Work–family conflict

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Work–family conflict occurs when there are incompatible demands between the work and family roles of an individual that makes participation in both roles more difficult.[1] Accordingly, the conflict takes place at the work–life interface. 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 occupational burnout, quitting intentions and job stress, and decreased health and job performance.[2]

Theoretical distinctions[edit]

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. This is largely attributed to the idea of what Arlie Russel Hochschild termed "the ideal worker".[3] Hochschild astutely points out that the image employers have of an “ideal worker” already rests on some unrealistic assumptions about how the family should operate. Many employers expect that employees with families have someone tending to everything at home, leaving the worker unencumbered. Despite the fact that a majority of families in the U.S. are dual earning, the image of the "ideal worker" persists and causes work–family conflict by demanding too much of working parents.

Work can conflict with one’s home and family life. However, workaholism can lead to adverse effects 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.

Work–family conflict can be diminished by establishing family-friendly policies in the workplace. Certain policies can include telework and telecommuting policies where employees have the ability to work from home,[4] and schedule flexibility policies where employees have control over their schedules.[5]

Family-work conflict can also be diminished by establishing workplace family-friendly policies. Some of these policies include maternity, paternity, parental, and sick leaves,[6] providing child care options either on-site child care center at the business, references to close child care centers, or supplemented child care incomes for the families placing their children in a child care center,[7] and health care insurance.[8]

To allow these policies to work one needs to make sure that your employed managers and supervisors are supportive and allowing for employees to use the policies.[9]


Three types of work-famliy conflict have been identified: time based, strain based, and behavior based (see below).[10] Each of these types can occur in both directions, family to work, and work to family.

  1. Time-based – competing time requirements across work and famliy roles
  2. Strain-based – pressures in one role impair performance in the second role
  3. Behavior-based – incompatibility of behaviors necessary for the two roles

How are they being addressed?[edit]

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]


  1. ^ Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources and conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review, 10(1), 76-88.
  2. ^ Amstad, F. T., Meier, L. L., Fasel, U., Elfering, A., & Semmer, N. K. (2011). A meta-analysis of work–family conflict and various outcomes with a special emphasis on cross-domain versus matching-domain relations. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 16(2), 151-169. doi: 10.1037/a0022170
  3. ^ Hochschild, Arlie Russell. 1997. The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work. New York: Metropolitan Books.
  4. ^ Pitt-Catsouphes, Marcie; Casy, Judi; Shulkin, Sandee; Weber, Julie; Curlew, Mary. (2009). Telework and Telecommuting: Policy Briefing Series. Boston: Sloan Work and Family Research Network. [1]
  5. ^ Estes, S. B., & Glass, J. L. (1997). The Family Responsive Workplace. Annual Review of Sociology, 289–310.
  6. ^ Waldfogel, J. (2001). International Policies Toward Parental Leave and Child Care. Caring for Infants and Toddlers, 99–110.
  7. ^ Waldfogel, J. (2001). International Policies Toward Parental Leave and Child Care. Caring for Infants and Toddlers, 99–110.
  8. ^ Waldfogel, J. (2001). International Policies Toward Parental Leave and Child Care. Caring for Infants and Toddlers, 99–110.
  9. ^ Estes, S. B., & Glass, J. L. (1997). The Family Responsive Workplace. Annual Review of Sociology, 289–310.
  10. ^ Greenhaus, J. H., & Powell, G. N. (2006). When work and family are allies: A theory of work-family enrichment. Academy of Management Review, 25, 178–199.


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  • 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.
  • Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review, 10, 76–88.
  • 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.
  • Kossek, E., Noe, R. & DeMarr, B. (April 1999). Work-family synthesis: Individual and organizational determinants.International Journal of Conflict Management, 10, 102–129.
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  • 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.
  • Temple, H. & Gillespie, B. (February 2009). Taking charge of work and life. ABA Journal, 95, 31–32.