ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (8): 1144-1160.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.01144

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A Comparison Study of Role Overload, Work-Family Conflict and Depression between China and North America: The Moderation Effect of Social Support

JIN Jiafei;XU Shan;WANG Yanxia   

  1. (School of Business Administration, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Chengdu 611130, China)
  • Received:2013-01-09 Published:2014-08-25 Online:2014-08-25
  • Contact: JIN Jiafei


The issues of work-family relationship have been widely studied for almost thirty years. Previous researches focused on the antecedent and outcome variables of such relationship model. Many researchers substantiated that the role overload and support which come from work and family domain have significant effects on the work-family relationship and depression as well. Based on the Boundary theory and Conversation of Resources theory, a number of studies explained the effects of role stress (such as role overload) on work-family conflict in two ways. One was the direct effect and another was interdomain transition effect. However, most of those results were proved in the Western samples, far too little attention was paid to cross-cultural comparison. In the limited cross-cultural studies, researchers used different countries to represent different cultures without considering the effect of specific aspects of culture on the difference between two distinct samples. In addition, the resource scarcity cannot account for the differences caused by culture. Thus, it would be worthwhile to examine the relationship between work and family across two heterogeneous samples, providing a fresh perspective demonstrating their differences by treating support level as one trait of culture. The purpose of this study was to make a comparison between American and Chinese employees in a common point of the mediation effect of conflict on the relationship between role overload and depression, and in a difference point of the moderation effect of support on the relation between role overload and conflict. We collected our data from two online platforms (Number of North American sample: 408, Number of Chinese sample: 442) with the survey method. Before the final scales were developed for analysis, we first conducted multi-group confirmatory factor analyses using LISREL 8.70 to assess the measurement equivalence of the scales across the two samples and languages. After reporting the reliability of scales, we tested our hypotheses by using the hierarchical regression method in SPSS. Our results partially supported our anticipation. Generally speaking, the conflicts between work and family were mediators of role overload and depression for both Chinese and North American workers. Besides, support from either work or family domain moderated the relations between role overload and conflict in the American sample not in the Chinese sample. Specially speaking, work support had a negative moderation effect on the relationship between work role overload and work-family conflict. However, we should note that the increase of work support or family support enhanced the positive relation between family role overload and family work conflict. We provided a new theoretical view to clarify the difference between mechanisms in the work-family relations model across different cultures. On the one hand, based on the distinct support atmosphere existing in the two different countries, we combined the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility and Conversation of Resources theories to explain our findings. Specifically, Chinese workers have received more support than their counterparts in America in the long term, resulting in less sensitivity about support and leading to an almost constant relationship between role overload and conflict. On the contrary, American workers were used to low level of work support, leading them to perceive less work-family conflict once they received more work support. On the other hand, we had different results in the family domain. Specially, we assumed that the positive moderation effect of work support or family support in the relation of family role overload and family-work conflict can be explained by popular individualism in the American society. When employees have accustomed to low social support for a long time, they know exactly what they should do in both domains. Therefore, they would encounter more conflict if their coworkers or family members provided support suddenly since they may treat such support as intervention in their personal lives. Our findings reminded managers in the different countries to consider different policies to reduce employees’ conflict and depression. In detail, the foreign companies which invest in the Chinese market should establish managerial policy emphasized on reducing work role overload while those Chinese firms which invest in North America should take measures to support their employees.

Key words: work-family/family-work conflict, work/family support, China, North America, depression