role demands or obligations that the individual feels unable to perform them all adequately. These authors and others (Cooke & Rousseau, 1984; Crosby, 1991 ) obtained results suggesting that employed mothers are frequently vulnerable to this type of stress. In addition, Gutek, Searle, and Klepa (1991) presented data indicating that role overload is identifiably different from role conflict.

Finally, Hock, McBride, and Gnezda's (1989) concept of maternal separation anxiety may represent another type of role strain that is particularly salient for employed women with young children. They define maternal separation anxiety as a mother's sense of worry and guilt over being separated from her child and the fear that others will not be able to care for her child as well as she could. Data presented by Hock and her associates (Hock & DeMeis, 1990; Hock, DeMeis, & McBride, 1988; McBride & Belsky, 1988) suggest that maternal separation anxiety is significantly related to both mother's employment and psychological well-being. …

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