The Work-Family Interface: Spillover, Complications, and Challenges: Volume 13

Cover of The Work-Family Interface: Spillover, Complications, and Challenges

Table of contents

(19 chapters)

Past studies suggest that full-time maternal employment may be negatively related to children’s cognitive development. Most studies measure maternal employment at one time point, while mothers’ work hours may not be stable during early childrearing years. Using data from the 2001 Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Birth Cohort (N ≈ 6,500), the authors examine stability in mothers’ work hours across four waves when children are 9 and 24 months old, in preschool, and in kindergarten, mothers’ background characteristics associated to it, and its link to child cognitive development. Results show that the majority of mothers change work hours across the four waves. Analysis using multinomial logistic regression models suggests that mothers’ older age, fewer children, and higher household income are related to working full time at all four waves compared to varying work hours across the waves; more children and less than high school completion are related to staying home at all four waves; and mothers’ older age, being White, no change in partnership status, and holding a college degree are related to working part time at all four waves. Compared to mothers’ changing work hours, mothers’ stable work hours, full time or part time, at all four waves is related to children’s better reading, math, and cognitive scores in kindergarten, whereas mothers’ staying home at all four waves is negatively related to these scores. These associations disappear when background characteristics are controlled for in ordinary least squares regression models. These findings underscore the role of background characteristics in shaping both mothers’ stable employment and children’s cognitive development.


In this chapter we want to demonstrate, using the example of Poland, that the socio-cultural context is important in achieving the social policy objectives of women’s professional activation and investing in children. The chapter is based on secondary analysis of data from sociological research and available public statistics (national and international) and legal documents. The thesis of the chapter refers to the theoretical concept indicated by Birgit Pfau-Effinger.

We take the view of the German sociologist Birgit Pfau-Effinger on the twofold, partially contradictory, mutual relations, and tensions between culture, institutions, social structures, and individuals who formulate the social context of female employment and child care in society. The said researcher emphasizes that the effects of similar solutions implemented in social policies in different countries vary considerably depending on the cultural context. The authors chose the subject matter of the chapter because of the changes introduced in Poland in recent years in social policy relating to the care of small children. They deal with new legal solutions that increase men’s participation in care by introducing new forms of leave for fathers.

The value of the chapter lies in pointing out the weakness of the technocratic implementation of public policies in the absence of “sociological imagination and sensitivity.” This is typical for countries in transition and post-transition periods, which includes Poland. Poor rooting of cultural knowledge and analysis in the area of programming and implementation of public policies generate a variety of social tensions.


Lone mothers commonly face social stigma alongside practical challenges in fulfilling both principal breadwinner and primary carer roles. This chapter draws on findings from qualitative research involving a sample of lone mothers in the north of England to discuss how they negotiate competing employment and parenting demands within a socio-political context characterized by “worker citizenship”. This model positions them firmly as workers while increased benefits conditionality is reinforced by media stereotypes that conflate lone motherhood with welfare dependency.

A comparative research design was developed to explore experiences of mothers in two nearby locations with contrasting socio-economic profiles using a Bourdieusian approach to class analysis. Factors affecting lone mothers’ subjective perceptions of a historically de-legitimated identity were investigated during semi-structured interviews with women in diverse situations.

The interviews revealed that participants across the sample viewed being in paid employment as the most significant factor in mitigating stigma. They emphasized their work orientation and saw this as an aspect of responsible parenting. Most mothers in the more affluent location used the cultural capital of educational qualifications to secure work that could be balanced with parenting. In contrast, most mothers in the deprived location expressed frustration at being unable to access jobs that are compatible with childcare and consequently felt stigmatized for claiming benefits.

The chapter is of value in illustrating the significance of avoiding stigma as a consideration in lone mothers’ deliberations on work/family interface. It also highlights the impact of class and location on lone mothers’ ability to balance employment with childcare.


Work–family balance is important for working parents, their children, and their family functioning. However, little research has considered how one’s sense of work–family balance may influence parenting behavior. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether perceived work–family balance of fathers of infants predicts engagement behaviors and whether stress mediates this relationship. The sample (n = 64) completed a phone survey, and data analysis consisted of linear regression tests and path analysis models for mediation. Perceived work–family balance did not significantly predict overall father engagement, but did predict fathers telling stories to their infant more often (B = 0.91, t(55) = 2.22, p < 0.05) and dressing their infant more often (B = 0.70, t(55) = 2.05, p < 0.05). Although perceived work–family balance was found to have a significant negative effect on father stress (r = –0.48, p < 0.001), stress did not mediate the relationship between perceived work–family balance and the two engagement behaviors. Greater perceived work–family balance may encourage engagement in behaviors above and beyond the stereotypical fathering behaviors (e.g., playing) and basic caregiving behaviors (e.g., changing diapers). Limitations include a small sample size, cross-sectional nature of the data, and self-report measures. It is recommended future studies use longitudinal designs, larger samples that differ in family type, and include mothers. This study provides preliminary evidence that one’s perceived work–family balance may influence parenting behaviors; thus, workplace policies that increase work–family balance, through greater job flexibility, for example, could promote positive family outcomes and reduce stress.


This chapter aims to delineate the indigenous pattern of parental involvement in Taiwan by investigating the effects of specific practices in schools and in the family, such as school selection, school involvement, preparing a study place at home, and providing nutritious food.

We use two waves of data from the Taiwan Youth Project (2000, 2003) to examine how parental involvement varies between dual- and single-earner families, and we further demonstrate how sons and daughters have different access in terms of recognizing their parents’ effort, and how children’s subjective appraisals promote their academic performance with respect to test scores.

We find that dual-earner families have higher incomes, higher educational levels, and have fewer children than single-earner ones. Our multivariate analyses show that parental involvement does increase youngsters’ Basic Competence Test (BCT) score. However, we are unable to find any direct or indirect effects from parental employment status on BCT scores. Further analysis indicates that the relationship between parental school involvement and BCT score is only significant among dual-earner families, but not for the single-earner ones. In addition, our multiple group analysis reveals that sons’ BCT scores are affected more by parents’ school involvement, whereas daughters’ are affected more by special home provision. Our findings from adolescents’ subjective responses imply that sons may be more responsive to a non-familial context in contrast with daughters, who react more positively to familial provision.


The current longitudinal study investigated the within- and between-person variance in work-to-family conflict and family-to-work conflict among working mothers over time. It also examined the effects of a nonstandard work schedule and relationship quality on work-to-family conflict and family-to-work conflict using bioecological theory. Results of multilevel modeling analyses showed that there was significant within- and between-person variance in work-to-family conflict and family-to-work conflict. The linear and quadratic terms were significantly related to family-to-work conflict, whereas the quadratic term was significantly associated with work-to-family conflict. There was also a positive relationship between a nonstandard work schedule and work-to-family conflict, whereas relationship quality was negatively associated with family-to-work conflict. Future studies should consider diversity among working mothers to adequately predict work–family conflict. The current study provides important implications for employers to consider, concerning within-and between-person differences among working mothers, which could in turn allow for accommodations and help to decrease work–family conflict.


The author tests the hypothesis that the effects of evening and night employment on working parents’ work-to-family conflict and life satisfaction depend on the reasons that individuals name for their schedules. Regression models are fitted to data from an original sample of 589 employed US parents. Partnered (married and cohabiting) fathers who work partially in the evening or night experience less work-to-family conflict if they report personal motives, but schedule motivation does not affect work-to-family conflict among partnered or single mothers. Partnered mothers who work primarily in the evening or at night report higher life satisfaction if they do so for personal reasons, but this effect is not found for single mothers or partnered fathers. Specifically seeing their schedules as facilitating family care matters for partnered mothers, but not fathers. Although nonstandard employment schedules have been linked to poor well-being among working parents, this is the first quantitative study to assess the role of worker motivation to the author’s knowledge. The results are suggestive because they are based on a nonprobability sample of modest size. However, they demonstrate the need for future studies of employment scheduling to collect information on worker motivations. Most night workers in the United States do not select their shifts for personal reasons, putting them at risk for work-to-family conflict and reduced life satisfaction. They deserve extra support in exchange for laboring while others sleep or spend time with family.


Research indicates that faculty of color in the United States face numerous challenges in the academy. To complicate their experiences further, children significantly impact academics’ work. Additional difficulties can arise in balancing work with familial responsibilities. Indeed, strategies to navigate parental obligations while engaging in professional activities are seldom examined among minority parents, across genders and institution types. In response, the current study investigates the intersectionality of race, gender, and parenthood on navigating a work–life balance in academia. This study examines 13 male and female minority parents from an array of institutions and explores their strategies for navigating professional advancement while managing familial obligations.

Our data suggest that parents of color often develop timesaving strategies to complete their work more efficiently. However, in order to do so, they tend to engage in professional and social isolation and to recalibrate personal expectations of work and accomplishments. Of importance, the study uncovered significant gender differences. While fathers faced comparable challenges, the findings indicate that familial responsibilities can disadvantage women more so by impacting their ability to foster professional relationships and potentially harm their emotional well-being. While most faculty of color face difficulties in the workplace, we argue that those with children, especially mothers, face additional challenges that should be addressed by home institutions to foster more equitable opportunities for professional growth.


The objective of this chapter is to analyze diabetes onset in Mexico in terms of work relations and family. The authors examined the impacts of diabetes on inequalities, practices of violence among the Mexican population, analyzing gender relations in the context of having diabetes. Our research is based on mixed method approach. First, the authors conducted a survey among 110 diabetic persons in Chiapas and Nuevo León, two Mexican states from the North and the South. Results show that gender violence has impacts in both Mexican states despite of socioeconomical differences. Overall, diabetes is a complex social process that need to be analyzed on different social and socioeconomical levels. Gender violence is a particularly strong factor that has an impact on diabetes. The contribution of this research is based on understanding of diabetes onset as a social construction where gender violence, social cohesion and subjective wellbeing play a significant role in diabetes in the Mexican context. The outcomes of this research might have an impact on transformation of public health policy in Latin America and the Caribbean, from a medical approach to a sociocultural one in terms of diabetes as a chronic illness. Moreover, our results suggest that quality of life depends on the level of interacting within social groups, as diabetes is no longer a disease that affects an individual, but it is more a social phenomenon.


Under the Demand-Resources framework, more household dependents and higher levels of work–family conflict are demands on workers in high-income countries, yielding negative effects on worker wellbeing. The authors investigate how living in a household characterized by multiple types of dependency – where children and other adults are living with married, working respondents – shapes self-rated health. The authors further investigate whether work–family conflict mediates or moderates the relationship between this multi-faceted dependency and self-rated health, as expected. The authors exploit data from the 2014 General Social Survey and 2015 International Social Survey Program on over 2,000 individuals in Austria, France, Iceland, Switzerland, and the United States – the available countries with indicators appropriate to their research purpose. The authors employ logistic regression techniques to estimate individual self-rated health.

The authors find that living in a multi-faceted dependent household is actually associated with better self-rated health, while work–family conflict has a negative influence on self-rated health. There is also no evidence of strong mediating or moderating effects of work–family conflict on the positive association between living in a multi-faceted dependent household and health. These results suggest that individuals experience similar effects with regard to dependents and work–family conflict, regardless of their country of residence. Policy implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.


Nonstandard work schedules are increasingly common in today’s economy, and work during these nonstandard hours has a negative impact on health. Scholars investigating work schedules have yet to explore how marital status, which is linked with better health, may protect the health of US workers with nonstandard schedules. This study uses binomial logistic regression models to analyze pooled data from the National Study of the Changing Workforce (N = 6,376). Interaction terms are utilized to test if marital status variations occur in the relationship between work schedule and health for men and women.

The results demonstrate that while working a nonstandard schedule puts men and women at a lower odds of reporting good health compared to those who work a standard schedule, there is no difference in this relationship across marital status for men. However, nonstandard schedules are worse for the health of cohabiting and divorced, separated, or widowed women than for married women. The results indicate a significant interaction between work schedule and marital status exists for female workers and should be considered when examining the health of the population with nonstandard work schedules.


Nursing, as a gendered occupation, is one that requires vast amounts of emotional labor to be performed. As careworkers, nurses are required to assume multiple roles at work: medical expert, companion, and personal care provider. Roles, or expected behaviors associated with different statuses, have the potential to spillover between work and home environments. The purpose of this chapter is to investigate how nurses perceive their role-taking and emotional labor processes to influence experiences of work–family spillover.

Rooted in interactionist role theory, this investigation seeks to qualitatively examine how nurses assign meaning to their various roles and how they perceive their roles to influence work–family spillover. Using audio diary and interview data, this chapter proposes that nurses who practice role-person merger (Turner, 1978) and empathic role-taking (Shott 1979) will also perceive work–family spillover to be related to their caretaking roles as nurses. Three distinct themes emerged in this qualitative analysis related to how experiences of work–family spillover are influenced by the emotional labor demands of the job and the practice of empathic role-taking by nurses: (1) spillover related to required emotional labor is experienced both positively and negatively; (2) nurses actively exercise personal agency in an attempt to decrease negative spillover; and (3) nurses reported increased work–family spillover when they practiced empathic role-taking.

This analysis extends the literature in this area by demonstrating the connection between the structural influences on emotion, the individual perceptions of roles, and the subsequent experiences of work–family spillover.


This chapter examines the implications of career achievement for divorce, and whether they differ for men and women. Consistent with theory suggesting that women’s workplace achievement violates traditional expectations of gender and marriage, therefore creating domestic strain, the authors predict that career achievement is associated with a greater risk of divorce for women, but not for men. Using data from the Academy Awards, the authors find that for women, a sudden shift in achievement from winning an Oscar increases their risk of divorce compared to Best Actress nominees. There was no difference in the risk of divorce between Best Actor winners and nominees. The authors additionally examine two potential mitigating factors: whether the actor was already successful at the time of their marriage, and whether their spouse was comparably successful. For Best Actress winners, but not for Best Actor winners, the authors find evidence for the latter, indicating that women’s marriages are more stable when spouses are equally successful, or when relative achievement within the couple aligns with broadly-held norms of traditional marriage.


The purpose of this study was to explore low-income women’s perspectives of the shared meaning of work and employment values in their intergenerational family context from a critical and systemic lens. Participants were rural and urban women from low-income contexts (N = 14). Semi-structured interviews were designed to elicit thick description of lived experiences of work and family. Analyses were conducted using Van Manen’s hermeneutic phenomenology coding process (1990).

Four emergent categories (Purpose to Work, What Work Is, Motherhood and Work, and Loss, Resilience and Work) with 16 themes described work–family integration. These narratives evoked a deep interconnectedness of work, family, and life. Because participants were recruited in locations where they were either already employed or seeking employment, these findings may not represent other women.

Effectiveness of programs and policies could be expanded by incorporating women’s values and motivations for employment and targeting family-level interventions. Programs could better empower women to seek employment and skills training for lasting financial sustainability, rather than just getting any job. Because participants distinguished between careers and jobs based on college education, many felt they could never obtain a career. Additionally, participants described work–family integration, not the prevalent idea of “work–life balance.” Participants described fighting to provide a better life for their children.

This study highlights under-represented perspectives of low-income women about work. Understanding the experiences of low-income women is essential for designing programs and services that will be practical and useful.


The aim of this chapter is to investigate the context dependence of the implications of telework for work–family conflict. It examines whether and how the implications of telework for strain-based and time-based work–family conflict depend on work–family-supportive and high-demand workplace cultures. Based on a sample of 4,898 employees derived from a unique linked employer–employee study involving large organizations in different industries in Germany, multilevel fixed-effects regressions were estimated.

The results show that telework is associated with perceived higher levels of both time-based and strain-based work–family conflict, and that this is partly related to overtime work involved in telework. However, teleworkers experience higher levels of work–family conflict if they perceive their workplace culture to be highly demanding, and lower levels if supervisor work–family support is readily available.

Future research is required to investigate how the conclusions from this research vary between heterogonous employees and how work–family-supportive and high-demand workplace cultures interrelate in their implications on the use of telework for work–family conflict.

The findings show how important it is to implement telework in a way that not only accommodates employers’ interest in flexibilization, but that it also makes it possible to reconcile work with a family life that involves high levels of responsibility.

This is the first study which examines whether telework is either a resource that reduces or a demand that promotes work–family conflict by focusing on whether this depends on perceived workplace culture.


This study seeks to understand how work–life balance (WLB) changes over time, and if relational factors – relationship and sexual satisfaction – may have protective effects. Grounded in Bronfenbrenner’s (1986) family ecological theory a linear mixed effects analysis was used to analyze over 4,000 individual reports of WLB over three years.

The primary finding showed that on average, individuals rated their WLB just above average and their scores decrease over time. While relationship satisfaction did not have significant associations with WLB alone, the interaction between relationship and sexual satisfaction was found to be a protective factor, increasing WLB scores. This indicates that having higher sexual satisfaction can enhance the protective effect that relationship satisfaction has on WLB.

An intriguing finding was the significant difference in WLB scores for men compared to women. On average, men experience significantly lower WLB scores. This could be related to how WLB was measured, or possibly due to gender roles. Future research should further explore this relationship.

The results of this study provide information that researchers’ can consider as they design studies and interventions targeting WLB. An additional hope is that employers will consider these results when they create workplace policy and other initiatives.

This study is one of the first to explore WLB in association with relationship and sexual satisfaction and the interaction between sexual and relationship satisfaction. This chapter tests the interactions between mesosystems in a unique way that enhances researchers understanding of WLB.


The ideal worker norm refers to the belief that employees can and should be singularly devoted to work. Our purpose is to understand the extent to which workers buy into various components of ideal work and how unpopular components of the ideal worker norm persist. We hypothesize they persist, at least in part, because of pluralistic ignorance. Pluralistic ignorance entails situations in which most people privately reject a norm, but incorrectly assume others accept it.

Drawing on original survey data, we examine the extent to which US workers subscribe to a range of factors described in the ideal work literature. We test the pluralistic ignorance hypothesis by comparing workers’ agreement with, and their perceptions of their coworkers’ agreement with, these factors.

We find workers embrace some components of ideal work. Yet, regardless of gender or parental status, they dislike those components that involve working extremely long hours and prioritizing work at the expense of personal or family life. In addition, regardless of gender or parental status, workers experience pluralistic ignorance with respect to those components that involve prioritizing work at the expense of personal or family life.

Our findings suggest that researchers distinguish between different components of ideal work. They also suggest that everyone – not just women or parents – desire work–family balance. Lastly, because people often behave in ways that are congruent with what they mistakenly believe to be the norm, our findings suggest workers may unintentionally perpetuate family-unfriendly workplace standards.

Cover of The Work-Family Interface: Spillover, Complications, and Challenges
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Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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