Monash University
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Couples and work and family conflict : the effects of role salience crossover

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posted on 2017-01-19, 01:36 authored by Abeysekera, Lakmal Hasanga Dias Jayasuriya
An examination of work and family conflict literature over the past quarter-century suggests employed individuals in married or de facto relationships tend to experience conflict at the couple-level rather than the widely researched individual-level. Yet, there are few available studies investigating work and family conflict at the couple-level. With the aim of addressing this gap within work-family literature, this thesis examines the ‘crossover’ effects between partners in addition to the widely researched individual-level phenomena of ‘resource drain’ and ‘negative spillover’. Using data from a survey of 94 dual-earner couples, this thesis tests a number of hypotheses generated from identity theory and its associate concept of role salience (importance). Specifically, the study investigates couple-level crossover effects of work (family) role salience congruence/incongruence between partners on men and women’s experience of work-to-family (family-to-work) conflict. These crossover effects are examined using a polynomial regression technique often associated with assessing congruence/incongruence of different attitudes between individuals within a dyad (for example, a manager and their sub-ordinates). The results indicate couple-level crossover effects of work role salience congruence/ incongruence between partners have a significant impact on the individual-level experiences of work-to-family conflicts. This result was found for both men and women. However, no such results were found in relation to family role salience and family-to-work conflict for either partner. Significant gender differences were nonetheless evident. Compared with men, women’s experience of work-to-family conflict appeared to be more strongly influenced by the crossover effects between their work role salience and their partners’ work role salience. Based on these findings, this thesis proposes a new conceptual framework for work-family research. These findings have significant theoretical and methodological implications for future research on work and family conflict. Most importantly, in addition to conceptual frameworks based on individual-level antecedents, the thesis demonstrates the necessity to develop frameworks that accommodate couple-level crossover effects on individual-level experiences of work and family conflict. While not examined empirically, these results also suggest that couple-level analysis may also be required to more holistically assess the consequences for how individuals are able to cope with such conflicts. These findings point to new avenues in which work-family research can be conceptualised at the couple- or family-level.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Peter Gahan

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics