ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2011, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (05): 573-588.

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Cross-over Effects or Direct Effects? The Mechanism Linking Work-family Conflict with Outcomes

ZHANG Mian;LI Hai;WEI Jun;YANG Bai-Yin


  1. (1School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China)
    (2School of Economics and Business Administration, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China)
    (3School of Business Administration, University of Science and Technology Beijing, Beijing 100085, China)
  • Received:2010-03-31 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2011-05-30 Online:2011-05-30
  • Contact: ZHANG Mian;LI Hai

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of work-family conflict on well-being and work-related outcomes among Chinese managers. Work-family conflict is viewed as a bi-directional construct in which work can interfere with family (referred to as work-to-family conflict, WIF) and family can interfere with work (referred to as family-to-work conflict, FIW). The central idea of this study is that how people perceive work versus family roles affects work-family conflict. We posited the Chinese work priority may limit the generalization of some findings from Western studies to Chinese samples. To test our proposition, we investigated the relationship between work-family conflict and two types of consequences. Specifically, we examined the effects of WIF and FIW on a psychological well-being consequence (life satisfaction) and three work-related consequences (organizational commitment, intent to stay and job satisfaction) among Chinese managers.
Our literature review identified two mechanisms linking work-family conflict to consequences: “cross-over” effects model and “direct” effects model. The “cross-over” model postulates that one likely experiences high levels of psychological distress associated with a given role if one is frequently struggling to meet the demands of that role because of hindrance stemming from another role. In line with this rationale, WIF predicts family-related affective and behavioral consequences such as family satisfaction, while FIW predicts work-related consequences such as job satisfaction. A complementary argument (“direct model”) posits that one may blame the role domain causing conflict and thus experience high levels of dissatisfaction associated with the given role. Consistent with this rationale, WIF affects work-related affective and behavioral consequences, while FIW influences family-related consequences.
In this study, we argue that the Chinese work priority is critical to understanding consequences of work-family conflict among Chinese. When family and work conflict, in most cases, the Chinese are likely to put work before family. On the basis of work priority norm, we anticipate that cross-over effects model can serve as the theoretical basis among Chinese samples; however, direct effects model can not be generalized to Chinese samples.
We tested our hypotheses with two samples (N1=306 and N2=199) from Chinese managers. We collected data with survey research method and analyzed data with factor analyses as well as OLS regression models. Consistent with our anticipation, we found that FIW was negatively associated with work-related outcomes (job satisfaction, organization commitment and intent to stay). Second, psychological distress played a full mediating role between FIW and job satisfaction. Third, WIF was negatively associated with life satisfaction.
The results of this study suggest that the “cross-over” model is likely to be universal and works well in two Chinese samples; the direct model, however, may not be generalized to the Chinese context. Our findings contribute to understanding of work-family conflict in cross-cultural settings.

Key words: work-family conflicts, life satisfaction, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, intent to stay