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Work–family conflict is “a form of interrole conflict in which the role pressures from the work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect. That is participation in the work (family) role is made more difficult by virtue of participation in the family (work) role” (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985, p.77). Conflict between work and family is important for organizations and individuals because it is linked to negative consequences. For example, conflict between work and family is associated with increased absenteeism, increased turnover, decreased performance, and poorer physical and mental health.

Conceptually conflict between work and family is bi-directional. Most researchers make the distinction between what is termed work-family conflict, and what is termed family–work conflict. Work-to-family conflict occurs when experiences at work interfere with family life, like extensive, irregular, or inflexible work hours, work overload and other forms of job stress, interpersonal conflict at work, extensive travel, career transitions, unsupportive supervisor or organization. For example, an unexpected meeting late in the day may prevent a parent from picking up his or her child from school. Family-to-work conflict occurs when experiences in the family interfere with work life like presence of young children, primary responsibility for children, elder care responsibilities, interpersonal conflict within the family unit, unsupportive family members. For example, a parent may take time off from work in order to take care of a sick child. Although these two forms of conflict–work interference with family (WIF) and family interference with work (FIW) are strongly correlated with each other, more attention has been directed at WIF more than FIW. This may because work demands are easier to quantify; that is, the boundaries and responsibilities of the family role is more elastic than the boundaries and responsibilities of the work role. Also, research has found that work roles are more likely to interfere with family roles than family roles are likely to interfere with work roles.

Work can conflict with one’s home and family life. However, workaholism can lead to adverse affects on one’s relationship with his or her partner. Workaholism is “an individual difference characteristic referring to self-imposed demands, compulsive overworking, an inability to regulate work habits, and an overindulgence in work to the exclusion of most other life activities (Robinson, 1997).” Workaholism can affect a person’s private life since it includes exclusion of other activities including spending time with spouses which is significant to any healthy, happy relationship. When there is a strain on a relationship due to a partner’s workaholism, both partners can become stressed and less supportive of one another resulting in negative behavior.Individuals, who work a lot to the point of interference with the rest of his or her life, tend to perceive their family as having less of a strong communication background. These individuals also perceive their families as having family roles that are not as clearly defined as they would like them to be. Workaholism isn’t the only dynamic that can be a factor in work–family conflicts. Family alone demands enough from an individual, but in this new millennium where more than one individual or spouse is working to support a family, the demands of upholding family life and maintaining a career or job are immense.

Theories related to work–family conflict[edit | edit source]

Several theories have been invoked in the study of work-family conflict. Most of the studies focused on six competing theories to explain the interplay between work role and family role: spillover, compensation, segmentation, congruence, integrative, and resource drain.


This theory focuses on the impact that satisfaction and affect from one domain has on the other domain. Positive spillover refers to situations in which the satisfaction, energy, and sense of accomplishment derived from one domain transfers to another. On the contrary, negative spillover is the derived problems being carried over from one domain to another. For example, increased satisfaction (dissatisfaction) in the work domain leads to increased satisfaction (dissatisfaction) with life.


It is a bidirectional theory stating that the relationship between work and non-work domain is one in which one domain may compensate for what is missing in the other. Thus, domains are likely to be interrelated in a counterbalancing manner. For example individuals unsatisfied with family life may try to enhance performance at work.


Segmentation is a theory that each domain operates independently, such that satisfaction can be derived from work, family, or both. Therefore, segmentation is the antithesis of spillover theory in which it is assumed that one can compartmentalize competing role demands.


Congruence is a theory that states although a positive or negative relationship may be found between work and family, the relationship is spurious because it is caused by a third common factor, like personality.


Integrative theory suggests that work and family roles are so intertwined that they become indistinguishable.

Resource drain

Resource drain theory states that a negative correlation between family and work domains, such that there is a finite amount of personal resources to be expended and more activity in one domain, by definition, takes away resources that could be expended in the other domain.

How Are Work- Family Conflicts Being Addressed?[edit | edit source]

See Work-Family_Balance_in_the_United_States#Solutions

With advances in technology, individuals who work outside of the home and have intense schedules are finding a way to keep in touch with their families when they can not physically be with them. Cell phones, Wireless internet and gadgets such as the Blackberry make it so that family members and loved ones are at the finger tips of working individuals. "Technology has provided a bit of an upper hand, allowing them unprecedented control and creativity in maneuvering the tenuous balance between work and family" (Temple 2009).

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

1.Bakker, A., Demerouti, E. & Burke, R. (January 2009). Workaholism and Relationship Quality: A Spillover-Crossover Perspective. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 14, 23–33

2. Frone, M. R., Yardley, J. K., & Markel, K. S. (1997). Developing and testing an integrative model of the work–family interface. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 50, 145–167.

3. Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review, 10, 76–88.

4. Kossek, E. E., & Ozeki, C. (1998). Work–family conflict, policies, and the job–life satisfaction relationship: A review and directions for organizational behavior–human resources research. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 139–149.

5. Kossek, E., Noe, R. & DeMarr, B. (April 1999). Work-family synthesis: Individual and organizational determinants.International Journal of Conflict Management, 10, 102–129.

6. Krouse, S. S., & Afifi, T. D. (2007). Family-to-work spillover stress: Coping communicatively in the workplace. The Journal of Family Communication, 7, 85–122.

7. Lambert, S. J. (1990). Processes linking work and family: A critical review and research agenda. Human Relations, 43, 239–257.

8. MacDermind, S. M., Seery, B. L., & Weiss, H. H. (2002). An emotional examination of the work-family interface. In N. Schmitt (Series Ed.) & R. G. Lord, R. J. Klimoski & R. K. Kanfer (Vol. Eds.), The organizational frontier series: Vol. 16. Emotions in the workplace: Understanding the structure and role of emotions in organizational behavior (pp. 402–427). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

9. Temple, H. & Gillespie, B. (February 2009). Taking charge of work and life. ABA Journal, 95, 31–32.

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