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Work-family conflict: differences across generations and life cycles

Misty M. Bennett (Department of Management, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA)
Terry A. Beehr (Department of Psychology, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA)
Lana V. Ivanitskaya (School of Health Sciences, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine work-to-family conflict and family-to-work conflict, taking into account generational cohort and life cycle stage differences.


Survey participants (428 employed individuals with families) represented different generations and life cycles. Key variables were work/family characteristics and centrality, work-family and family-work conflict, and age.


Generational differences in both directions were found. Gen X-ers reported the most work-family conflict, followed by Millennials and then Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers exhibited family-work conflict the most, followed by Gen X-ers, and then Millennials, a surprising finding given generational stereotypes. Some of these differences remained after controlling for children in the household (based on life cycle stage theory) and age. Millennials were highest in work centrality, whereas Baby Boomers were highest in family centrality. Employees with children ages 13-18 reported the most work-family conflict, and employees with children under the age of six reported the most family-work conflict.

Research limitations/implications

This study found that generation and children in the household make a difference in work-family conflict, but it did not support some of the common generational stereotypes. Future studies should use a time-lag technique to study generational differences. To reduce work-family conflict, it is important to consider its directionality, which varies across generations and life cycle stages.

Practical implications

This informs organizations on how to tailor interventions to help employees balance work/life demands.


This study is the first to simultaneously examine both generation and life cycle stage (children in the household) in regard to work-family conflict.



The authors would like to acknowledge a friend and colleague, Dr Gary Burns, Professor of Psychology at Wright State University, for his financial contribution to a portion of data collection for this work. The authors would also like to acknowledge Dr Kevin Love, Professor of Management at Central Michigan University, for early comments on a draft of this paper.


Bennett, M.M., Beehr, T.A. and Ivanitskaya, L.V. (2017), "Work-family conflict: differences across generations and life cycles", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 314-332.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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