The relationship between family and work is a complicated and important one. For military personnel, having a supportive family environment is especially essential. In a recent study, Heather N. Odle-Dusseau of the Department of Management at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania explored how the family environment influenced psychological well-being in a sample of military personnel. She took a novel approach to this examination and expanded upon existing research by assessing the reciprocal nature of family environment and psychological strain. Odle-Dusseau also evaluated the lagged effects of these relationships by examining how each of these domains predicted the other over a period of 3 months.
The results revealed that family supportive work environments (FSWE) directly impacted psychological strain and predicted increases or decreases in that stress. Specifically, high levels of FSWE at baseline led to less psychological strain three months later. This dynamic was bidirectional, as well. When Odle-Dusseau looked at the predictive factor of psychological strain on FSWE she found that high levels of strain decreased FSWE three months later. However, these effects were not found when Odle-Dusseau looked at changes in both conditions. For instance, as FSWE decreased over time, psychological strain increased. But changes in psychological strain did not account for changes in FSWE at the three month assessment.
Odle-Dusseau believes that changes in the work environment or family support can heavily influence psychological well-being. But she also thinks that increased strain, although it may decrease perceived levels of family support, may not do so immediately. Therefore, Odle-Dusseau hopes future research will collect data over longer periods of time to more closely examine how psychological strain impacts FSWE in the long run. For military personnel, and other individuals under extreme psychological stress, programs designed to improve FSWE could be especially beneficial. Understanding the nature of this multi-faceted relationship between family support, work arenas, and psychological strain could help many people facing overwhelming stress gain access to strengthened resources to help them cope. Odle-Dusseau added, “We encourage future research to include a more systems-based approach and to examine the reciprocal relationships of FSWE with other wellbeing and organizational outcomes such as job performance, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction.”
Odle-Dusseau, H. N., Herleman, H. A., Britt, T. W., Moore, D. D., Castro, C. A., and McGurk, D. (2012). Family-supportive work environments and psychological strain: A longitudinal test of two theories. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0030803
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