An examination of the perceived direction of work-family conflict
Huffman, Ann Hergatt
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The current trend in the work and family literature is to separate work-family conflict into two distinct dimensions: work interfering with family and family interfering with work. Research suggests that employees who have a high level of demands at work are more likely to experience work-to-family conflict, while employees who have a high level of personal demands are more likely to experience family-to-work conflict. Attributing the conflict to the domain with the higher demands oversimplifies a much more complex interactive process. I hypothesized that work-family conflict results from the two roles interacting and not from a singular direction or primary force and the perceived direction of the conflict is determined by a variety of other factors. The purpose of this study was to examine how role salience, social support, and societal expectations affect the perceived direction of work-family conflict. Data were collected from 100 police and fire station employees to examine what variables relate to the perceived direction of conflict as well as the primary source of conflict: work or family. Results indicated that time demands play a critical role in the perceived direction and source of work-family conflict. Specifically, individuals who spent more time with their family reported the primary source of conflict was their family. Contrary to expectation, the relationship between time demands and the direction of work-family conflict was not moderated by role salience, social support, or societal expectations in the predicted directions. Also contrary to expectation, these variables did not moderate the relationship between time demands and the source of conflict. Results of the study suggest the importance of examining both the level and source of work-family conflict.