Reconceptualizing the Work-Family Interface: An Ecological Perspective on the Correlates of Positive and Negative Spillover between Work and Family

Grzywacz, Joseph, and Nadine F. Marks
Working paper no. 1999-03


The overarching goal of this study was to use ecological theory to develop a more expanded conceptualization of the work-family interface, and to identify significant correlates of both positive and negative spillover between work and family. Using a subsample of employed adults from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (n=1,986), results from principal components analysis indicated four distinct dimensions of work-family spillover: negative spillover from work to family, positive spillover from work to family, negative spillover from family to work, and positive spillover from family to work. Results from multivariate regression analyses indicated more resources that facilitate development in work or family settings (e.g., more decision latitude at work, support at work from co-workers and supervisors, emotionally close spouse and family relations) were associated with less negative and more positive spillover between work and family. By contrast, more barriers arising from person-environment interactions at work and in the family (e.g., more pressure at work, spouse disagreement, and perception of family burden) were associated with more negative spillover and less positive spillover between work and family. In some cases results differed significantly by gender, and all results controlled for the potential confounding effects of age, race, education, household income, parental status, marital status, employment status, and personality characteristics.