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Women Health. 1992;19(2-3):13-41.

Positive-spillover effects from job to home: a closer look.

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  • 1Center for Research on Women, Wellesley College, MA 02181.


What is the association between subjective experiences in two roles, employee and mother, and women's psychological distress? Previous research indicated that employed mothers with troubled mother-child relationships reported high levels of psychological distress, unless they were in rewarding jobs. In this paper, using data from the same sample of 228 employed mothers, we explored further the above finding by addressing two related questions: (1) which job rewards mitigate the relationship between parent-role quality and psychological distress?; and (2) which parental concerns are buffered by these stress mitigators? The main finding was that having a rewarding job per se did not automatically serve as a parent-stress mitigator. Although several job-reward factors (e.g., Helping Others at Work, Challenge), were associated with reports of low distress, Challenge was the only job-reward factor that mitigated parental stress. Thus, the previously reported positive-spillover effect from work to home was attributable to the presence of rewards from challenging work. However, Challenge buffers only particular parent concerns. For employed mothers, a job high in rewards from Challenge mitigates the distress associated with Disaffection (not Burden or Safety) in their relationships with their children.

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