Family fairness and cohesion in marital dyads: Mediating processes between work–family conflict and couple psychological distress

Ann Hergatt Huffman, Russell A. Matthews, Louis H. Irving

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The well-being of employed adults is linked to demands and resources in both work and family domains. This study takes a family systems approach to understand how an employee's work–family conflict and their spouse's observed work–family conflict can create stress within a family unit by negatively impacting employee and spousal perceptions of fairness in the division of household labour. This decreased fairness is related to reduced family cohesion, which we argue is a key resource in the family domain. These variables were assessed by data collected from military personnel and their spouses in a sample of 78 marital dyads. Analyses using the actor–partner interdependence model and maximum likelihood bootstrapping supported our contention that work–family conflict is related to family cohesion through perceived fairness in the division of household labour. However, after accounting for the strong direct effect employee's reported work-to-family conflict has on employee's psychological distress, reduced family cohesion was only directly related to the psychological distress of employee's spouses, and not employees themselves. We suggest that these findings support the importance of taking a family systems approach to more fully contextualize the impact of dual-domain challenges on employee well-being. Practitioner points: Organizations need to take the family into consideration when assessing employee well-being. Work–family conflict directly impacts an employee's psychological well-being and has the potential to create distress within the employee's family. Employers should provide employees with more family-supportive resources to reduce the strain created by work–family conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-116
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • family cohesion
  • family systems
  • marital dyads
  • psychological distress
  • work–family conflict

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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