Work-life conflict in Britain: demands, resources and family circumstances

Ursula Henz, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Changes in the structure and organization of paid work and women’s rising labour-force participation have led to a keen interest in the tensions between paid work and family life among researchers and policy makers. In recent decades, changes in the nature of work and family have arguably led to a blurring of the boundaries between work and family, increasing opportunities for flexible adaptations to work or family demands but also increasing the risk of stress. The paper draws on ‘border theory’ (Clark, 2000) to conceptualize the relationship between the two life domains of family and work. It focuses on the role of family circumstances for the conflict between work and family in addition to the characteristics of paid work. It addresses the interdependencies between work-to family and family-to-work conflict by simultaneously modelling these two processes. The Working in Britain 2000 (WIB2000) survey provides information for a representative sample of employed or self-employed people aged 20 to 60 in Great Britain. The analyses are based on all employed respondents in the WIB2000 survey who lived with a partner at the time of the interview. Initial analyses suggest that women’s work-to-family and family-to-work conflict is strongly affected by the presence of children but not by characteristics of the partner whereas men’s work-to-family and family-to-work conflict is not affected by the presence and age of children. There are some weak indications that both types of conflict are the more likely for men the lower their partners’ engagement in paid work. These latter findings are predicted by border theory because wives with few or no hours of paid work might defend the family border more strongly than other wives.

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Presented in Session 51: Labour force participation and family