Individual Work-Family Coping Types: Gender Differences in Their Use and effectiveness

Thumbnail Image
File version
Primary Supervisor

Thompson, Briony

Other Supervisors

O'Gorman, John

File type(s)

The purpose of this thesis was to investigate gender differences in the use and effectiveness of individual work-family coping types. Social changes in western society since the 1970s have resulted in large numbers of people with responsibilities both at work and at home. Coping with work-family conflict is thus a major issue for men and women in Australia as in other Western societies. Employees develop their own strategies for dealing with conflicts, but little research has been conducted in this area. One particular aspect of work-family coping research that has not been well investigated is in the use and effectiveness of individual coping strategies. Individual work-family coping is defined as 'actions taken by an employee to reduce or eliminate the work-family role strain (a form of stress) associated with work-family conflict' (Voydanoff, 2002, p. 46). An issue preventing the thorough investigation of individual work-family coping strategies is the absence of a currently accepted coping taxonomy and measure. Recent work-family research has been conducted using outdated literature or measures that are often not specific to work-family coping. In order to progress research in this area, a taxonomy and measure of individual work-family coping were developed as a part of this thesis. Study 1 applied a qualitative methodology to develop a taxonomy of individual work-family coping. 30 participants from a large Queensland transport organisation were interviewed using a convergent interviewing approach. After the interviews were transcribed, the data were content analysed. Study 1 identified eight coping types including Partner Support, Support from Family Members (other than partner), Relatives, and Close Friends, Supportive or Family-Friendly Organisational Conditions, External Support Services, Tension Reduction, Active Cognitive Restructuring, Active Role Management, and Compartmentalism. The coping types typically consisted of two or three coping strategies. The names of some of these coping types were modified later in the research. In the first part of Study 2 the new taxonomy was used to develop the Individual Work-Family Coping Scale (IWFCS). A pool of items was developed for each coping type based on the qualitative data of Study 1, and existing reliable scales reported in the wider psychological literature. A questionnaire consisting of 74 coping items and demographical information was developed and distributed through contacts of the researcher. 267 usable questionnaires were returned for analysis. Almost half of the participants had a university undergraduate or postgraduate degree. The questionnaire data were subjected to a principal components analysis (PCA) to determine the factor structure and items with the highest loadings. Cronbach alphas were then conducted to estimate internal reliability coefficients. In the second part of Study 2 gender differences in the use of work-family coping types were examined. Statistical analyses, including a MANOVA and ANOVAs, determined that female participants used four of the coping types significantly more than male participants. These coping strategies were Friend and Relative Support, Partner Support, Direct Role Management, and Workplace Support. Study 3 applied the IWFCS to investigate gender differences in the use and effectiveness of the work-family coping types. The sample included professional, clerical, and field staff from a shire council. First, a MANOVA assessed gender differences in coping type use. Contrary to the findings in Study 2, the only gender difference was in the use of Workplace Support. Women used this coping type more frequently than men. Second, hierarchical multiple regression analyses assessed gender differences in coping type effectiveness. Separate analyses were carried out for each of the criterion variables: job, partner, and family satisfaction. In the hierarchical regression analyses, interactions were evident for the coping types Cognitive Restructuring and Direct Role Management in predicting family satisfaction, and Cognitive Restructuring and Reducing Personal Role Demands in predicting partner satisfaction. This finding indicated that gender was a moderating variable for the three coping types. Assessing males and females separately, further regression analyses were conducted to determine the nature of the interactions. Gender differences in effectiveness were evident for Direct Role Management and Cognitive Restructuring. In addition to gender differences in coping effectiveness, Partner Support and Workplace Support were effective for both men and women in predicting one or more types of satisfaction. Unexpectedly, Tension Reduction and Friend and Relative Support negatively predicted aspects of life satisfaction. Despite the fact that this finding cannot be explained through previous research, there are a number of possibilities. First, if a person turns readily to external family for support, the other partner may feel there is a too heavy reliance on others. This could lead to a reduction in partner satisfaction. Second, if an employee increases the amount of Tension Reducing activities to combat work-family conflict, they may become unhappy at work if their work begins to interfere with their time for relaxation activities. It was concluded that there are gender differences in the use of work-family coping types, and in their effectiveness in predicting family and partner satisfaction. A small number of coping types are effective in predicting satisfaction regardless of gender, and a minority of coping types are negatively linked to satisfaction. Limitations of the research include the use of only one organisation and the absence of 'blue-collar' staff in the qualitative study, the interview method which may result in the omission of less socially desirable coping strategies, and the use of a 'non-applicable' option in the questionnaire which was overused by participants. Further research opportunities derived from this thesis include investigation of 'blue-collar' populations and coping type use and effectiveness, comparisons between different educational samples in the use and effectiveness of coping types, the use of different methods to address less socially desirable coping responses, the use of different outcome measures to assess coping effectiveness, a more detailed examination of each of the coping types and strategies, and the inclusion of other family structures in coping research samples (e.g., families with a 'carer' component such as looking after a sick or disabled parent).

Journal Title
Conference Title
Book Title
Thesis Type

Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

Degree Program

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Applied Psychology

Publisher link
Patent number
Grant identifier(s)
Rights Statement
Rights Statement

The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

Item Access Status


Access the data
Related item(s)

Work-family coping types

work-family research

multiple regression analysis

Persistent link to this record