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Work-family conflict is “a form of interrole conflict in which the role pressures from the work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect. That is participation in the work (family) role is made more difficult by virtue of participation in the family (work) role”. 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 absenteeism, increased turnover, decreased performance, and poorer physical and mental health...

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.

Theories related to work-family conflict Edit

Several theories have been invoked in the study of work-family conflict. Most of the studies focused on three competing theories to explain the interplay between work role and family role: spillover, compensation, and segmentation.


This theory focuses on the impact that satisfaction and affect from one domain has on the other domain. Positive spillover refers to situations in which the satisfaction, energy, and sense of accomplishment derived from one domain transfers to another. On the contrary, negative spillover is the derived problems being carried over from one domain to another. For example, increased satisfaction (dissatisfaction) in the work domain leads to increased satisfaction (dissatisfaction) with life.


It is a bidirectional theory stating that the relationship between work and non-work domain is one in which one domain may compensate for what is missing in the other. Thus, domains are likely to be interrelated in a counterbalancing manner. For example individuals unsatisfied with family life may try to enhance performance at work.


Segmentation is a theory that each domain operates independently, such that satisfaction can be derived from work, family, or both. Therefore, segmentation is the antithesis of spillover theory in which it is assumed that one can compartmentalize competing role demands.

See alsoEdit


1. 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.

2. Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review, 10, 76–88.

3. 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.

4. Lambert, S. J. (1990). Processes linking work and family: A critical review and research agenda. Human Relations, 43, 239-257.

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