Work-family boundary management practices in a dyadic context: Crossover effects of work-family conflict

Date of Completion

January 2007


Psychology, Industrial|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




Border theory and Boundary theory have recently been introduced to provide a framework to examine the work-family interface. Drawing on these theories, as well as Role theory and General and Family System theory, I developed and tested a theoretical model of boundary management practices (i.e., boundary flexibility and inter-domain transitions) with the family domain as a focal system. To test the theoretical model, a field survey study with working adults involved in long-term cohabiting relationships was conducted. Structural equation modeling procedures were used to test the model with an analysis sample of 311 dyads (i.e., couples). The Actor Partner Interdependence Model (APIM) was used to account for interdependence of data in relationship dyads. As expected, boundary flexibility was positively related to inter-domain transitions for both partners in both domains. In turn, the frequency of inter-domain transitions was positively related to experiences of work-family conflict. Also, as expected, a negative feedback loop was observed between work-to-family transitions and family role overload for both partners. Work and family overload were also related to experiences of work-family conflict as well as life stress, as expected. Family-to-work conflict, but not work-to-family conflict, was also related to life stress. A positive reciprocal feedback loop (i.e., dyadic crossover effect) was observed between partner's experiences of life stress. While the two other predicted crossover effects were not supported, several other unanticipated, and thus exploratory, effects were observed and included in the final empirical model. Past research on the work-family interface has been criticized for its failure to function within a strong theoretical paradigm. Results from the current study demonstrate that Boundary theory is a viable and important theoretical framework that can be used to examine the work-family interface. Only by developing research studies that adequately represent the complexities working adults face while drawing on strong theoretical frameworks can work-family researchers hope to have a positive influence on organizational changes intended to improve not only an employee's working environment, but their life as a whole. ^