Contributions of Job Strain and Workaholism to Work-Family Conflict

Martinson, Brian, and Joan M. Griffin
Working paper no. 2003-24


Work and family influence the health and health behaviors of employed adults, especially when these domains have conflicting or competing demands. The extent to which work-family conflict is a function of extrinsic factors, such as the organization of work vs. an individual’s work habits, remains unclear. We conducted a mail survey of randomly selected working men (n=655) and women (n=825), ages 30-65, enrolled in a large managed care organization (MCO) to investigate the relationships among workplace characteristics, work habits and work-family conflict. Standard scale items assessed job demands, job control (skill discretion, decision authority) and social support. Using cluster analysis to assess multiple dimensions of work behavior, we classified workers into one of three categories of work habits: workaholic (n=186), unengaged (n=558), and average workers (n=642). We measured work to family conflict by asking respondents how frequently work responsibilities intruded into their family life and the level of distress caused by these intrusions. In multivariate regression models adjusted for age, sex, marital status, major occupational group, and educational attainment, we observed significant and independent associations between measures of workplace characteristics, work habits, and work-family conflict. More specifically we observed significant associations between work-family conflict and social support (b=-0.30, p<.01), decision authority (b=-0.51, p<.01), and a significant interaction effect between job demands and skill discretion (b=0.27, p<.01). Workaholics reported significantly higher work-family conflict (b=1.45, p<.01), while unengaged workers reported significantly lower work-family conflict (b=-0.80, p<.01). We found no interaction between work environment and work habits. The issue of workaholism needs to be included in discussions of policies to reduce work-family conflict.