9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN14 Gender Relations in the Labour Market and the Welfare State

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Work Life Balance Building AA, AA.324

Why being a superwoman does not pay: commonly used coping strategies that do not reduce work-family conflict or alleviate its' consequences for well-being.

The effect of work-family conflict (WFC) on the well-being of working mothers is repeatedly demonstrated in international research. Nevertheless, research into the effectiveness of coping strategies for WFC is rather scarce. This paper investigates the effectiveness of strategies for coping with WFC and consequences of WFC for well-being. Regressions on data of 491 Flemish working mothers were preformed, taking both directions of WFC into account by distinguishing work-interfering-with-family (WIF) and family-interfering-with-work (FIW). Reducing working hours turns out to be the only effective strategy for reducing WFC: working mothers who adapted their work hours in function of their children score significantly lower for WIF. However, adapting work hours does not alleviate the effect of WFC on well-being, neither do paid and unpaid household help. Sacrificing sleep or rest in order to facilitate the combination of work and family, which is called the superwoman strategy, does have a mediating effect. Although superwoman strategies (slightly) moderate the effect of WIF on stress, of FIW on depression and life satisfaction, and clearly undo the effect of WIF on anxiety and of FIW on stress and anxiety, some superwoman strategies are themselves significantly associated with a rise in stress and depression symptoms and a decrease in life satisfaction. Superwoman strategies thus show to have detrimental side-effects on well-being.