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A theory of work-family conflict episode processing

Carl Maertz, PhD S.L. Boyar P.W. Maloney
Journal of Vocational Behavior. July 11, 2019

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To clarify how work and non-work role conflicts are processed and produce psychological change, we propose an integrative theory of work-family conflict (WFC) episode processing. We clarify ambiguities around the meaning of WFC, overcome questionable research assumptions, make testable counter-normative predictions, reconcile “levels” and “episodes” WFC conceptions, and explain how WFC can even have a net positive effect for the person. In the model, a trigger event causes a perceived WF role incompatibility and a negative change in core affect, prompting either a scripted response or controlled sensemaking. In the latter, cognitive appraisals and secondary affect ensue, causing a choice of a coping/resolution response. Responses are reinforced/punished, and possibly, consciously evaluated. Episodes end with the potential storage of outputs in long-term memory. State inputs to an episode condition processing and memory storage. Stored episode outputs can thereafter become inputs to future episodes and/or cause longer-term change in role performance, satisfaction, and well-being. After describing these processes, we suggest new directions for WFC research and practice.