The relationship between work-family conflict, psychological distress and physical symptoms of illness among office workers within the South African Police Service.
Singh, Upasana Gitanjali.
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The aim of this study is to investigate the experience of work-family conflict and well-being among office workers within the South African Police Services (SAPS). The balance between individuals’ work and family domains has been a point of increasing concern in recent time. This is due to a multitude of factors. Firstly, there has been an increase in gender equity within the workplace, i.e. there are now more women in the workplace (Statistics South Africa, 2017). This has resulted in work-family conflict being experienced on a larger scale than in past years, and research has indicated that women experienced a higher rate of work being interrupted by family matters than men (Graaf, 2007). Secondly, there has been an increase in workplace diversity in South Africa (which refers to aspects other than gender, such as race, disability, etc.) which result in certain cultural factors needing to be taken into account. The issue of work-family conflict can affect the well-being of employees negatively, both psychologically and physically. This is evidenced in the findings from studies conducted by Winefield, Boyd and Winefield, (2014) and Drummond, O’Driscoll, Brough, Kalliath, Siu,Timms and Lo, (2017), which indicate that work-family conflict results in stress, anxiety and depression, which manifests in different forms of physical illness such as insomnia, weight loss/gain, headaches, as well as more serious effects such as coronary heart disease, which can be fatal. This can also impact the functioning and productivity of employees, as employees who are ill stay away from work, with over 156 working days being lost per annum. In addition, presenteeism poses a challenge as employees who attend work, may not engage in tasks due to psychological distress and physical illness (The South African Depression and Anxiety Group, 2015). Work-family conflict and well-being can be conceptualised through the use of Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) Ecological Systems Theory, Role Theory, which was posited by Kahn, Goode, Wolfe and Rosenthal in the 1960’s, Boundary Theory (Ashforth, Kreiner & Fugate, 2000) as well as Well-Being Theory (Seligman, 2011). This is due to each of the first three theories mentioned above positing that individuals can be understood through the different roles they play within the various systems in their lives (i.e. work, family, community, etc.), as well as the consequent impact of their conflicting duties and responsibilities on their well-being, conceptualised by Seligman’s (2011) Well-Being Theory. The study fell within the quantitative research paradigm and followed a cross-sectional design, which was used on a sample of office workers within the SAPS (N=202). A biographical questionnaire, the Work-Family Conflict Scale (Carlson, Kacmar & Williams, 2000), the General Well-Being Schedule (Dupuy, 1978) and the Physical Symptoms Inventory (Spector & Jex, 1998) were administered. For the purpose of this study, statistical analysis was conducted via the use of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) (IBM Corp., 2017). Additionally, in order to determine the construct validity and Cronbach’s alpha of the instruments used, statistical analysis was conducted, which revealed Cronbach’s alpha coefficients ranging from a=0.85 to a=0.87. The results of the study revealed positive relationships between work-family conflict and physical symptoms of illness, age and physical symptoms of illness, number of children one has and work-family conflict as well as children under the age of six years old and work-family conflict. Furthermore, the results of the research yielded negative relationships between the number of children one has and general well-being as well work-family conflict and general well-being. Additionally, the results of the research conducted portrayed that work-family conflict is a predictor of general well-being as well as physical symptoms of illness. The present study paves the way for further research into the phenomenon. These studies should focus on further examining the relationship between the variables mentioned above. This is due to the fact that an increased focus on the above factors is a step toward alleviating work-family conflict and high levels of psychological distress and physical illness.