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Cognitive capacity for processing work‐family conflict: an initial examination

Suzanne C. de Janasz (College of Graduate and Professional Studies, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA)
Scott J. Behson (The Samuel J. Silberman College of Business Administration, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, New Jersey, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 10 July 2007




The purpose of this study is to examine how individuals cognitively process work‐family conflict (WFC), specifically whether differences in tolerance for uncertainty and cognitive complexity influence individuals' affective response to WFC.


Using a sample of 157 employees who completed a survey on work‐family issues, the hypotheses were tested using correlation and regression analyses.


The results suggest that cognitive differences may moderate the negative impacts of WFC. It was found that while WFC (i.e. work interference with family) lowers job satisfaction, this effect is less strong for those high in tolerance for uncertainty. The same was true for the ameliorating effect of cognitive complexity and tolerance for uncertainty on the link between WFC and (i.e. family interference with work) organizational commitment.

Research limitations/implications

Because of its cross‐sectional design, the causality of the findings cannot be confirmed. Further, while the sample contained both parents and non‐parents, and men and women, due to power concerns, our analyses did not account for these demographic differences. Future research should be designed to correct for these issues.

Practical implications

Organizations may need to rethink their programs and policies aimed at assisting employees in balancing work and family. Simple options (e.g. time off) may appeal to all employees; however others (e.g. job sharing and flextime) require complicated arrangements or behavior changes and may only appeal to or be utilized successfully by employees with high tolerance for uncertainty and cognitive complexity.


Within work‐family research, few studies look at how individual cognitive processes influence whether and how potentially conflictual situations are perceived and their impact on individual outcomes such as satisfaction and commitment. The research investigates two such cognitive differences and demonstrates the role that tolerance for uncertainty and cognitive complexity may play in reducing the negative impact of work‐family conflict.



de Janasz, S.C. and Behson, S.J. (2007), "Cognitive capacity for processing work‐family conflict: an initial examination", Career Development International, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 397-411.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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